First Among Equals (novel)
First edition (UK)
|Publisher||Hodder & Stoughton (UK)
Simon & Schuster (US)
|LC Class||PR6051.R285 F5 1984|
First Among Equals is a 1984 novel by British author Jeffrey Archer, which follows the careers and personal lives of four fictional British politicians (Simon Kerslake, MP for Coventry Central and later Pucklebridge; Charles Seymour, MP for Sussex Downs; Raymond Gould, MP for Leeds North; and Andrew Fraser, MP for Edinburgh Carlton) from 1964 to 1991, with each vying to become Prime Minister. Several situations in the novel are drawn from the author's own early political career in the British House of Commons, and the fictional characters interact with actual political figures from the UK and elsewhere including Winston Churchill, Alec Douglas-Home, Harold Wilson, Edward Heath, Margaret Thatcher, Douglas Hurd, Colonel Gadaffi, Gary Hart and Queen Elizabeth II.
The title is a literal translation of the Latin term Primus inter pares, a term used to refer to either the most senior member of a group of equals (peers) or to refer to someone who claims to be just one member of a group of equals when in reality he or she completely dominates said group. This phrase is used to describe the official constitutional status of the British Prime Minister within his Cabinet.
US and UK Plot Differences
When published in the United States, the novel was rewritten to eliminate the character of Andrew Fraser. The Fraser character eventually departs the Labour Party to join the breakaway Social Democratic Party. According to Archer, the change was made because the publisher did not believe the American audience would understand a multi-party political system. As a result, several plot elements revolving around Andrew Fraser were transferred to other characters, notably Simon Kerslake, who suffered through a change of heart in a prospective marriage partner and the later loss of a child in the US edition, while these events happened to Andrew Fraser in the UK edition.
The ending of the novel differed in the US version as well, with both the winner of the ultimate election and the manner in which the contest was decided changing from one version to the next. In an interview, Archer joked that he found his American friends were generally more supportive of Kerslake, while his British readers backed Gould.
The original UK version was later released in the United States as well.