After that… Interesting interview, Urquhart continues his shady dealings.
Nice days after the interview, Urquhart invites O’Neill to St. James’ street club, which is a pretty exclusive place for politicians. To O’Neill, this invitation represents his “rising eminence in the Party.” Still, he decides to drink both before and during his lunch with Urquhart.
Either due to his own naivité or the influence of all that alcohol, O’Neill can’t tells that Urquhart is manipulating him right from the start. Granted, Urquhart is sly, but neither of those factors really help. Honestly, Francis Urquhart is my favorite type of villain. He’s cool and intelligent and he’s almost always in control. That makes these conversations both frustrating and fascinating to read.
Urquhart has no delay in establishing control and dominance in this conversation. O’Neill is a bright-eyed and optimistic, idealistically putting his all into the Party. All of that energy needs to come from somewhere however. Not just in his passion for politics, but in his tapping fingers, twitching eyes and more. He’s spent more than £20,000 of the party’s money on cocaine. His drug addiction fives Urquhart exactly what he needs to keep O’Neill under his thumb.
Something that really jumped out at me was how Urquhart “understood full well” how cocaine affects the user. I can’t help but wonder if he’s used cocaine himself or if he’s seen others close to him struggle with addiction. He implies that cocaine use isn’t rare among new politicians. It could be foreshadowing, or it could be nothing. Still, that conversation shows O’Neill gets it now that this wasn’t just a friendly lunch with a colleague.
We now know that Uquhart knew exactly what he was doing when Mattie interviewed him. He’s even calling her a helper now. All I can say is Mattie needs to run, and fast.
Eight days after their meeting, O’Neill “leaks” a made-up story about a publicity campaign for Britain’s hospitals. It seems like a strange thing at first, and O’Neill doesn’t even know why he’s doing it other than Urquhart told him to and he needs to do what Urquhart says.
In the next day’s parliament meeting, there’s some great imagery. Dobbs has some unusual but great descriptions of people, situations and places. Here, the parliament floor is a battlefield. The distance between enemies is measured in swords, and friends in daggars.
Here, Urquhart’s plan finally falls into place. O’Neill’s leaks cause chaos on the floor. It turns out, the cut was real, and not just the publicity. All of the expansions to the hospitals were cut, and Collingridge’s campaign centered on that promise, and he wanted to keep those cuts a secret. He wants to make the leaker pay, and he might succeed if he didn’t tell Urquhart to investigate.