Thursday 14 November 2019

Oh yes, minister -- how Bertie played key role in Burley's political bonkbuster

But the Sky News presenter's steamy novel won't leave many readers gasping for more, writes John Spain

Bertie Ahern. Photo: PA
Bertie Ahern. Photo: PA

SKY News presenter Kay Burley's first novel, a 400-page bonkbuster about a randy prime minister and a sexy TV reporter, has a familiar name among the credits. In the acknowledgments page at the start of the book, Burley gives a big 'thank you' to "Bertie Ahern, the former Taoiseach, for his guidance on Irish politics".

Fortunately for Bertie, Burley's bonkbuster is about British politics and the prime minister involved lives in Downing Street, not Drumcondra. But there's a steamy chapter set in Dublin, which is presumably where Bertie's advice came in handy.

The book, which comes out next month, is called First Ladies and it's all about politics, the media, sex and spin.

The story revolves around the randy prime minister Julian Jenson, his alcoholic wife Valerie, and the women in his life such as celeb mag editor Sally and sexy TV reporter Isla, who will "do anything -- or anyone -- to get to the top".

Julian develops the hots for Isla while she's filming a "day in the life of the PM" with him and he arranges to bring her on a helicopter trip across the Irish sea.

Ostensibly, he's in Dublin to meet the Taoiseach and help prevent the collapse of a major Irish bank, which could bring down the economy. So that's why Burley needed Bertie's advice? Perhaps, but there's more high jinks than high finance in this story. There's a quick meeting with the Taoiseach in Government Buildings but then Julian skips plans for drinks at the Horseshoe Bar in the Shelbourne and a state dinner at Iveagh House and heads straight for the British Ambassador's Residence. He takes Isla upstairs for a briefing (or debriefing), where Isla drops her pencil skirt.

"Leaning on the edge of the enormous walnut and leather inlay desk he now slowly began to unbutton her silk blouse . . . Isla was mightily relieved she had always heeded her mother's guidance of wearing good underwear . . ."

Burley (she's big on labels) helpfully tells us that it's La Senza. "He instantly turned and swept away every bit of clutter from his leather-topped desk, knocking over a Waterford Crystal (another label) water jug in his urgency, which smashed into tiny shards as it crashed to the ground.

"The sound made Isla jump but Julian had already spun back around and was lifting her from her feet. She eagerly wrapped her long legs expectantly around him and they kissed even more passionately. Lying back onto the desk, Isla's four-inch heels scratched deep crevices into the desktop as she writhed . . ." etc, etc.

Even for a bonkbuster, the writing is laughably bad and Burley is certain to be a contender for the annual Bad Sex Writing Award.

She describes the prime minister in action as follows: "Lithe and muscular, he effortlessly lifted her from the bed and on to his broad shoulders. Sally felt all the excitement and exhilaration of a fairground ride as he continued to offer intense pleasure before she was finally sated and he lowered her gently back on to the round bed."

But Burley has her supporters, apart from Bertie. Peter Mandelson has given her a glowing quote for the cover. "Kay Burley uses her unparalleled knowledge of the worlds of politics, media and celebrity to racy effect," Mandy says. The fact that they share a publisher has nothing to do with it, of course.

But if there was an award for label-dropping and cliches, she would be home and dry.

In one passage alone describing an "afternoon tryst", Burley mentions "Louboutin heels", an "Osborne and Little decorated bedroom", "Dom Perignon", a "Lord Linley Trompe L'Oeil coffee table" and a "Bang and Olufsen sound system".

There's Prada everywhere. And there's lots more Waterford (maybe she has shares?).

For example, here's Julian reminiscing later on: "He smiled at the memory of her slowly pouring champagne into a Waterford Crystal flute in his bedroom . . . she'd mischievously dribbled the contents of the glass on to the most eager parts of his anatomy."

Criticism of her book is unlikely to bother Burley, 51, who has faced down criticism for her numerous gaffes on TV.

"If you're just joining us," she told Sky's viewers on September 11, 2001, "the entire eastern seaboard of the United States has been decimated by a terrorist attack."

There were calls for her sacking three years ago when she asked the ex-girlfriend of Steve Wright, the Suffolk serial killer: "Do you think he'd have done this if you'd had a better sex life?" She also upset Catholics last year on Ash Wednesday when she suggested that the dark mark on the forehead of US vice president Joe Biden, a devout Catholic, might have been the result of him "walking into a door".

And she reduced Katie Price's ex-husband Peter Andre to tears live on TV by insisting that his children could be adopted by her new lover, the cage fighter Alex Reid.

But none of this bothers her -- Sky pays her around £500,000 (€565,833) a year. She's a tough woman who grew up on a council estate in Wigan and she takes no prisoners.

Why she felt the need to thank Bertie for help with her bonkbuster is a bit of a mystery. There's not much politics in it.

Maybe they were discussing kitchen presses?

Sunday Independent

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