Shortly after I began my working life, on the edge of the Westminster jungle, I landed a job with a political ‘big beast’; an alpha male, in very much the same mould as Dominique Strauss-Kahn: silver-haired, heavy-set, charismatic. For a few months, he ignored me as I busied away researching stats. Then, during what should have been a routine working lunch, the searchlight
of his wandering eye settled on me and out of the blue he declared passionate love: ‘Say you love me too. I just can’t live without you.’ This was both flattering and confusing. Why now? Why me? This famous man had a devoted wife and a small daughter and at the time that shocked me too. Well, I was young.
In the months that followed, I grew up. I learnt quickly that in the seamy world of British politics — just as much here as across the Channel — the terms of engagement between powerful politicos and young women are a far cry from those we’re taught at school. It’s not the rule of law out there in Westminster: it’s the law of the jungle. And the jungle is full of predators — all different in their manner of pursuit, but all turbo-charged by ego.
The first thing that’s unusual about a political predator is that he’s blinded by conceit. His self-love is so consuming that it’s almost impossible for him to imagine a girl might say no. For my particular big beast, rejection only fuelled his ardour. He showed no fear of law-suits or accusations of harassment. The more overt the put-down, the keener he seemed. Until one day, without warning, he simply lost his cool altogether, pushed me over on the office carpet and lay on top of me, breathing hard. ‘You know you want me!’ he said.