The play was begun with my friend and patient Ron Hart but only a few pages were completed before his death.The connection with money and politics is always perennial and with the recent MPs expenses hubris, when we began, topical.The action of the play is only very loosely connected to the historical characters and the actual events portrayed are fictional as far as I know.
Characters in order of appearance:
Lloyd George ,Prime Minister LG
Maundy Gregory his agent MG
Inspector Baskerville B
Summer 1922,a room in the House of Lords.
Lloyd George pacing up and down,a furtive knock on the door is heard.
LG.Come in Maundy,come in!
( Maundy enters looking suspicious and oozing oiliness)
MG.Really PM you unnerve me with your braziness (slightly camp)
LG.I’ve just fought a bloody war which that arse over tit Asquith would have lost.I’ve paid the price,
now I must win the peace.
MG.Are we in business?
LG.Yes,my little one a couple of bishes.
MG.The’re not what they were.
LG.Bloody Anglicans,what’s the matter with them these days?
MG.Not Peterborough again?
LG.God knows why anyone wants to live there.
MG.Where is it?
LG.North dear boy North.
MG.But we only replaced him last year.
LG.Odd isn’t it ,they keep dying on me.
MG.So much for prayers.
LG.Still it keeps up the cash flow.
LG.I hope so,what’s to become of us otherwise.
MG.Bishops ugh! Now a peerage perhaps 25.
LG.I’m coming to that.
MG.You’ve ticked the list of lovelies.
LG.Here you are.
MG.God what a shower!
LG.Be courteous to their Graces.I hear on the grapevine your thinking of going over.
MG.I’m not exactly over the moon about it but I’ve quite a good offer from Archie Westminster.
LG.You’re not going to desert me in my hour of need!
MG.Everything depends on price.
MG.After all 5% is peanuts.
LG.Another bastard I will have to take care of.
MG.Really PM where is your Welsh charm.
MG.If all else fails go back to Wales.
LG. OK 7.
MG.And a half.
LG. And a half.
LG.Durham has come up.
MG.Ah! Durham is big,say 20.
MG.20 goes so nicely in a suitcase,small notes of course.
LG.The usual bank of honour?
MG.Yes.But we need a few more from Army and Navy.
LG.Notes ? I don’t follow.
LG.A full suitcase ,just the quality we need in a peer.
MG.(Looking again at the list) red ticks for Peterborough and blue for Durham.
MG.Anything else my lord….I mean PM.
LG.Don’t cut it to fine Gregory.
MG.There’s nothing wrong with MY cloth.
LG.Before you get delirious with your own power there’s one more big job.
MG.I knew you wouldn’t let me down…..Prime Minister.
MG.My legs have gone weak.
LG.Yes a little surprise.
MG.Not for me I hope,I hardly deserve it.Yet thinking about it I have rendered great public assistance.
I’m joking, of course.Still we have saved the exchequer a heap of money doing it this way.
LG.There would be no money in it for us if you have it.
LG.We want to give it to Kitchener’s son.
MG.Why for Gods sake!
LG.Does it matter?
MG.No.But how low the establishment will sink has a sort of mathematical charm.
MG.I should say 50K .Has he got it?
LG.He will see you in your flat tomorrow at 11 am.
MG.I will be able to get my hotel in Dorking.
MG.Yes I need to think of my pension.Yours is gold plated of course.
LG.No more than we deserve.
MG.I assume that’s your Welsh humour PM.
LG.What do you mean?
MG.My hotel will be for tired businessmen.
LG.Sounds like the biggest brothel in the South-east.
MG.I hope so.
LG.Can I come?
MG.Of course ,Prime Minister.
LG.By the way if you run into FE,Bonar, or Austin they know.
MG. And Winston.
LG.O yes Winston.
MG.Really PM is nothing secret.
LG.Oh its all above board.Its been going on for years.We have made it more rewarding ,that’s all.
MG.But the press……
MG.The middle class…..
LG.Their prepared -after all the good get knighthoods or baronetsies at 5 or 10 K.
MG.I’m just looking for weak links.
