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Bill Brand (1976)


Warning: screenonline full synopses contain 'spoilers' which give away key plot points. Don't read on if you don't want to know the ending!

Episode 9: 'Anybody's' (ITV, tx. 2/8/1976)

The Labour Prime Minister Arthur Watson has fallen gravely ill and will shortly resign. Bill Brand travels back to London to take up the role of Permanent Private Secretary to David Last, the Minister of Employment, and the Left's likely candidate for the Labour leadership. Last greets Brand and runs through the probable sequence of events that will climax with the leadership election. The candidates will be Venables, the right-wing Home Secretary, Kersley, the moderate Foreign Secretary, and Last himself.

Brand thinks that Kersley is unstoppable, but Last has developed a strategy of encouraging the Deputy PM Jim Wilks to stand as a candidate, thus splitting Kersley's vote. The risk is that defeating Kersley will make it a straight fight between Last and Venables, but Last is willing to take the chance. Brand attends a meeting of the left-wing Journal group, and there is some dissent about Last's candidacy. Brand makes a speech outlining the difficulties any leader of the Left will face in solving the country's economic problems. Last finally arrives, and wins the group over with a short but emotional speech.

On the day of the election, Last's tactics are initially successful. Wilks splits the vote, and his support goes to Last, partly because Last has offered him a cabinet post, but also because Kersley has insulted him. The second ballot therefore eliminates Kersley, leaving Last and Venables to fight it out. But Kersley refuses to back Last, and gives his support to Venables. Last argues that Venables will destroy the party, but Kersley feels that he is scaremongering, and he has been offered the post of Chancellor by Venables. As he leaves, Kersley comments that he does not believe that Last would be sent for by the Queen to form a government even if he was the leader.

Venables is duly elected, and decides to leave the Cabinet untouched for the time being. As Brand and Last leave Number Ten, Brand asks why Last didn't match Venables by offering Kersley the job of Chancellor. Last doesn't think such an offer would have made a difference because Kersley genuinely thought that Last wouldn't be sent for, and therefore would never be in a position to make good on the offer. They contemplate the nature of the Queen's power as the car takes them back to the House.