The David and Ginny show
Observations on stage
''The idea has certainly grip- ped people's imaginations," Ginny Dougary tells me, "but I want to set the record straight." Dougary, the journalist dubbed the "flame-haired temptress" after she lured Norman Lamont into speaking frankly about his disdain for John Major in 1994, is writing the songs for a musical - a dinner-table drama - based on the life story of David Blunkett. Contrary to reports, Dougary says she has not interviewed all the key players in her show. "I don't need to. What gave me the idea was that the lines they have come out with seemed to be written for fictional characters."
The four main players - Blunkett, his lover Kimberly Quinn, Boris Johnson, her colleague at the Spectator, and his lover Petronella Wyatt - each has his or her own song, and the aim is for the tunes to be true to their personalities. Dougary sings me a couple of lines from Blunkett's song: "Remember when we laughed out loud at what they would say/The socialist and socialite - what a headline writer's day". The Quinn character, whose "flirty, minxy lines are perfect for operatic music", is sure to utter the words: "I have always wondered what it would be like to sleep with a blind man." We can hope that Boris will rap and rhyme "piffle" with "Pfeffel" (part of Johnson's full name) and the Wyatt character will sing of "wearing Dior from the age of four" in the smoky, sultry tones of Marlene Dietrich.
So who will play these characters? Dougary insists that rumours of Andrea Bocelli in the lead role are wishful thinking. "Bocelli has a staggering voice - but I'm not sure how good he'd be at a Yorkshire accent." What she won't deny is that the part has been snapped up by a rock star who has had four number-one hits. "Oh no, I can't tell you, I can't," she protests. Has he got a beard? She refuses to comment. She later adds that she and the producer are now on the hunt to cast the Johnson and Wyatt characters. But Dougary will not let on who, ideally, she would like to play the fab four. "They may wish to appear in it themselves," she says.
The one player Dougary has interviewed is Johnson. Indeed, the initial idea for the musical flowed from her meeting him in August last year. News of Blunkett's affair with Quinn broke a few days later, and certain questions she had asked, and some of Johnson's replies, seemed strangely prescient. At one point he responded: "You mean, am I presiding over a bordello? Certainly not!" And when she asked, innocently, whether he would carry a story about a senior Labour politician having a liaison, he replied: "Bring me the story and I'll scour my conscience."
"The timing was extraordinary," Dougary says. The tangled love affair is a mixture of Dangerous Liaisons ("the artifice and level of complexity"), La Traviata ("I felt there was something of Violetta in Kimberly") and The Misanthrope ("Not unlike our Blunkett - rail-ing against foppish behaviour and then falling for the most unsuitable woman").
After working on songs with the composer MJ, Dougary found out that the producer Martin Witts was planning David Blunkett: the musical. "We now meet every week and unveil another song," she says. After testing out some of the material in a Yorkshire pub, there will be a pre-show in the West End in April. Then it's off to the Edinburgh Festival, hopefully back to the West End, then TV, then film. Move over Jerry Springer.
But is it fair to turn these people's private lives into entertainment? "The only reason we know about their story is because they have manipulated the press for their own ends. Writing this musical is no different from writing a biography. The musical is nothing if not a tribute to Blunkett. . . the four concerned are all mad about singing and they'll love the songs."