Why I Wanted to Write About Whistleblowing
If doing the right thing wrecks your life, is it worth it?
That’s one of the core questions at the heart of my Spiked, my seventh novel. Without going into too much detail and spoiling the plot, one character is at risk because they took a stand when they discovered wrongdoing.
As with most of my plots, this one stemmed from a “what if” scenario based on a location, but it developed further on reading various accounts of whistleblowers and how their lives changed. Along with the large (and highly contentious) leaks, there are numerous smaller cases of people being victimised for speaking out. From an author’s perspective, I wanted to explore that a bit more.
The definition of a whistleblower is someone who discloses information about their employer that is considered to be within the public interest. This last part can prove to be a sticking point, with some companies successfully arguing that a disclosure wasn’t in the public interest because it only affected a single customer, for example, or was related to a personal grievance.
On their website, the UK Government say whistleblowers are protected if they report:
A criminal offence
Someone’s health and safety being in danger
The risk of (or actual damage to) the environment
A miscarriage of justice
A company is breaking the law
Someone covering up wrongdoing
It’s clear from this list there’s plenty of instances where whistleblowers could decide to expose wrongdoing. In many cases, a whistleblower will follow the proper procedures and the complaint will be taken forward properly. As an author, though, it’s more interesting to explore what happens when whistleblowing doesn’t work as described.
Whistleblowers are supposed to be protected, both at the point of making their disclosure and afterwards. Yet it’s fair to say that some companies and organisations use their whistleblowing policies as cover - they don’t mind exposing smaller issues but they’re not interested in anything systemic. That’s where the major conflict in Spiked stems from.
Of course, Spiked is whistleblowing fiction and shouldn’t be taken as anything other than that. However, at the heart of the novel is one huge question - do the big players get to dictate everything at the expense of those who would seek to expose them?
Spiked will be released on 22 May 2023. Pre-order your copy now.