There'll Always Be An England
Anthony Blond, London, 1984
For Stephen Haseler, Roger Fox and Elspeth Cochrane
dedication: For Stephen Haseler, Roger Fox and Elspeth Cochrane
The blurb on the back:
David Pinner's novel is a portrait of England today. It centres on the conflict between two men. On the right, Roy Hampton MP, for Lamberton North, on the left, Terry McMasters chairman of the local Labour Party determined to replace him. Roy has other problems too. The lure of his ex-mistress Helen, threatens his marriage, their daughter Alexa makes herself up like the witch of Endor, his son Sebastian has withdrawn from his father in favour of his A levels. His best friend and supporter in the Party turns out to have his fingers in the till. Roy is drinking and smoking too much even for a harassed right wing Labour MP. Terry McMasters, a lean, hungry and attractive young man, is resolutely unemployed so that he can dedicate himself to engineering the coming revolution. This will level all England and turn this island into a siege economy run on the principles so clearly laid down by his heroes, Marx, Trotsky and Lenin.
David Pinner was originally an actor (he starred in The Mousetrap) before becoming a writer, principally of stage-plays such as Lenin In Love and Potsdam Quartet. He also, however, wrote the novel Ritual, which became the legendary film The Wicker Man in 1973 with a script by Anthony Shaffer, and this curio from the 1980s. I don't know anythng about his politics but I suspect he's a traditionalist Labour man, since the temporary (as they turned out) successes of Tony Benn in the Labour Party of the early-1980s clearly scared the Bejesus out of him.
The whole of this novel is a diatribe against Trotskyist infiltration into the Labour Party and the inability or unwillingness of mainstream Labour to defend itself. The protagonists - old-school MP Roy Hampton, and Militantesque Terry McMasters - exist as mouthpieces for political positions rather than characters, and the same is true of just about everyone else in the book. This, for example, is Hampton's ex-girlfriend engaged in dinner conversation with a clergyman who makes the mistake of saying that Marxism and Christianity have a lot in common; she's explaining where he's gone wrong:
I obviously don't get out enough, 'cos no one talks like that at any dinner party I go to. Anyway, after a couple more drinks, she makes her - and the book's - position perfectly clear:
Of course, it turned out we didn't need to worry. The hard left was so damn unpopular that it couldn't even have got elected in 1997. But if you want to revisit the nightmares Tony Benn inspired in the 1980s - before he became the venerable old democrat that we pretend he is today - then this is just the book for you.
ARTISTIC MERIT: 2/5