The date is the 9th of May 2010, the general election held just three days prior has not produced a majority winner and tireless talks are being held about who will form a coalition. In his soon-to-be old No.10 office, Alastair Campbell hosts a sleep-deprived Peter Mandelson. Labour’s chances of remaining in office are rapidly diminishing and something drastic needs to be done in order to shock the Liberal Democrats into joint-leadership.
Alastair: Peter, for goodness sake stop pacing, you’re giving me a headache.
Peter: Shush. I’m thinking.
Alastair: Any ideas yet?
Peter: I’m afraid not.
Alastair: Let me ask you this very bluntly, why did we lose this election?
Peter: We aren’t trusted any more.
Alastair: Why is that?
Peter: The media, and Gordon it must be said.
Alastair: I agree. Now let me ask you this, which of those two primary factors is easiest to change?
Peter: Well, it must be Gordon, surely. What are you getting at here?
Alastair: Gordon has to go. Now.
Peter: You do understand what situation that would put us in, don’t you? You do realise we wouldn’t be able to replace him until the autumn?
Alastair: Yes, but we must act boldly. We must be like the fox in that we are cunning, smart and able to see danger before it is too late. Not only this but we must be like the lion in the sense that we have to stamp our authority on this situation and be able to fight off the criticism as we know we are making the right decision. We can’t be put off by the blame that will come our way as we will know these vices are necessary to keep us in power.
Peter: I see your point and I can see the argument for being strong and decisive, but can we not keep Gordon while still being all you describe?
Alastair: I cannot stress enough how much I believe Gordon cannot be anywhere near Labour in the coming days, our best chance of survival is to use his exit itself as a message to the Liberals. That will be much more persuasive than anything that can come out of his mouth.
Peter: I am not convinced, Alastair.
Alastair: Then I’m left with no other option but to convince you. Now, Gordon is a very honest man, a good man in almost every sense, he is a passionate leader as he was a passionate chancellor. He’s an incredibly clever man with many morals and a man who has been highly virtuous in his actions in the past. This being said, these qualities do not make him fit to be a leader.
Peter: How so?
Alastair: He is not feared. I’m terribly sorry to put it so bluntly but people cannot bring themselves to take him seriously.
Peter: You may be right.
Alastair: Of course I’m right. A leader has two options, he must choose whether he wants to be loved or feared. Would you agree that, given the choice, a leader would be more effective in government if he were feared?
Peter: I would.
Alastair: Put in a slightly different way, between Margaret Thatcher and John Major, who was most successful in achieving their leadership goals?
Peter: Must I even answer that?
Alastair: Exactly, Thatcher. You cannot deny that she was feared, and that got her results.
Peter: I hate to say this but Gordon is probably neither loved nor feared.
Alastair: You make a good point, and that’s down to luck.
Peter: Why is that?
Alastair: Do you agree with my previous comments about Gordon’s good and virtuous nature?
Peter: I do.
Alastair: So would you agree that, as a rule, these qualities would naturally evoke a sense of warmth towards a person?
Alastair: And given enough time with a person of such qualities, I think you could also agree that a general public would come to love such a man. The reason they don’t is the fact that Gordon is unlucky.
Peter: I must say you are making a lot of sense.
Alastair: Luck is an inescapable force, you can plan and prepare for every tiny detail of leadership until you are certain you will make the perfect Prime Minister, yet luck has the power to completely destroy your good work and your philosophy.
Peter: Tony was the exact opposite, I’m sure he won’t argue with me for saying that he shouldn’t have even been running for office in the first place, let along winning in ‘97.
Alastair: Yes, I agree. So returning to my point about being feared or loved, we could make Gordon a character to be feared, but unfortunately even this would not save him as his current run of luck means he has lost all trust from the country. He’s becoming hated.
Peter: And of course that is the worst thing than can possibly happen to a leader.
Alastair: Precisely. As you well know we should have the job of being hated, that is why we’re here. Everyone hates the spin doctor, but it is government suicide to be hated as a Prime Minister.
Peter: So why has Gordon become such a hated man?
Alastair: I can only see one reason. As Gordon was not elected and merely replaced Tony, he is essentially a product of the way government was left. Unfortunately, Gordon’s inherited office was one in great decline and he was simply not able to reverse this. You and I have always been hated but no-one cared when the country was doing well, now we’re struggling and the New Labour dream is fading, it would take an exceptionally prudent, strong and ruthless leader to remain in power. They would need that perfect balance between the Fox and the Lion as I mentioned before. Governments made overnight like this are destroyed in the first bad spell, so Gordon was destined to fail from the start. Not only this, but the fact that the public see him as the problem is the very reason why he must go. If we’re to have any chance of staying in power in a way we have to give the people what they want, and put in the crudest possible way, they want Gordon’s head.
