The action of Ch. P. Snow’s novel “Corridors of Power” takes place in Great Britain in 1955-1958. The protagonist of the novel is a young Conservative politician representing the left wing of his party, Roger Kuif. The narrative is conducted on behalf of his colleague, and later a friend of Lewis Eliot
In the spring of 1955, the Conservative Party wins parliamentary elections and gets the opportunity to form a government. A young ambitious politician, Roger Kuif, receives the position of Comrade Minister in the newly created Ministry of Armaments. This pleases not everyone. Thus, the officials of the State Administration – agencies, partly duplicating the functions of the new ministry, partly competing with it – who were bypassed in the allocation of
Roger Kuif believes that in conditions where the two superpowers have long possessed nuclear weapons, the work to create it in the UK is meaningless: their continuation means only insane expenditure of money, and it will not be possible to catch up with the United States and the USSR anyway. However, he can not openly state his position, because the problem affects the interests of many too influential forces – politicians, officials, scientists, large industrialists are involved in the confrontation on this issue. Closure of nuclear programs for many of them means a million losses. The goal of Roger is to achieve power, and then to use this power with sense, for the present something can be done. To do this, he often has to conduct a backstage struggle, hiding his true views.
As the nearest target, Roger has outlined a ministerial chair, which is still occupied by the aging and sick Lord Gilby. To achieve his goal, he skillfully uses the discontent of the “hawks” led by an emigrant from Poland by a certain Michael Brodzinsky – a politician of the extreme right wing. Not revealing completely his political line, Roger nevertheless managed to win over to his side politicians and influential businessmen from various camps. In the end, Roger succeeds: Gilbi gets the resignation, and Roger takes his post.
However, this outwardly two-faced policy of Roger Kuif has its costs. His friends and supporters begin to look askance at him, while at the same time the “hawks” and the same Brodzinsky harbor unjustified hopes that the new minister will begin to pursue a tough line in matters of British nuclear policy.
To the “socio-political” story line is mixed and personal. Roger Quayf is married to the beautiful Caroline (Caro, as her friends call), the daughter of a count who belongs to an ancient aristocratic family. In the opinion of all the acquaintances, this is a happy marriage, to which nothing is threatened. However, one day Roger confesses to Lewis that he has a mistress – Helen Smith. After acquainting with her, Lewis remembers Caroline’s phrase, somehow jokingly dropped on one reception: “Wives should fear not stunning beauties, but quiet gray mice, which no one notices.”
Personal and political problems of Roger are tied in a tight knot. In the draft law on which he works, he is trying to propose a new national policy on nuclear weapons production, pointing out the unjustified costs incurred by the country. However, the closure of the production of nuclear weapons will inevitably lead to the loss of work by several thousand people. Against the position of Roger is the Ministry of Labor. Openly opposed to Roger and Brodzinsky, calling his position defeatist and pouring water to the Moscow mill. Various “pressure groups” are also beginning to operate, including those apparently inspired from Washington.
At the same time, Roger, publicly defending the idea of preventing a nuclear arms race, is becoming popular in the liberal environment. He is readily quoted by newspapers, as well as by independent and opposition politicians.
Opponents of Roger do not disdain any means. Ellen Smith receives anonymous letters with threats and demands to influence Roger. A number of defense scientists must undergo a humiliating verification procedure for reliability.
The action reaches its culmination when the draft prepared by Roger is published, and an open political struggle begins on the issue of its adoption. A compromise was worked out, according to which the cabinet will not object to the bill, but Roger must abandon the idea of a complete cessation of the production of nuclear weapons. Roger does not agree to do this, although everyone, including himself, obviously understands that in the concrete conditions of the Cold War the real realization of his idea is simply impossible. Familiar Roger, American physicist David Rubin, advises him to quit this venture, motivating his advice that Roger was ahead of his time, and there is no hope for victory. “Your point of view is correct, but time has not yet come,” he says.
Shortly before the parliamentary debate on the bill, the opposition makes a resolution “on reducing the allocation of ten pounds” – under such a formula is a vote of no confidence in the government. Opponents of Roger inside the Tory party are conspiring with the opposition.
In the meantime, Caro receives anonymous letters about her husband’s betrayal. She goes into a rage, but continues to support her husband as a politician.
Roger makes a brilliant speech in defense of his position, but in vain – even his close ones are against him, in particular, Caroline’s brother, the young Lord Sammykins Houghton, whom Roger has repeatedly defended from attacks by party comrades who criticized Sammicins for his orthodox views. Parliamentarians speak of a “restraining beginning”, of a “shield and sword” and strongly oppose a real reduction in the nuclear program. Even the morbidly sick former minister, Lord Gilby, personally arrives at the debate, in order, as he put it, to “give battle to the adventurers.”
The bill is failed. Roger is forced to resign. But he remains convinced that his position is the only correct one, that our descendants, if only they will have us, will curse us for not abandoning the production and testing of nuclear weapons. The belief that someday someone else will still achieve what has not been achieved by him remains unshakable.
The successor of Roger as minister becomes the former chief of Lewis Eliot Hector Rose. Lewis himself, for several years of working with Roger Kuif very close to him, also decides to leave the public service.
One day, a year and a half after the events described, Lewis and his wife Margaret get to a reception where the entire color of the British establishment is present. There is no only Roger. He completely retired, divorced beautiful aristocrat Caroline, married Ellen Smith and lives very modestly, avoiding meetings with past acquaintances. He still remains a deputy of parliament, but divorce actually put an end to his political career – even his own district refused to nominate him in the next election. Yet both Roger himself and his friend Lewis believe that their struggle – even if it ended in defeat – was not in vain.