- "You are like a coffee machine, from bean to cup, you fuck up"
- ―Malcolm Tucker's analogy of Nicola Murray
Nicola Murray MP is a politician who previously served as Leader of the Opposition and Secretary of State for Social Affairs and Citizenship. She is a member of the Labour Party.
Nicola is married to James Murray, who works for a PFI company called Albany. Their marriage is shown to be strained and loveless, with the two barely seeing one another and teetering towards a potential divorce.
She has four children, including Katie (18), Ella (11) and another two aged 9 and 5. Nicola suffers from moderate claustrophobia, and thus is not comfortable travelling in lifts. In her free time it is mentioned that she is partial to karaoke.
Murray was a backbench Member of Parliament before she was selected to replace Hugh Abbott as the head of the Department of Social Affairs and Citizenship during a government reshuffle. This was not due to any preference towards her, but rather that no other MP wanted to take the position.
In the midst of a cabinet reshuffle, Prime Minister Tom Davis removes Hugh Abbot as head of DoSAC. Urgently needing a replacement, but with very few wanting to take the position, Malcolm Tucker suggests Nicola as a last resort.
She is introduced to the team by Terri Coverley at the department offices at Richmond Terrace. She is acquainted with Glenn Cullen and Ollie Reeder, who are presumably on their way out as former members of Hugh's staff. She talks to them about her plans to champion and push social mobility as head of the department, only to have her dreams crushed when both of them inform her that the department barely has a budget do do anything. On the phone to someone, she remarks how Glenn looks like he works in menswear at Selfridges.
Terri Coverley informs her that the press has contacted her for a statement regarding Nicolas husbands position at a company named Albany, which was awarded a prisons PFI contract by DoSAC the year prior. Murray assures her it is nothing to worry about, as James didnt work for them at the time and she wasnt a member of the department at the time either. Malcolm Tucker disagrees, and immediately after meeting her tells her that the press will be all over her because of it regardless of the facts. He then tells her to ditch her lumbar support chair, claiming the public doesnt like their politicians to be comfortable.
The subject then changes to her children, and she mentions her eldest, Katie has just left school and is "a bit of a rebel", a sentence which concerns Malcolm. Sensing Malcolms concern, Murray sarcastically continues saying her daughter is a heroin addict with a porn career who was impregnated by a Nigerian people smuggler. Upon hearing that her second eldest, Ella is due to start secondary school in September, Malcolm shoots down Nicolas future plans to send her to a private independent girls school instead of the local state run comprehensive. Becoming angry, Nicola exclaims that her family is off limits, which Malcolm then again corrects her on, saying she is now "owned by the state" and is a human dartboard under 24 hour public surveillance. When she remarks that the press is unlikely to find out about her children as even Malcolm didnt know how many she had, he tells her he didnt know not due to lack of competence, but lack of caring as she is so low down in the political scale.
After attending her first cabinet meeting, Malcolm Tucker informs her she is to travel to Leamington Spa later that morning to campaign alongside Liam Bentley, who is running in a by-election triggered by the death of the areas former MP Jim Lane. She requests that Ollie Reeder accompany her to the event. At the campaign event, in which a large campaign poster for Bentley is revealed, Murray is dogged with questions from the press regarding her husbands work with the PFI contracts. In an unfortunate incident, a camera angle captures her standing infront of the campaign poster at such an angle the letters appear to read "I AM BENT" behind her. Unaware, she continues to stand where the press can get more photos of her like this, smiling and giving thumbs up.
After the incident she is again confronted by Malcolm Tucker, who gives her an ultimatum: either her daughter goes to the state comprehensive or her husband resigns from his job. Devastated, Nicola accuses him of setting this up to teach her a lesson, to which he replies he cant fight fires on both fronts, and she must pick one or the other. After being informed by Glenn Cullen that he tried to prevent the incident at the election rally, Nicola asks him if he wants to stay on as part of her staff. At the end of the episode, she reveals to Malcolm she has decided to send her Ella to the state school instead of forcing her husband to lose his job.
En route to work in her ministerial car and on the phone to James Murray, Nicola reads the headline of a Daily Mirror story stating she is "First in the SACK race", accompanied by an image of her in a literal primary school sack race as part of a publicity shoot. Joined in the car by Malcolm Tucker, he assures her she wont be fired after a week by Prime Minister Tom Davis, as it would appear he made a mistake in choosing her for the position. He also warns her that her public persona is being interpreted in the media and by the public as being slightly smug.
