03 August 2015

Whitehall through the Looking Glass: a quick guide

In the not-too-distant future, the Consortium has brought America, which it practically owns through its corporate subsidiaries, back under the British Crown. In return, all it asks for is unfettered control over policy decisions in Whitehall.

In this timid new world, nobody dares question the Consortium, and everybody is expected to carry out orders. But while many of his civil service colleagues jostle to be of the greatest service to their new political masters, Philip K. Rainsborough decides that enough is enough. He sets out to expose the Consortium’s dark secrets. Unfortunately, the Consortium has on its side the Super Utility Network, the most advanced opinion manipulation technology in the world. And as life for most people sinks into chaos and misery, the Consortium remains as popular as ever by serving up gimmicks and endless scapegoats.

Caught between the Consortium and subversives who want to overthrow the government, Rainsborough is desperate to find a way for a peaceful regime change. He is given a chance when Chief Supt Carrie Edel seeks his help in a murder case that may bring down the Prime Minister. But what is actually asked of him amounts to treason. In any event, even if he can pull it off, he suspects he won’t live to tell the tale.

You can get:
The E-book version from: Amazon UK or Amazon US
The Paperback version from: Barnes & Noble or CreateSpace

What do commentators say about it

“Forget ‘Yes, Minister’ and ‘The Thick of It’; if you want a sharp satirical look at life inside the corridors of power, read Whitehall through the Looking Glass, written by a true insider. Apart from the humour and a storyline full of remarkable twists, Tam’s novel also has a serious message about the dire consequences when corporations take over the running of a government. It should be read by anyone interested in the state of our democracy.”
- Sonny Leong, Chief Executive, Civil Service College

"Tam strips back the veil on a world dominated and decimated by a ruthless consortium. But, chillingly, its relentless pursuit of profit and power is legitimised by a hollowed-out democracy in which citizens, manipulated by the technologies of surveillance and suggestion, submit meekly to their thralldom. The narrative is all the more compelling because Tam's world is often as familiar as it is fantastical. This is not so much a lesson from history as a warning from the here and now. It's a cautionary tale and a call to action, but also a gripping read."
- Peter Bradley, Director, Speakers’ Corner Trust

“This is a timely reminder of the dangers of the rapidly-accelerating corporatisation of our political and economic life. With private firms increasingly running our NHS and administering welfare, so many of the services we cherish are at risk from the profit motive. From utilities to railways, we’ve already seen how the interests of shareholders and bosses trump those of workers, service users and taxpayers. As the general election approaches, Tam’s book is an important reminder of the risks of crude neoliberal ideology”.
- Frances O'Grady, General Secretary, TUC (Trades Union Congress)

“Beautifully, deftly written, Whitehall through the Looking Glass is dark and compelling reading. A deeply sobering wake up call to us all against the political complacency of our times.”
- Dame Jane Roberts, Chair, NLGN (New Local Government Network)

“Henry Tam knows how government works, and how fragile democracy is. With his insider knowledge and surreal imagination, he has given us an extraordinary dystopian tale about corporate greed and political collusion. It kept me hooked to the very end.”
- Baroness Kay Andrews, former Government Minister

“The bleak, but believable, picture of corporatism gone crazy combines with a witty and insightful portrayal of the civil service to make for a novel that is both funny and scary in equal measure.”
- Toby Blume, Founder, the Archer Academy

“Although set in the future, the civil service lampooned in Whitehall through the Looking Glass is instantly recognisable to anyone who's been part of it. Tam’s novel paints a superb picture of how people can be governed, or rather manipulated, by unscrupulous politicians. Funny, alarming, and poignant, it’s quite an achievement.”
- Ellie Roy, former Crime Reduction Director, Home Office, UK Government

“[Whitehall through the Looking Glass is] a fascinating and disturbing narrative on where global corporate power and neo-liberal orthodoxy is leading us, though perhaps we are already half-way there.”
- Stuart Weir, Founder, Democratic Audit

Must-Read Political Satire

Readers’ positive comments have included:
“I was sufficiently enthralled by Whitehall through the Looking Glass that I read it cover to cover (pixel to pixel, perhaps) in a single day … What a lot of fun. Science fiction in something of the style of the early Asimov, combined with a biting satire on neoliberal trends in the post Cold War West.” (Con Grano Salis)

“Tam writes with both intelligence and wit, engaging the reader, and forcing them to look past the minutiae of life and into the very mechanisms that control our everyday existence. … Thoroughly recommended!” (Caroline)

“Henry Tam has done something that's very hard to pull-off. He's written a real page-turner, a novel that is easy to read and full of invention, twists and unexpected turns. But he's also provided an insight into modern government … Although the novel is set in the future it can be read as a very exact account of how power really works in modern Britain.” (Dr. J. Duffy)

“I found myself chuckling at the book's events and people … people one had read about or personally come across in work situations - how horribly familiar it all seemed!!! A fascinating read.” (G. Samuel)

“Full of Machiavellian characters and dark humour, with a great twist in the tail. Anyone who's worked in Whitehall will find much to smile at in this sharply observed novel.” (YakinaMac)

“A deliciously funny book which moves at great speed as the government promotes privatisation and begins to hand over to the all-powerful Consortium. … With an Orwellian touch, it is full of vision for what can happen if we stop caring about how to share power fairly.” (freedom22)

(Full versions of readers’ reviews of Whitehall through the Looking Glass can be found here.)

For a shortened version of the interview with Henry Tam in ‘Shout Out’ magazine on the writing of Whitehall through the Looking Glass, click here.

For Simon J. Duffy’s full review of Whitehall through the Looking Glass for the Centre for Welfare Reform, click here.

Excerpts from ‘What would Whitehall be like in fifty years’ time?’, can be found in ‘Nightmare on Downing Street’.