Stephen Arnell

Brexit would have been Flashman’s finest hour

With the 50th anniversary of the publication of George MacDonald Fraser’s first Flashman novel, how would Thomas Hughes’ school bully have handled British politics today — and who’s most like our favourite literary cad?

Given recent allegations of sexism and bullying in the Commons, Flash would have found himself at home. If Westminster is a boarding school, Flash would be among the prefects, pushing around the sneaks, sots and brown-nosers, and paying court to those further up the greasy pole. ‘Kiss up, Kick down,’ as they say.

Flash is always at his best in a total fiasco, so Brexit would have been his finest hour. Expert at taking multiple positions, on and off the battlefield, he would have changed sides at least once, and then tipped a cellarful of dirt onto his potential rivals. Sounds like that man of action, and hero of every hour, Michael Gove?

Every successful bully needs a gang of like-minded followers, so plenty of MPs would sign up with Flashman’s crew; Boris Johnson always enjoys a good prank. As for victims, they’d be spoilt for choice. Smug-but-dim Bernard Jenkin would be taken down a peg or two by the Flashman treatment, and Speaker John Bercow could, like Tom Brown in Thomas Hughes’ novel, come unstuck.

Among the Opposition, Jeremy Corbyn’s peculiarly passive-aggressive form of politics would present a tactical challenge. Flashman would work his way around that but, with his glorious record of running away, he’d give John Prescott a wide berth for fear of a thumping. The same would go for Neil Kinnock in his prime, who could roundhouse with the best of them. And the late Paddy Ashdown’s SAS training would also have reminded Sir Harry that discretion was the better part of valour.

Flashman is strapping, good-looking, and six feet two inches height. A ‘ladies’ man’ to the waxed tips of his moustache, Flashman is no gentleman at all. In Fraser’s novels, Flashman is persuaded to stand for parliament but, as always, scandal derails him.

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