LG.Like you if you go awry.
MG.Never fear i am discretion incarnate.
LG.You realise that like the secret service if anything comes out we completely disown you.
MG.Of course,I have my contacts at MI5.
LG.Be careful,which side are they on?
LG.We’ll take care of him.
MG.But if he objects.
LG.He wont.We’ll threaten him with hundreds more to keep the Tories out.
MG.Just so we know.
LG.And take care of your own contacts.
MG.Any problems and I will do away with them.
LG.And avoid the women ,they always blurt in the end.
MG.Only my Pek will know.
LG.I suppose he’s safe.
MG.Are we concluded?.
LG.One thing The Yard have made some enquiries,of course we have put them off,people far too
important to get involved.
MG.Anyway there is no law against it.
LG.Not yet,but inspector Baskerville is like a hound dog when he smells something.
MG.We’ll come up roses.
LG.Yes we may bring in the Act ourselves.
LG.You know,corruption won’t be tolerated,honours must be earnt,the usual guff.
MG.We earned it ( a suppressed giggle).
LG.We must make some hay while we can.Elections depend on it.
MG.If things go wrong……
LG.We dont know you.
MG Yes but can i rely on the judge being nobbled.
LG.Noblesse oblige ,old man.
MG.Knighthood delayed ….
LG.That sort of thing….Money is nothing compared to a title but strange that they all started by
lending money to the King. Now they lend it to us instead much more democratic.
MG.Will I get something.
LG.Not a title you don’t suit it,we could get the King to give you the Victorian Order,second class.
MG.Great, I’d rather the money.
MG.And if the rats start leaving the ship.
LG.What on earth do you mean?
MG.If one of you blabs.
LG.No fear, the’re all in it too deeply.And labour are getting stronger so we have to pull together.
MG.God! What is it coming to.
LG.What was that wonderful phrase of Oscars “if the poor won’t set us a good example what on
earth is the use of them”
MG.How we miss him!
LG.It will take another 100 years before his aphorisms are understood.Meanwhile we dunces
have to shore up the sinking ship somehow.Any more questions?
MG.Your servant Prime Minister (bows and departs).
Scene 2. Maundy’s study,a few weeks later.
Housekeeper. There’s a gentleman to see you.
HK.Looks like a policeman.
MG.What do you mean,isn’t he in uniform?
HK..His manner I can tell them a mile off…an inspector.
MG.Did he give his name?
MG.Bother,bother,bother.Somebodies leaked, what a sieve! Ask him to step in.
B.Inspector Baskerville of The Yard.
MG. What Yard?
B.Not on duty ,sir.
MG.Of course,of course.What errand brings you here inspector? a cup of tea?
B.No thank you.We have had a complaint.
MG.A complaint? I don’t understand you.
B.Alfred Prendergast from Lancashire,a wealthy cotton mill owner.
B.Alfred Prendergast! Do you know him.
MG.I don’t think so.
B.He alleges, in a nutshell,…..
B.Very funny sir.
MG.Well go on… this Prendergast man.
B.Alleges that subject to his handing over to you 20k a baronetcy would be conferred in the
New Years Honours.
B.No such honour appeared
MG.Hypothetically as I understand it the individual has to agree he will accept the honour if
B.But I have been informed that you act for the Honours committee in informing recipients of the
likely honour and reporting back as to their acceptance or not.
MG.Well,yes I have the honour to fulfil that role.
B.Well did you see Prendergast and receive 20k from him.
MG.I don’t know but honours are awarded on merit alone.
B.Exactly.So why should he give you 20k.
MG.There are expenses in trailing round the country seeing these twerps…I mean gentlemen.
MG.I must check my accounts.
MG.(Checking) Prendergast,Prendergast what a ghastly name.Ah yes it does appear in my book.
His name I mean.As to the 20k there must be a misunderstanding.
B.Not according to him,he has shown me a copy of the cheque in your favour.
MG.If I do have such a cheque it has not been drawn on and can be returned minus my expenses
B.This is very irregular.
MG.But I can’t see what the problem is, if he gets his money back.
