Chapter 10

Political Maneouvering

Corey Preston made a point of spending some time each morning working her way through that day’s papers and the blogs of a couple of political analysts she followed online. Social media and the popular press sometimes provided an insight into the sort of things that Government and party officials ought to be worrying about. Unlike some of her colleagues, she spent time on the so-called quality press too. That often provided the nuggets of who was in and out of favour and which issues might present an opportunity for lobbying on behalf of Corey’s clients. In the Express, there was an approving account of how one MP had been objecting to Sun Rise establishing a factories in her constituency. She claimed it would encourage an influx of corporate sponsored males and that would certainly lower the tone of the area. Corey smiled. Once upon a time MP’s had been falling over themselves to encourage local industry. Now it seemed things were different. More important though, Corey’s eye was caught by an article in the Times.

“Stearns Questions Policy on Supervision Orders” the headline read. ‘Stearns’ was Lady Justice Catherine Stearns, a high court judge, prominent for her role in cases brought under the various Male Control Acts introduced by New Order. Apparently, Stearns was calling for new measures in relation to the tracking of male found guilty of offences that weren’t serious enough for prison . While it was reasonable for them to be in sponsorships, Stearns argued, it was clear from the number of instances of previously convicted males re-appearing before the courts, that more needed to be done to ensure rehabilitation. There was even, Stearns suggested, some evidence that re-offenders were more likely to be involved in some of the more dangerous examples of subversion.

Corey drew a ring around the article and set it to one side. “I wonder,” she said to herself, “if Madam Chao’s resources might have application in the management discharged offenders. I will have to give her a call.”

Corey wasn’t the only one considering political issues, however. At the same time, Jackie Maygood, a recently elected Member of Parliament, was finishing a conversation in an office tucked away at the rear of the Prime Minister’s residence in Downing Street

“I’m glad you’re seeing things differently.” Claire Dobell-Bull’s smile – unlike the rest of her – was thin. It had been a difficult conversation but these things had to be done. One of the problems with a parliamentary democracy was that you had to go on winning votes in the House and there were always people that needed to be encouraged to see things the same way that the Cabinet did. This one would be all right though, she thought. She’s new, still got her ideals. She just needs to understand how things work at Westminster. “It’s been good to have this talk.”

Jackie Maygood wasn’t sure she agreed. It had been daunting when she’d received the call from Dobell-Bull’s office. As the Prime Minister’s fixer, Dobell-Bull had a formidable reputation for getting things done and for not worrying about who she trampled on in the process. Bull-Dog, as she was known in the corridors of Whitehall, had been among the founders of New Order. In the days when she and Johannsen, the Prime Minister, were at University together, with her enthusiastic promotion of a pro-female/anti-male agenda she had even been known as Bull-Dyke by a smirking few who would find it difficult to be quite so amused these days. Claire Dobell-Bull was a ruthless operator; pursuing any Member that showed the slightest tendency to move away from the party line. Independence of thought could be admired in Members but there were ways to get things done and Claire’s job was to make sure they were done in ways which didn’t upset the party apple cart.

For Jackie the interview had been short and good humoured but with the clear intimation that if she ever expected to progress in Westmninster then she had better start supporting the Government trade initiatives. Behind Dobell-Bull’s careful explanation of just why Jackie would be ill advised to oppose the setting up of the New Start corporation site in her constituency had been the unspoken implication that another speech against the proposals in the house would be very unwelcome.

“There’s one other thing I’d like to discuss.” Dobell-Bull took a cigar from a leather case, clipped it cleanly and lit it carefully. “Assuming the Sunrise proposals on New Start go through, we’re going to need a ministerial brief covering inward investment at Trade. I’d have thought your deep understanding of the potential conflicts of interest with the local economy would make you a good choice.” Claire drew deeply on the cigar. A cloud of blue smoke sat heavily above her.

Jackie was confused. The last thing she had expected was to be offered a job. “Well, thank you. I’ll need to think about it.”

“Don’t worry. Let me know in a day or two.” Dobell-Bull was already pretty certain what the answer would be. Like many new MP’s, Maygood was completely incorruptible, except for the offer of power and influence.

Jackie gathered up her papers. As she did so she picked up the knife Claire had used to trim her cigar. “That’s unusual,” she said, turning it in her hands and looking at the polished stone handle and the ancient steel blade with its silver mounts.

“Mmm,” said Claire, taking another puff. “An izmel.” She turned to her own papers, indicating that their conversation had ended.

Jackie looked blank and left. It was only later when she asked her secretary Rebecca if she had ever heard of such a thing that she learned of its original purpose. It was just what you might expect a stalwart of the party to have on their desk.

Meanwhile Florence Daniels was back in her flat, contemplating her Red Box. A badge of office for Government Ministers and an continuing curse; the red, leather covered case held those papers that required her immediate attention. Filled by her Parliamentary Secretary, the box embodied the pressures of running a department. No sooner was every item read and dealt with than others took their place.

Florence thumbed through a report of progress on the Sunrise project. It looked as though that, at least, was back on track. That was a relief.

Then there was a document from the Department of Health & Welfare discussing, as the paper pompously announced, “Legislative Issues Arising from Gender Identity Concerns”. It was, she knew, just the sort of thing Johannsen would want to go through in detail at the next Cabinet meeting. The Prime Minister was always keen on making sure legislation stayed one step ahead. She knew she had better read it thoroughly. It turned out to be an analysis of the problems raised by males claiming female gender status. Where once that had been solely a social issue, it now raised serious legal questions. Could a trans-gendered male avoid the need for sponsorship? How should curfew and detention arrangements apply? What about the rules on asset ownership and the recent changes on suffrage? It was minefield, Florence felt. The trouble was she wasn’t sure what she thought was the ideal solution. She had sympathy for those mistakenly assigned to the wrong gender and for many individuals a medical assessment would provide the appropriate resolution. But those that the report classed as “genetic males, self-identifying as women”? They were more difficult. On the one hand, Florence conceded, it was only reasonable that they should aspire to be classified as members of the superior gender but, on the other hand, surely they couldn’t simply be allowed to chose? Those opting for gender re-assignment surgery complicated things further as did the fact that some women used gender inversion as part of their male-management regime. How on earth could you differentiate in law between a man cross-dressing for the purpose of gaining unlawful access to female benefits and a man compelled to cross dress by his sponsor for the purpose of reinforcing some aspect of his behaviour management. It ought to be easy but Florence could see all sorts of hurdles that any legislation would have to leap.

She put the papers to one side. The best course, she decided, was to see what came out in the Cabinet discussion.