Fluffy-haired and youthful at forty-eight, and with a vocabulary peppered with archaic expostulations - Balderdash! Tommy-rot!! Oh my giddy aunt!!! - Peter Judd has long established himself as the unthreatening face of the old-school right, popular enough with the Great British Public, which thought him an amiable idiot, to make a second living outside Parliament as a rent-a-quote-media-whore-cum-quiz-show-panel-favourite, and to get away with minor peccadilloes like dicking his kids' nanny, robbing the taxman blind, and giving his party leader conniptions with off-script flourishes. ('Damn fine city,' he’d remarked on a trip to Paris. 'Probably worth defending next time.') Not everyone who’d worked with him thought him a total buffoon, and some who’d witnessed him lose his temper suspected him of political savvy, but by and large PJ seemed happy with the image he’d either fostered or been born with: a loose cannon with a floppy haircut and bicycle.
That’s from Mick Herron’s Slow Horses, a thriller about washed-up spies. Peter Judd, clearly a Boris Johnson analogue, plays a small but key role, as a go-between able to tip off an extreme nationalist cell that they’ve been infiltrated by the security services.
'Because we both know the tide’s turning. The decent people of this country are sick to death of being held hostage by mad liberals in Brussels, and the sooner we take control over our own future, our own borders …'
'Are you seriously lecturing me?'
'It’ll happen, and within the lifetime of your government. We both know that. Not this Parliament, but probably the next. By which time we both know where you expect to be living, and it won’t be Islington, will it? … It’ll be Downing Street.'
'Yes. Well.' The effing and blinding PJ of ten minutes ago … left the room; in his place was the bumbly figure familiar from countless broadcasts and not a few YouTube moments. 'Obviously, if called upon to serve, I’ll leave my plough.'
'And you’ll want to take your party further to the right …'
Despite being too toxic to even stand as leader of the Conservative Party just three years ago, Boris Johnson, of course, become Prime Minister earlier this year and he and his party have just won the General Election by a first-past-the-post distorted distance. The current Conservative Party seems be as predicted by Herron, with a number of new MPs following Johnson’s what-the-papers-call-controversial lead, and far-right nutjobs queuing up to try and get a party card.
Slow Horses was written in 2010, so full marks to Herron for his grim prognostication. Look, I’m not saying it’s his fault the country’s being driving towards the cesspit by a bunch of deeply unpleasant shitsacks or anything, but fingers-bloody-crossed PJ gets his comeuppance in one of Herron’s subsequent books.
Hold on tight.