B.Yes but that has only come about due to my investigation.There is more to this than meets the
MG.What do you mean?
B. This money could not have gone to you but to your superiors.
MG.What are you implying inspector?
B.I suspect it’s to help a political party.
MG.Nonsense,I just make enquiries for the committee before the honour is awarded.
B.You admit possession of the cheque.
MG.It may be somewhere but he ie Prendergast must understand that his honour may come later.
B.Subject I suppose to you and your associates cashing the cheque.
MG.Oh no ! It is purely expenses.
B.20k you must be joking.
MG.It depends inspector on the circles you move in.
B.Yes I can see their idea of expenses is a lifetimes salary.
MG.There are a number of people on the committee all giving their time and effort and to avoid
the taxpayer being landed with expenses it is transferred to the recipients of awards.
B.I don’t buy it.
MG.Anyway why is he complaining to you rather than speaking to me,its a poor show.
B.He wouldn’t be if the honour had come ,that is your slip up.
MG.He spends this money on his yacht.
B.You have been on his yacht?
MG.Well yes actually.
B.This money was to nobble Lloyd George for the honour.
MG.Really inspector that is not a term to apply to the Prime Minister.
MG.For a start he won the war.He is inviolable.
MG.Inviolable-not able to be touched.
B.Nobody is above the law.
MG.Look inspector one there is no law against honours for money and two the PM is not on the
Committee and could not possibly know anything.
B.Then you must carry the can.
B.That you procured by deceitful means 20k of this man’n money,as you were not able to deliver the
MG.But there was no guarantee sunshine, sorry I mean officer.
B.His word against yours.
B.We’ll let a judge decide on that.
MG.I’m not so sure .
B.What do you mean.?
MG.Well he may want a K sooner or later.
B.Do you mean…..
MG.Of course not,if you say so.
B.Mr Alfred Prendergast demands restitution.He is willing to forget the whole thing if his money is
MG.But I haven’t got it.
B.Where is it?
B.20k on what?
MG.Oh a small matter of a club in Mayfair
B.I suppose for the benefit of the committee.
MG.Well, yes ,actually .The idea was to get them somewhere to relax after their hard work.
B.Look here Mr Gregory I must ask you to accompany me to the station…
MG.Which train station ?
B.The police station where you will be arrested and charged.
MG.This is outrageous, i must contact my lawyer.
B.Do and meanwhile let’s go without fuss or i can produce handcuffs.
MG.Somebody is going to pay for this.
B.You, I think, come along.
Scene 3 Police station waiting room.
MG. Hello.Who are you?
Journalist.I’m with the sunday mail.When I work.
MG.Stations make me sleepy,not that I’ve been in one before,its the waiting.
What can I do for you.
J.Story.News.Something to sell newspapers .Like you’ve got.
MG.News to me, I haven’t done anything.
J.That’s the best sort of story.We can make it up.
MG.What am I supposed to have done?
J.Sold peerages to beerages.Great story.
MG.Is there money in it?
J.Big money.Everyone likes a fraudster.
MG.I’m not a fraudster.Willing buyer to willing seller.That’s not fraud.
J.Your right.We’d have to dress it up.I just need the story.Are you Maundy Gregory
or Gregory Maundy?
MG.Something like that.
J.And you’ve been selling peerages.
MG.Not selling.Dispensing’s more the word.
J.But it’s all done through Lloyd George.
MG.Loyd George.George Lloyd.Something like that.
J.But you’ve definitely been selling them.
MG.No,not me.Like I said.I’m just a go-between.
J.But you know him? Lloyd George.
MG.Lloyd George knew my father.
MG.It’s a joke (singing) Loyd George knew my father ,my father knew Lloyd George.
MG.Your a bit slow on the uptake.
J.Look you’re the one in the dock.
MG.Not yet ,old boy.
J.I’m only tweny-five.
MG.Everywhere I look Oscar is right “Youth is wasted on the young”.
J. Whose Oscar?
J.How long will you get?
MG.Depends on which judge we have to nobble.
J.Can I quote you on that?
