As far as the public knew, Frank Jones and Tony Alsop were colleagues, on the same team. When one spoke, the other backed them up, because those were the rules.
Ever since their days at university, their careers had seemed conjoined. The student Jones had once dated had even gone on to marry Alsop. Jones had never liked him, even back then.
They had risen through the ranks together, elected as junior MPs in the same intake. While Jones’s policy was one of keeping his nose clean, however, Alsop was altogether more fiery. His instincts drew much admiration, but he was also prone to the occasional gaffe.
They had progressed through the ranks steadily. Jones was regarded as a safe pair of hands, and few eyebrows were raised when he was invited to become a part of the government, albeit with a junior role. He could not help but feel satisfied that he had leap-frogged Alsop – he had always known that his dependability would win out in the end.
Alsop had followed him, however, three years later. He had raised his profile sufficiently to come into the government, immediately overseeing a department of his own. More of a risk, perhaps, but his talent was unquestionable.
Shortly after Jones himself had been invited to eat at the top table, that risk became evident. It was a nothing issue, so why had Alsop chosen to make a stand? Inevitably, perhaps, it cost Alsop his job. But the Prime Minister was damaged too, and, wounded, led the party to only its second electoral defeat in the last thirty years.
The Prime Minister did not hang around, resigning a day later, and several former cabinet colleagues urged Jones, with age on his side, to put himself forward as her successor. It was inevitable that Alsop also threw his hat in.
For the “party faithful”, Jones was seen as too tainted by his government ties, and Alsop won the election quite handsomely. The two pledged to work together to get themselves back into power.
And it was going well. There was little love lost between the two, but for the public, they wee united in their goal. The current government were in trouble, and Alsop and Jones had the unmistakeable air that they were simply waiting to take over.
And then, six months before the election was due, Jones’s landline rang – it was not yet 5 AM. As he sleepily wandered through to his machine, he just caught his secretary’s voice asking him to call back urgently. “It’ll wait”, thought Jones, trudging down to the kitchen. He turned on his mobile. That couldn’t be, surely? Thirty missed calls? He rubbed his eyes and checked the display once again. He dialled his secretary, who immediately picked up. “Turn on the News Channel”, came a curt voice.
Jones stood gaping at the TV and could not believe his ears. Alsop? Died last night? Heart attack?
A week later, Jones had made sure that his bouquet was the largest at the funeral. When he saw that the cameras were on him, he even managed a sniff.
He stood, expressionless. Not even his own mother could have guessed what he was thinking.
“I’ve finally beaten the bastard”.