Following recent revelations on the BBC’s Newsnight programme, here’s a prescient extract from my novel Transgression in which an MP is accused of inappropriate behaviour.
It’s 1987. In the run up to the general election in the UK that year a young woman approaches a journalist with a story about the local MP.
“You talk about the Topford countryside as though you’re familiar with it, yet your accent suggests you’re not from the area.”
“I moved here five years ago. A group of us took over a rundown farmhouse where we could practice self-sufficiency. I grew up in Diss.”
“You say there’s a group of you. How many?”
“It varies. There’s a core group of three, all former LSE students. But there are others who come and go. Some of us spend a lot of our time at Greenham.”
Roger had noted the CND badge. Mention of the women’s peace camp at Greenham confirmed his impression of a left-wing, feminist view of the world, with all its conspiracy theories and paranoia. In her mind, was Douglas part of one of those conspiracies? Time to get to the point of the meeting.
“How do you know Douglas Bowen?”
“I don’t know him personally. But I do know he’s not fit to be an MP.”
“I imagine you’d think that about any Tory candidate. Frankly, I don’t think there’s anything that will stop him being re-elected. He’s highly regarded as someone who looks after the constituency.”
“If the women voters knew what he’s really like they wouldn’t support him.”
“That’s a serious aspersion you’re casting. I hope you have something solid to back it up.” As he spoke Roger gestured towards the bench, inviting her to sit down. Then regretted doing so. Sitting side by side, both half turned to face each other, was uncomfortable.
“You probably think I’m a left-wing conspiracy theorist. That’s what men tend to think when they see women like me, committed to protecting the environment, ridding the world of weapons of mass destruction, campaigning for peace.” She ignored Roger’s feeble attempt at protest and continued, “I’m all of those things. I hate what Margaret Thatcher is doing to this country, all the more because she’s a woman. But that’s not what this is about.”
She hesitated. Roger was startled by the intensity of the stare with which she engaged him. He sensed she was uncertain about the best way to phrase her next utterance.
“When I was a student, I worked for a while in the office of a Labour MP at the House of Commons. I got to know a number of young people doing similar work, researching background information to feed into parliamentary debates, that kind of thing. Not everyone I met there was of the same political persuasion, and I got to enjoy the experience of rubbing shoulders with politicians from right across the spectrum. I learned that they were all equally committed to their beliefs, even those with whom I profoundly disagreed.
“But I soon realised there were certain men who it was not safe for a woman to be around. Bowen was one of those. I was warned about him, not once, but several times, by different women who had experienced unpleasant encounters with him.”