‘Father, you can’t.’
‘It’s not a matter of can’t, Ali. It is a matter of politics.’
‘But the man is appalling.’
The argument could be heard far outside the Pillared State Drawing Room. Edmund Carew was even sure that there were people outside Number 10 who could hear him and his daughter bickering. Leaning casually up against the mantelpiece, Carew stared wistfully up at the portrait of Queen Elizabeth I, his mind momentarily wondering to what he had often considered a much simpler time…
Now I know why you never had children, he thought.
He turned back to Alison as she pointedly dug her heels into the Persian carpet. She was still young – far too young and far too self-righteous to understand the intricacies of the political world that he had been stumbling through over the past twenty years. And yet, at times, her simplistic way of looking at the world had been of enormous help and comfort to the Prime Minister.
But not this time.
‘I know, I know,’ Carew replied, stepping forward and grasping a gentle hold of his daughter’s hands. ‘The man is an odious ass, a relic of a century and a way of thinking long since gone. But, what can I say? The man is swaying the people…’
Alison shook her head in defiance, snatching her hands away from him to renew her pacing across the room.
‘But him? Really, father…’
‘It would secure the Party’s future until the next general election…’
‘The Party? Father, what about the country?’ Alison squealed. ‘Are you really going to give these racist bigots any say in our government? It’s bad enough that you give them a platform to speak, let alone to run our country…’
Carew turned away, his emotions lost in a cloud of worried thought.
‘Alison, what would you have me do?’ he said, his frail voice tinted with exasperation. ‘Just let them walk in and take it from us? At least by broaching the idea of a hung parliament, we’ll be able to keep them in check…’
Alison stopped her pacing, the cogs of her mind clearly turning behind her energetic and youthful eyes.
‘What about Labour?’
Carew shook his head. ‘They’ll never stop arguing with us. We won’t get anything done…’
She thought again. ‘The Greens…?’
‘Come on, Alison, be realistic.’
‘But there must be another way…’
With a clip of her boots, she marched across the room towards the window. He watched her as she stared, lost and confused down at the street below her, before he finally stepped behind her and planted a delicate kiss on the back of her head.
‘There is no other way,’ he whispered softly. ‘And I know it may be abhorrent to you, but Daniel Barker is the only chance we have of stopping this country from descending into chaos…’
‘So, you would sacrifice your integrity just to stay in power?’
He couldn’t see her eyes, but Carew could feel the coldness in Alison’s shoulders. He felt her wrench them away from him and move a little closer to the window. He felt every angry thought and every bitter, unspoken remark.
His heart sank in that moment.
Disappointing his daughter was never part of the plan.
The icy silence was finally broken by the sound of a man clearing his throat behind them. Turning quickly, Carew’s eyes fell on his private secretary…
‘Prime Minister,’ he announced formally. ‘Mr Daniel Barker is here to see you…’