Urquhart is running out of time as Parliament nears its summer recess. He needs to set the final gears in motion before everyone leaves for vacation.The politicians that can actually pay attention to their jobs are using everyone else’s lethargy to their advantage. There isn’t that much time to debate, and on top of that, there’s a heat wave that’s making the meetings miserable.
I get that people acclimate to whatever weather they live in, and everybody’s heat tolerance is different. In fact, I grew up in the desert and I still hate the heat. That being said, I always forget that the British standard for what constitutes a heat wave is far below what I expect it to be. I mean, it’s not like I’m making fun of any real people, just some fictional politicians. The temperature that is so hot that everybody can barely concentrate is…a sweltering 80 degrees (26 degrees Celsius). I mean, it must be pretty bad to be in an old building with no way to cool it off other than opening a window. Still, just as somebody that’s used to higher temperatures than that, I thought that it was a bit funny.
Anyway, it seems that Mattie is unfortunately not running far, far away from Francis Urquhart. She approaches him yet again (though this time at a more reasonable hour) to ask him more questions. Starting here, the interaction between the two is starting to get creepy. Urquhart “was playing with her, almost flirting.” He’s looking at her like a predator, he’s relishing in the power he has to manipulate her. It’s so uncomfortable to read.
Also, I’m honestly getting a bit nervous about how Mattie is going to be portrayed. She seems to be almost…attracted to Urquhart’s predatory behavior. She’s letting him manipulate her and doesn’t even realize it. It’s just something I’m keeping in the back of my head, but I always get a little nervous when it seems like a main female character is going to go from independent and intelligent to pining and air-headed once she meets a manipulative, powerful man.
Next up, Urquhart appears to put the final gears of his scheme into motion. This is one of the few spoiler warnings I’ll give. I know I don’t exactly shy away from spoilers after the first few parts of a review, but this seems to be something so important that I’ll let you decide whether you’ll keep reading. If you don’t, no hard feelings and see you next time.
Urquhart takes a 50,000-pound donation from a “friend,” Firdaus Jhabwala. Jhabwala was a wealthy businessman while India was a British Colony, but lost everything after India gained its independence. I’m not going to pretend to be an expert on Britain’s relationship with India, but I can’t help but wonder if this is Dobbs opinion on Indian independence. I don’t know, it just rubbed me the wrong way.
Anyway, Urquhart takes the money and puts it in a bank account to buy 20,000 shares of stock, and essentially does some insider trading. He knew what effect the political climate would have on the pharmaceutical company he bought stock for. Right after the stock price skyrockets, he closes the account and walks away with 9,000 pounds in profit. If the insider trading wasn’t shady enough, the account wasn’t under his own name. Everybody at the bank called him Mr. Collingridge. It can’t be Henry Collingridge that he’s trying to set up since it seems like anybody would be able to recognize their own prime minister. It looks like he’s trying to set up Charles Collingridge.
As an aside and a final note, Dobbs delves into two tropes that really get on my nerves in this section. The first one I already talked about, but the second is in regards to people of color. Once I started paying attention to this, I started noticing it everywhere. When Dobbs introduces a character, and sometimes more than once for the same character, he only mentions their ethnicity if they’re not white, or at least the white, anglo-saxon protestant version of whiteness that he seems to treat as a default. More than once, Penny is described as “a black woman” before we even see her name. It’s a good half a page of dialogue between Urquart and Jhabwala before we learn his name, and before that, he’s just “the Indian man”. There’s one character that’s simply an “Italian”. While he may be white by American standards, the book doesn’t let the reader forget that O’Neill is Irish, and it’s no secret that England and Ireland have had their share of tension. I’m not saying that Micheal Dobbs is the only author to do this. Far from it, really, I’ve seen this a lot. But it’s something that kind of gets on my nerves once I started paying attention and looking for it.
Anyway, despite the bits that ground on my nerves, I’m looking forward to seeing where this one goes. Urquhart chose a good time to start all of his shady dealings, since soon enough everybody in the House of Commons is going to be gone on vacation, leaving all of the controversies to stew.