Saturday, July 17, 2010

Quite Ugly One Morning by Christopher Brookmyre (Abacus 1996)

'My grandfather always maintained that where there was muck, there was brass,' Parlabane said. 'If you're not afraid to get your hands dirty and put your back into your work, you'll get a fair reward. However, throughout the tenure of our present government, I discovered a valuable reciprocal to be true: where there's lots of brass, there's usually muck, and I've made a career out of looking for it.

As Michael Portillo fearlessly said, in this country, as opposed to those wog-ridden foreign sties - I'm paraphrasing here, although only slightly - if you win a contract, it's not because your brother is a government minister or you blatantly bribed an official. Of course not. That would be corruption. In this country, you win contracts because you are "one of us", you went to the right school, give money to the right party, and have awarded an executive post to a member of the cabinet's family, or have promised a seat on the board to the appropriate minister when he resigns to spend more time with his bankers.

'We don't have anything as vulgar or primitive as a bribe. It's a matter of trust. For every action, there's an equal and opposite reaction. For every contract, there's a kickback. It's more noble, more gentlemanly. A matter of mutual understanding. And very, very British.'

Sarah stared across, unimpressed. 'Once again, hot-shot, this much I know. Not an exclusive. Cut to the chase.'

'Fair enough. I got a bit of a reputation for myself through in Glasgow, sniffing out scams, investigating dodgy deals. But what I really wanted was to go after the big game down south, and I was head-hunted by one of the big broadsheet Sundays. I thought it would either make my career or turn out to be the worst move south by a promising young Scot since Charlie Nicholas. In the end it was both.

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