Fatal Ambition: Former MP Nick de Bois's debut political thriller novel draws life as a Westminster insider
Conservative Nick de Bois spent lockdown contemplating Boris Johnson's departure as Prime Minister.
Dominic Raab's former right-hand man was not plotting a coup at 10 Downing Street – but formulating the plot line for his first political thriller, published this month.
The Bishop's Stortford resident's first novel, Fatal Ambition, has already won a ringing endorsement from The Independent's chief political correspondent, John Rentoul, who described it as "a well-written, deftly-crafted novel set in the chaos of Westminster just after the departure of Boris Johnson, by someone who knows parliament and government from the inside".
Nick, who has lived in the town for 15 years with his wife Helen, is a Conservative insider with links to the highest public offices in the land.
However, the 62-year-old's journey to Westminster and beyond has been a bumpy one.
He first contested the Enfield North seat for the Tories in 2001, coming second to Labour's Joan Ryan. His second General Election campaign, in 2005, also ended in defeat, but in 2010 he unseated his socialist rival and headed to the House of Commons for a single term, losing twice more to Ryan in 2015 and 2017.
He took the plunge after setting up his own successful events business. "I got into politics relatively late, and the one thing I've learned is that it's very important to have a life before going into politics and I've also found there's life after politics."
That first foray formed the basis of his debut book, the well-received Confessions of a Recovering MP, short-listed for the Political Books Awards Best Parliamentary Memoir 2018.
It also did not deter him from attempting a return when he was a short-listed candidate to replace Hertford and Stortford MP Mark Prisk for the December 2019 General Election. He lost out to Julie Marson, who retained the seat for the Tories.
Like her, he is an arch-Brexiter and was called back into service as the now Foreign Secretary's special adviser and chief of staff during Raab's short tenure as Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union.
Deep in Downing Street, in the same room as then Prime Minister Theresa May while the fate of the nation was formulated, he soaked up the atmosphere and now realises he was storing material for his novel.
He said: "I've drawn on things that I know well... all that environment that you would expect is referenced in the novel, but essentially this is about the two key characters who have burning ambition."
He writes about a PM on borrowed time and the ruthless heir apparent, James Cleaver, who seems unstoppable until broadcaster Beth Anderson stands in his way.
Nick said: "It's set against a backdrop where you have to ask yourself, who is really pulling the strings?"
The machinations make for a tense thriller and he conceded that the story would appeal to those who have "a low opinion of politicians and their behaviour..."
Unlike his book's anti-hero, he never wanted to climb the greasy pole as an MP.
He said: "Most think the way to effect change is to become a minister so you can deliver. There's nothing wrong with that, but I found out that I became very much a campaigning constituency MP and that meant I found myself in conflict with my own Government, but I embraced that."
Although disappointed that his single term curtailed his policy agenda, as a presenter on talkRADIO he remains politically active and passionate about the issues he pioneered while in office, such as combatting knife crime.
Nick said: "People can effect change in very many ways."
He remains a staunch Brexiter, but as the Government grapples with a shortage of lorry drivers, he conceded there have been difficulties as a result of leaving the EU and confessed to some misgivings. He said: "I envy anyone who has the luxury of absolute certainty."
In Fatal Ambition, he looks further into the future and hints at an aspect of Brexit "less rosy than some may like".
Fiction aside, he still believes in the principle of leaving the European Union, but as someone who helped negotiate withdrawal, he acknowledged difficulties with personnel and blamed the parliamentary system.
"Boris Johnson... when people vote for him they're voting for a leader, someone they can go over the trenches for," he said. "But if you elect Boris Johnson because you want someone all over the detail, you've made a mistake."
He said that when it comes to the calibre of the cabinet, the Prime Minister's talent pool is limited by the size of his parliamentary party.
"The PM has to choose his Cabinet from them and a large section of them are completely unfit to hold office," said Nick.
"It's worth remembering when we appoint a Secretary of State, it's entirely possible that these people may have done nothing more than run a bath in their lifetime."
Despite recent criticism over his decision to continue his beach holiday as the Taliban closed on Kabul, Nick exempted former boss Dominic Raab from this criticism, calling him a "remarkable individual".
He said that he would make an excellent Prime Minister – but he did not anticipate Boris Johnson stepping aside any time soon, unlike in his book.
As a sequel begins to take shape, Fatal Ambition is published by 3rd Step Publishing on September 29 and costs £8.99. Signed copies are available from www.politicos.co.uk.