Out and About in the Fourth Estate With Steven Gilfillan

When Andrew Maybee Got Elected

by Peter Cowlam

I remember, from way back, the very first story I covered on finally leaving the Street, and going it alone, freelance. In those days PCs, laptops, still had CD drives, antiquated as it now seems. But antiquation is the theme. I gathered from sources I cannot name (‘Mr Gilfillan, please don’t quote me on this’), that in and around the tearooms of Westminster fellow-MPs guffawed into their saucers at the plight of Andrew Maybee. Maybee remained astonished on the morning of May the 7th, having found himself the newly installed Tory member for West Mursh East (politics is a confusing compass). All that had so far fitted him for a stint in the House was a career as a High Street dentist – Mursh one of those middle-England constituencies blessed with wealth and a need for good odontology.

I have heard it said of Maybee that gloom bordered the querulous when someone ushered him into the shoebox purportedly his office (gone those wide-open spaces back in Mursh). A Ms Blint introduced herself as a ‘quarter-time’ person available to type his letters, minutes, and agendas, and was also, she said, prepared to burn a disc. Maybee wasn’t joking when he said he knew the place was famous for its pyrotechnics, but would he, so early in his new Commons life, be destroying incriminating information, and weren’t computer discs these days resistant to fire anyway? Ms Blint smiled her sickly smile, and muffled a half-hearted laugh, convinced as anyone that this was all deadpan.

More problematic than that, those who handled the dispatch box did so with headmasterly ease and authority, and all Maybee could think of was the exact cut of his very short trousers – indeed how all his garments might appear – once he’d decided to quiz whoever was standing there. The drawback was, as he’d learned from the hustings, those who formed his electorate were either ignorant, or full of spite, or so bullish in their opinions he couldn’t possibly frame a question representative of any. I’m told he stewed on this for years, until, when the next election came, he let it slip, all unguarded, that he for one was finished with politics, as perhaps a return to dentistry beckoned.

Peter Cowlam has won the Quagga Prize for Literary Fiction twice, most recently in 2018 for his novel New King Palmers, which is at the intersection of old, crumbling empires and new, digital agglomerates. He is also the author of plays and poetry. His first novel was published in 1998, by CentreHouse Press. His second novel, Across the Rebel Network (working title New Suit for King Diamond), published in 2002, was nominated for the Booker Prize. His brief stint as a commissioning editor saw two issues of The Finger, a journal of politics, literature and culture. His fiction, poems and reviews are published in a wide range of print and online journals. Steven Gilfillan is his fictional spokesperson experienced in journalism and other forms of literary art.