As like as two peas in a pod; as different as chalk and cheese. Michael Murray and Jim Nelson are about the same age, grew up together in the same (unnamed) Northern city, are lifelong members of the Labour Party, and presently find themselves suffering inexplicable, extreme stress. Michael Murray is a charismatic and successful local politician, newly elected Leader of the City Council, poised to embark on a national career. An unscrupulous political opportunist surrounded by flunkies and yes-men, he has no friends, employs his elder brother Franky as an underpaid chauffeur, and scarcely remembers he has a wife and family at home. By contrast, Jim Nelson is rank-and-file, unambitious, high-principled, loyal to his many friends in the community, devoted to his job and to his wife and children.
Michael is haunted by his past: by his humble birth, by the charismatic Union-leader father he never knew, by his classmates at school (and one sadistic little girl in particular),