Neil Mason’s unusual and highly addictive serialisation continues, with the publication of Chapter Ten of his critically acclaimed debut novel There There My Dear. It’s all power and manipulation behind the door of 10 Downing Street, but who is really pulling the political strings? If you’ve missed out on the earlier chapters, just follow this link to catch up!
There There My Dear
The flat light combined with the cool air and constant drone from the traffic nearby reduced No. 10 Downing Street to what it really was – a working office. Bartrum believed that he had a moral claim to the building, as an office and a home.
He was brutally aware that, since the election two months ago, he and the Prime Minister had not released any concrete plans to boost the economy, create new jobs, improve the efficacy of the National Health Service or raise academic achievements across the range.
Instead, the two men had spent hour after hour arguing, positioning and politicking themselves into a stalemate. At first Dylan Connor had been excessively diplomatic towards Bartrum, allowing him plenty of time to express his liberal ideas and theories about economic reform and individual social mobility. Connor had seemed to listen, attentively at times, to what Bartrum had said, occasionally agreeing in principle and acknowledging certain undeniable truisms. The absolute fact that Connor could not argue was that there was an urgent need for new jobs. Where the two men differed in their views was the way in which these jobs could be created.
Bartrum knew that Connor believed that the quickest solution was to make the United Kingdom the most attractive place for multinational companies to site their European headquarters. Theoretically this would result in two extra means of governmental revenue in the forms of income tax from employees and corporation tax from the businesses themselves. Bartrum favoured the development of domestic businesses and the creation of new companies that operated in emerging technologies. His belief was that this idea would also build wealth for the country, not just through taxes, but in Intellectual Property, copyright and licensing fees; if businesses in the United Kingdom were to invent, design, develop and manufacture products and systems with global appeal, then income would flow in from around the world. The end result was not the issue separating the two men. It was the means by which it was reached.
It was the sixty-fourth day of the coalition government when Joseph Bartrum learnt his true position in the leadership relationship. In retrospect, Bartrum felt that Dylan Connor should have settled the matter in the first week. At that time the two men had had their meeting with the man with unnatural presence, so they knew already that neither would ever have a say in anything significant. That Connor had allowed the charade to rumble on was simply down to his attempt to understand the level of threat that Bartrum represented. Bartrum believed that Connor had spent the last months trying to ascertain whether his Deputy would come up with a strategy superior to his own that would appeal to the masses. On the sixty-third day, Bartrum assumed, Connor had decided that Bartrum offered nothing new, nothing ground- breaking and, therefore, nothing of importance. Connor must have arranged the meeting on the sixty-fourth day to lay out his stall and enlighten his Deputy.
When Bartrum had arrived that morning, in the bulletproof Jaguar surrounded by armed guards and supplying the attendant press photographers with a self-assured and enigmatic smile, he really felt that he looked the part. A tall man elegantly proportioned and dressed in a well-cut suit and hand-made shoes. He had the look of a successful yet affable man. He possessed a quality that was rare amongst politicians in that he had honesty in his eyes. This is a facet desirable in a surgeon or dentist, perhaps a pre-requisite, but disconcerting in a politician. He had always struggled to keep a poker face but, during his time as a politician, he had seen it as an asset, a benefit that few others in the trade possessed. He saw it as a personal quality most of the time. But, on the sixty-fourth day of the coalition government, he considered it a risk. And disconcerting because the press and the public could tell if there was any doubt in his mind.
On arriving at No. 10 that morning there had been no such doubt in Joseph Bartrum’s mind and his eyes had sparkled at the cameras as they snapped away from the press cordon opposite the famous front door. There was no way of his knowing that, just hours later, his eyes would betray him, but only if he decided to look up.
There were indicators as soon as Bartrum entered the building as he was asked to wait in an anteroom rather than allowed to make his own way to the Prime Minister’s private office. The room seemed very warm to Bartrum and he felt the need to run his finger along the inside of his shirt collar in an attempt to allow cooler air to his neck and body. It did not work and he started to feel uncomfortably warm.
Connor kept him waiting for longer than was necessary and so Bartrum took a seat on the sofa. From that vantage point he could have taken in the opulence of his immediate surroundings with its flock wallpaper, polished wooden flooring and antique furnishings. He could have spent a moment thinking about the history of the room and the décor and what stories the walls could tell and even the vast amounts of money that had been spent on the building. But he did none of these things.
Instead he started to feel his emotions change. Whereas before he had been calm and self-assured, now he was starting to feel angry and a little anxious. Coupled with the heat of the room, his anxiety was making him sweat. Sweating in the world of politics is tantamount to surrendering, accepting defeat or admitting guilt. For a second he considered removing his jacket in order to cool himself down, but then chose to leave it on to keep any sweat patches covered, at least. The compromise made him feel even more uncomfortable.
At seventeen minutes past ten, Dylan Connor entered the anteroom and bade Bartrum a polite but cold ‘Good morning’. Absent was any apology for having kept the man waiting.
‘I thought we’d got past all the positioning and mind games, Dylan. You deliberately kept me waiting for nearly twenty minutes. And that’s bloody rude.’
‘Just come with me, Joseph,’ came Connor’s terse reply.
‘What? Not even an apology? Haven’t you even got the manners…?’
‘Joseph! Stop speaking and come with me. Now!’ Connor’s tone and the fact that he looked straight through Bartrum while speaking, suggested that he was in no mood for compromise.
‘Look, Dylan, I thought all that dominance stuff was finished with. I mean, I know we had that, you know, we had crossed words in those first few days. But that was then. I mean…’
‘Joseph! Joe, I cannot talk about his here. Come with me and we will – I mean – I’ll explain everything.’ Connor looked over Bartrum’s shoulder as he spoke and then fixed his stare on his eyes. But they were dull and vacant, as if he were on autopilot. Bartrum fell silent and was just about to speak. Connor shook his head slightly to ensure that Bartrum did not say another word and the two men left the anteroom and headed towards Connor’s office in silence.
At five minutes to midday, Joseph Bartrum was preparing himself to leave No. 10 Downing Street. This took longer than usual, as he really had to compose himself and ensure that he did not allow his body language to convey too much to the press cortege amassed outside. While there was no way that a camera could tell exactly what was going on in his mind, it certainly could tell that something had happened during his meeting with the Prime Minister.
The topic of conversation between the two men would never be revealed to the press. The circumstances were significantly different this time around because of the nature of a coalition government.
Bartrum pulled himself together and stood tall. He shrugged his shoulders, indicated to the aide attending the famous door that he was ready and strode out into Downing Street with a stern face that, to the best of his ability, revealed nothing.
As he exited the building the reporters and photographers called out his name and shouted questions at him. Without saying a word or offering a photo opportunity to the cameras, he made straight for the car and got in. The shouts and the whirl of automatic cameras continued as the car pulled away to the security gates that barred the unwanted from the street.
Inside the car Bartrum maintained his blank expression and stared directly ahead, not looking at anything in particular and desperately trying to retain his composure.
To Be Continued…
Thank you for sticking with me for the first ten chapters of There There My Dear. If you’ve felt allured by Lily, repulsed by Kyle or intrigued by Harold, then I can promise you that things are just starting to get warmed up. Don’t forget, you can be a part of the discussion on my Facebook Page, I’d love to see you there.
Chapter Eleven to be published next week.
Very best wishes,
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