A barely fictional account of Commons life under New Labour
“He was surrounded on every side by those who wanted to be. Some wanted to be famous, some to be praised, some to be on television every night, some to be outstandingly loyal, some to be famously disloyal, some to be driven by chauffeurs in ministerial cars and some to be Prime Minister. They were breathing down his neck and pressing against his sides; but Joseph Pilgrim’s life had been so full of what he wanted to do that he had never applied himself to wanting to be anything. He certainly had not expected to be a Member of Parliament, until that singular status rose up one evening and took over his life.”
Joseph Pilgrim is the hero of Andy McSmith’s compelling fictional debut. Pilgrim has already made several wrong career moves before he is swept into the House of Commons by Labour’s landslide in 1997, much to his own surprise. Ingenuous, though nobody’s fool, he tries to avoid joining a system of patronage and sycophancy, but cannot stop himself from stumbling repeatedly upward towards success. It’s not long before the Prime Minister is making inquiries about the mysterious newcomer and the front benches beckon. But when the story of a sexual peccadillo from long ago falls into the hands of Grub Street’s grubbiest, Pilgrim’s past returns to haunt him. Andy McSmith draws on long experience as a Labour Party press officer and political journalist to create a convincing and exciting tale of politics and scandal. His story is enlivened by cameo appearances of characters that bear an eerily close resemblance to real political figures.