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Jilly Cooper meets Westminster

Hollie Adams/Getty

Cleo Watson insists her debut novel Whips – a “Jilly Cooper-style canter” around Westminster complete with “lots of lashes and quivering naked buttocks” – isn’t based on real events, says Sasha Swire in The New Statesman. But Boris Johnson’s former deputy chief of staff “is being slightly disingenuous”. There’s a bumbling posh prime minister, and a “politically ambitious wife with a direct line into the top hacks”. There’s an education secretary constantly “babbling like a f***wit”. There’s a female PM pulling swords out of her back. The only glaring omission is a “Machiavellian Chancellor of the Exchequer”.

But the protagonist of this “Westminster romp” is Eva, a junior Downing Street adviser. She has a striking similarity to Watson herself (pictured), who was nicknamed “the Gazelle” because of her “rangy limbs and good looks”. (The author is also apparently “quite horsey”, which explains the “interest in whips and jumping hurdles”.) Only someone who has spent so much time around politicians – Watson has recalled penning a Covid-infected Johnson in his office with a puppy gate, and checking his temperature while he “dutifully feigned bending over” – could catch so perfectly the “dark heart” of government: the “coyote-like ambitions”, the rat traps laid by hacks and the countless sexcapades. However shocking this salacious novel gets, I promise you it’s all happened. Or at least something like it.