Netflix’s anthology thriller drama series ‘Anatomy of a Scandal’ is essentially a story about three people. James Whitehouse (Rupert Friend) is a home office minister in the Tory government led by Prime Minister Tom Southern. James’ wife is Sophie (Sienna Miller). They have been together since their Oxford days. When James stands trial after being accused of raping his political aide, QC Kate Woodcroft (Michelle Dockery) takes on the task of prosecuting him.
James hails from a highly privileged background and seems to have smoothly transformed into the political sphere. His upbringing, wealth, and success in whatever he does in his life have embedded a sense of entitlement in him. He lies as if it’s his second nature and has no qualms about doing it to his wife. If all this has made you wonder whether James Whitehouse is inspired by a real-life British politician, this is what you need to know. SPOILERS AHEAD.
Is James Whitehouse Based on a Real Politician?
‘Anatomy of a Scandal’ is based on Sarah Vaughan’s 2018 namesake novel. Sarah Vaughan is the pseudonym of writer and journalist Sarah Hall. Like multiple characters in the show, Vaughan was an Oxford student. She later worked at The Guardian as a political correspondent, senior reporter, and health correspondent. After leaving The Guardian, she began working as a freelancer.
According to Vaughan, she was inspired to write ‘Anatomy of a Scandal’ after a telephonic conversation with Boris Johnson in late 2004. This was right after he was fired as vice-chairman and shadow arts minister by the then Conservative leader Michael Howard for allegedly lying about his affair with Petronella Wyatt, a columnist for The Spectator. However, Vaughan emphasized multiple times that James was not completely based on Johnson.
According to Vaughan, what caught her interest was how easily Johnson lied during the conversation. “There was a lot of flummery and flannel; lots of chuntering and ‘all chaps together’-ness about it,” she told The Guardian. “He was writing a lot for the Telegraph so there was a definite sense that we were hacks together who wouldn’t stitch each other up – but yes, he confirmed the story was true and didn’t seem to express any remorse. It was the first time I was aware of a public figure admitting to lying and not seeming to be bothered by it.”
Apart from that, the Libertine club that James and Tom were members of at Oxford is reportedly based on Bullingdon Club, a real all-male private club for Oxford students. Its former members include Johnson and David Cameron. So, although Vaughan drew some inspiration from real life while creating him, James Whitehouse is largely fictional.