Peter: Let me ask you this, as far as I can see it we possess many of the qualities a Prince, or in our case a Prime Minister, should have. Why can’t one of us run as leader?
Alastair: Have you not listened to the point I just made Peter? Don’t be so ridiculous!
Peter: But why not Alastair? Please tell me why I’m being ridiculous.
Alastair: Peter, do you not read the news? There is no way either of us could run for office with our reputations.
Peter: Okay, but imagine for a second we’re stripped of our reputations. We know the ins and outs of government and we know how to work it, would we not make the perfect leaders?
Alastair: I don’t see why not.
Peter: You mentioned the Fox and the Lion, and how the perfect leader would need the perfect combination of both. We surely possess this.
Alastair: We probably do.
Peter: Imagine then that one of us does end up gaining power in a coalition with the Liberals and, say, the Green party. As you know we must incorporate at least two other parties in order to make a majority. Would we find it difficult despite our abilities in leadership to work alongside different ideologies?
Alastair: No. The kind of successful leadership that we’ve talked about isn’t changed or affected by ideology, it doesn’t matter.
Peter: I suppose any modern leader, or any leader in history for that matter, employs the same kind of principles. What would you put that down to?
Alastair: Well if we’re to remain in this brutally honest manner, I’d say that this is simply the way you control a population like ours that are naturally greedy, selfish and most importantly of all, fickle.
Peter: Go on.
Alastair: People need and in many ways want to be controlled, no matter which ideology you choose to attach yourself to the fact still remains that everyone is driven by their own desires. We’ve seen this first hand, people will stop at nothing to better themselves, whether this be by way of lies, trickery, you name it.
Peter: So you are saying that all leaders need to be just as cunning and employ just as much trickery to be successful?
Alastair: That is exactly what I’m saying. Not only this, but in many ways the common person is impressed by someone that can enact their wretched ways on a government scale, whether they choose to admit it or not. If they are clever, they’ll know not to admit such a thing.
Peter: I never thought I’d be saying this to you, especially at the start of this conversation, but now I see no other option but to remove Gordon. We need to do it right now when everyone is watching to show how strong we can be.
Alastair: I knew you’d come around, I say this with such confidence because I know you’re so similar to me. Anyway, enough of this now, we’ve gone off track, we need to get real again. How are we going to break the news to Gordon that he needs to step down? He needs to believe our reasons if he’s to comply.
Peter: Gordon is a clever man, just because he wasn’t successful in leadership himself, he has to appreciate that power is a force much larger than he is. The action will be accused but ultimately the outcome excuses us.
Alastair: So you are saying the ends justify the means?
Peter: Yes. Gordon has a firm grasp of this concept, he has been part of government for over ten years after all.
Alastair: That he has. And he certainly knows about the ruthless nature of leadership, he spent most of those ten years plotting to take Tony’s place. I wonder what would’ve happened if he got his way.
Peter: It’s an interesting thought. What if he doesn’t simply accept this rationale? If people are as selfish as we say they are he may try to find a way out of it.
Alastair: We’ll just have to match him, you must remember that we are the best in the country at getting our own way. He will either come to accept our proposal or he will be made to.
Peter: It all boils down to doing what is necessary for retaining power I suppose.
Alastair: Exactly, we are the leaders in this situation, we represent the best interest and we won’t take no for an answer. In times of turmoil you are forced to become this way, we may seem delusional and drunk on power but anyone in our situation would do the same, do you agree?
Peter: I do.
Alastair: Good. Now we are just left with the small task of convincing the public and the Lib Dems that we are still credible and worthy of rule. Any ideas?
Peter: Well with any luck the removal of Gordon will do the majority of the convincing, if it’s successful. There is one concrete reason why the Liberals should choose to join government with us.
Alastair: And what is that?
Peter: Well, by choosing us the Liberals are essentially accepting the lesser evil.
Alastair: Interesting, so you’re saying for them it is better for them to go into government with us than with the Conservatives?
Peter: Yes, this is where ideology does come into the situation, you cannot deny that we are more ideologically similar to the Liberals than the Conservatives are.
Alastair: Definitely, we’re also forgetting about the AV vote proposition, we are obviously not going to go through with it and change the voting system but again, if we have to lie to keep power then we will.
Peter: I agree, power always comes over virtue.
Alastair: As for the public, it’s natural that they voted against us this election, they naturally expect to fare better under a new leader or government but they will soon learn that they have made matters worse. People don’t appreciate what they’ve got until it’s gone.
Peter: You could say this time they’re lucky, if all goes to plan, they won’t have to undergo the disappointment of a Conservative government. They’ll soon find too that we’re the lesser evil.
Alastair: They will. We’ve done well today Peter, I’m confident this will work.
Peter: So am I. Now are you going to ring Gordon or am I?