MG.Look this is all in confidence.If things go badly for me i need you on the outside
for the big story.
J.Ah.And that would be?
MG.(Touching his nose) That’s for me to keep for you if you follow my plan.
J.OK I’m game.
MG.I have your word.
J.Isn’t that rather old-fashioned? Still ok if you want it.
MG.If you let me down my friends will be very dangerous.
J.What do you mean?
MG.(Gives a cut-throat gesture)
J.Steady on I’m just a work-a-day hack.
MG.This could be the biggest story of your life.
J.George ,whoever,will get you out?
MG.Hopefully but life, as you will learn, is full of unexpected events.
J.I was just hanging about here on the off-chance…
MG.And a prize pig turns up eh?
J.I can see you move in the highest circles.
MG.The higher you are the bigger the fall.
J.Anyway why did you get into this?
MG.We all have to make a living.
J.Isn’t this corruption?
MG.How can you use such a word,I told you willing buyer to willing seller.
J.I mean honours are supposed to be for merit.
MG.Merit’s ok but the big noises are the peerages and upwards,the’re in our hands
J.You mean the committee does what it’s told.
MG.More or less.After all we don’t want too many top-hats.It brings the price down.
J.How long can you keep it up?
MG.Actually I’m thinking of going over to the Catholic side.
MG.It’s so much easier and all in-house so to speak .The pope is quite undemocratic
so we don’t have to worry about his awards getting spilled, after all he’s infallible.
J.Yes, I see that
MG.Still it’s not the same as an English title,one can’t take those foreigners seriously.
Every second Italian is a count.
J.Can you give me an idea of costs per title.
MG.Oh no. This is all for later.And as for papal knighthoods what a hoot.
J.I’m catholic myself .
MG.So am I but we don’t take it seriously do we?
J.Well I go to mass.
MG.Good boy,you may come in useful for errands.
MG.Don’t you want to earn a little on the side ,good money too.
JG.I don’t want to end up where you’re going.
MG.Her Majesty’s pleasure….
MG.Wormwood I expect.
J.They say conditions are 19c.
MG.Yes but i know the prison governor
J.And ,of course, he needs a K.
MG.Exactly. Isn’t that my number on the board ?
J.No name, just a number.
MG.Thats what it’s coming too.Mark my words.
J.Well you’d better go in.
MG The lions den, let’s see if he takes a closer grip.
Scene 4 .A cell in Wormwood.
Inmate I. Oi Gregory.What you in for?
MG.( groaning ) You here too?
I.This is home for the likes of me.
MG.Not my kind of home.
I.You’ll get used to it.
MG.My dear boy, if you knew how i normally live.
I.I know i’ve burgled places like you have.
MG.Then you should be here .
I.I’m not complaining.
MG.It’s an outrage I’m here.
I.Ah justice for rich and poor alike.
MG.But I’ve done nothing wrong.
I.They all say that.
I.It’s a form of self-defence,of course the occasional innocent ends up here,but
it’s rare and we can see him a mile off.Not in your case.
MG.What do you mean.? My case.
I.You reek of guilt,it’s obvious.
MG.How do you mean?
I.Your demeanor- thats the word.You see I’m studying english while I’m here.
MG.But you are English.
I. Not your english though that’s what counts.
MG.Well while I’m here you will have a tutor.
I.Maybe you can get me a shorter sentence.
MG.What are you in for?
I.Assault and battery.
MG.(moving away) That is not nice.
I.Life’s not nice.
MG.Yes but there are limits.
I.You’ll need protection while you’re in here.
I.I’m mild compared to some of the ugly bastards in here.
MG.I accept your offer.
I.And you will put in a good word .
MG.Of course.I know the governor.He’ll be wanting a K.
I.Can you arrange.
MG.Lloyd George owes me if he values his skin.
I.What! You know the prime minister.
I.I’m beginning to see your story.
MG.That judge will never get a K,the PM promised me.
I.Ah, British justice.
I.What’s your plan now
MG.I wont be in long the PM promised.
MG.I will talk to him .
