Possibly it's the MEP connection, possibly it's Duclos' long and sordid history with the molestation of young boys - but I didn't appreciate how strongly that link had evolved in the minds of many (particularly journalists and those in political circles) until I was involved in initial publicity for the book and was speaking to a Sunday Times journalist. 'Mmmm, sounds to me like this Duclos character has been inspired by Leon Brittan,' he said. 'I couldn't possibly comment,' I responded in coy Francis Urquhart mode, then followed up with a more forthright denial. Still it wasn't sufficient to stop speculation because later that day another more senior editor phoned me back: 'I hear you're the chap who has just written an expose book on politician Leon Brittan.' I was quick to assure that I wasn't and that in fact Past Imperfect was pure fiction, slipping quickly into the standard denial, 'and any resemblance to characters either living or dead is purely coincidental.'
He didn't sound wholly convinced. 'Shame,' he mused. 'We've sent out three investigative journalists at different times and still haven't managed to nail that bastard.' These conversations took place in the late 90s. Since then, Past Imperfect went on to become a bestseller, and little was heard about the Leon Brittan connection until just recently, when I received another call from a past fellow journalist. 'Looks like they've finally caught up with Leon Brittan - he's all over the news.' I switched on the TV. The story was on every channel, and covered the tabloids the next morning. In particular what struck me was the central allegation that an MP had passed Leon Brittan a dossier naming 105 people as part of a suspected paedophile ring, and said file then mysteriously disappeared.
Now rumour is one thing and fact is another, and I have never been foolish enough to confuse the two. But what struck me immediately with this story is that if I, a humble political editor back in the 90s, had heard these rumours, and that indeed they were rife in political and journalistic circles - then certainly a Westminster MP would have also heard them. Even Private Eye a while back had a front page satirical stab at Leon Brittan responding to a Downing Street policeman's request to 'accompany him': 'No, you're far too old for me.' So what on earth was this MP doing handing over a file to a person central to these rumours? It makes no sense. And now we hear that those files mysteriously disappeared, which indeed does make far more sense (if the rumours are to be believed).
But again I reiterate: 'Past Imperfect is totally fictional with the aim solely of entertaining.' Though no less entertaining than the circus of obfuscation and trite political denials which will no doubt arise as this latest drama unfolds.