I.Great the boys will be impressed
MG.You must keep this to yourself.Nothing must touch the PM
MG.He won the war didn’t he.Everything pales in comparison.
I.You must have made a tidy bit.
MG.Well 5% I’m buying an hotel in Dorking as soon as i get out.
I.For retired businessmen.
MG.Yes.Come to think of it I could use you as security.
I.I’m here for 5 years.
MG.Not if i can help it.
MG.Good samaritan and all that.
I.I’ve got another 2 to run.
MG.Good i think that can be overcome.
I.At your service.
MG.When I get out I will have to change my modus vivendi.
MG Way of life.I’m going over to the catholics same job different cloth.
I.Not my thing religion.
MG.Don’t worry God’s impartial.
MG.It’s in the Book somewhere.
I.That explains a lot.
MG.People love honours.
I.More than money.
MG.Oh much more , the women go crazy for it.
I.I don’t see it
MG.When you’ve got money honours have a special piquancy.
MG.Taste.It’s the recognition by your peers that you are special.
I.But I thought you were selling them.
MG.Well yes, but only to people who deserved them anyway and we make a few bob
for the cause.
MG.The Whigs….the Liberals.Not to worry.
Scene 5 .The hall of the Dorking Hotel,six months later.
LG.I’ve had a lovely weekend Gregory.
MG.Not Maundy anymore?
LG.Well after you screwed up we must keep our distance.
MG.Somebody ditched us.
LG.Well you kept my name out,well done.
MG.I suppose two months was worth it.
LG.We saw to that,there had to be someone to take the flak.
MG.My reward is all here.
LG.Yes we added a bit from Kitchener’s contribution.
MG.A kind of thank you.
MG.I came into this thinking there was light at the end of the tunnel…
LG.And then some bugger put the light out….I know.
MG.Still it shows that class distinction is on the way out.
LG.Unfortunately not otherwise i wouldn’t be talking to you now.
(laughing) I’m joking.
MG.How is Winston?
LG. Cracking form but he knows we are a lost cause and will side with
MG.Is there no loyalty left?
LG.Not in politics my dear .
MG.How is your dear wife?
LG.How did you know?
MG.Everybody knows PM.
LG.Except me ,the usual thing .I’ve seen it so many times with colleagues.
MG.I was surprised you did not bring her.
LG.I needed another distraction even mistresses can become wearisome.
MG.I hope you found satisfaction.
LG.Yes,it’s a convenient spot this ,just a short train ride.
MG.Dorking is my little heaven.
LG.I thought you were going over.
MG.I’ve had second thoughts.
MG.They don’t pay as well and the chain of command is ,well,jesuital.
MG.Still as a last resort.They won’t find it so easy.
LG.No.It requires a certain elan.
MG.Well the religious side could be bothersome.
MG.It meant popping over to see his Holiness frequently.The’re short of funds
and want to spread the papal knighthoods rather thickly.
MG.Well the’re asking too much for them and people won’t buy it.
LG.Willing seller unwilling buyer.
LG.What was your commission if I may ask?
MG.What I told them.
LG.Well now you have your little pension here.It could be a goldmine.
MG.Yes, and all I have to do is sit in the front office and watch them come through.
LG. I could envy you.
MG.No you are part of history,mine will only be some seedy biography.
LG.Still the smaller man is often happier.
LG.You had your fifteen minutes of glory,oblivion is best.
MG.Sweeter than all the ardours of the heart….Pushkin.
LG.I wouldn’t go that far.
MG.You can retire soon to Wales.
LG.Wales! Not my scene old boy.
MG.But it’s home.
LG.When you’ve come through a world war and dealt with the worst and the best
of men Wales seems like a childhood dream which can never come back.
Too much has flowed under the bridge.
MG.Yes you stay in the thick of things we all have our comeuppance.
LG.True all political life ends in tragedy.
MG.On that macabre note I see the taxi is here .
Here is your nose disguise.
LG.I look ridiculous.
MG.Nobody would guess.
LG.Till next time Maundy
MG.Your obedient servant Prime Minister.