At the DoSAC offices in Richmond Terrace, she is greeted by Ollie Reeder. He informs her she is to have lunch with journalists from The Guardian, having made a pass on a similar offer from the Daily Mail as they may brand her negatively behind her back. Concerned about what Malcolm said, she asks Ollie to pick his top three nasty adjectives to describe her, to which he responds with: sour, frumpy and uptight. She seems almost relieved that "smug" wasnt one of them. At her office, she is informed by Glenn Cullen, Terri Coverley and Robyn Murdoch that there has been a massive data breach on recent immigration figures, with the last 7.5 months of data having been wiped in a computer error. Infuriated, she demands a shortlist of people responsible for the breach. Malcolm Tucker then turns up at the offices, and takes a series of angry phonecalls which leads her and the group to believe he knows about the data breach. It later transpires he didnt, only finding out when Nicola tells him. Infuriated, he and the group brainstorm on how to deal with it, with Nicola suggesting blaming the inefficiency of the department itself, something Glenn Cullen advises her against.
At the offices of The Guardian, Nicolas claustrophobia causes her to take the stairs to the fifth floor for the lunch meeting, much to the confusion of Terri Coverley and Ollie Reeder. During the lunch, Malcolm Tucker makes an appearance, and aggressively fights in her corner to present her as a competent leader of the department who is being hard done by by the other members of the press. She then goes on a strange diatribe about plastics containing carcinogens, and that plastic toys should be replaced with classical wooden toys. Taking the stairs down after the meeting, she speaks with a journalist from the lunch meeting named John, who makes an ambiguous remark about immigration. Nicola takes this to mean he knows about the data breach, and thus divulges further information about it. After realising her mistake, she is assured by John that the conversation between her and him is off the record. However, another independent journalist in the building; Marianne Swift, also overheard the conversation. Not having the same off the record agreement with Nicola as the Guardian reporters, she remains ambiguous towards Nicola as to whether she will divulge the information she overheard. Concerned, she sends Ollie Reeder to attempt to contain the situation. Upon discovering the news, Malcolm Tucker furiously berates her and then confronts Swift himself to try and resolve the situation, failing.
Back at the DoSAC offices, the rest of the team are informed of the events. Nicola then decides to go through the list of those potentially to blame for the data breach, with one of the names mentioned being Robyn Murdoch. Glenn Cullen, knowing that Robyn is aware that he authorised the deletion of the backup drives, objects to her being fired (fearing what she may reveal as a result), which results in Nicola laughing and asking if he is sleeping with her. She is then called to Number 10 with Terri Coverley, where Malcolm Tucker further chastises her for her screw up in his office. He threatens to talk to Prime Minister Tom Davis to fire her, claiming his former statement (that firing her early on would make the PM look bad) is no longer a concern given how she exacerbated the situation. Defeated, she admits her mistake and promises to follow each bit of his advice in the future.
On Malcolm's advice, Nicola invites Marianne Swift (who is revealed to be working for the Daily Mail) to the offices to clear the air. Before the meeting, she tells Glenn Cullen that he must fire Robyn Murdoch so they can blame her for the data breach, but wanting to cover his own back he instead fires Andrew, an innocent member of staff. Murray then tells Swift that it was Andrew who was responsible for the data breach, which she accepts and agrees to report. It is revealed at the end of the episode that The Guardian is not happy they were willing to go on the record with the Daily Mail, and have as a result published a negative news story about her.
On the phone to James Murray, she mentions that her daughter Ella has thrown a massive tantrum at her grandmother, and that he needs to do some proper parenting. In a meeting with Terri Coverley, Ollie Reeder and Glenn Cullen, she announces her idea for a social mobility project called the Fourth Sector Initiative, but as she does so is plagued by phonecalls from her daughters school. Leaving the room to take the call, it is revealed that Ella has been acting up ever since Malcolm Tucker forced Nicola to send her to a lower range state comprehensive school. Ending her phone call, Nicola appears to have organised her husband to attend a meeting regarding Ella's behaviour at the school.
Back in the meeting, she details how one of her Fourth Sector Initiative ideas is to form a national register of "extraordinary ordinary people", who will be dubbed "fourth sector pathfinders". This is interrupted once again by Terri Coverley, who has received a call from Martin Stone, Ellas headmaster, informing her that James cant attend the meeting, so Nicola will have to go. Before leaving, she asks Glenn Cullen to flesh out the Fourth Sector Initiative idea. Meeting with Stone at the school, she mentions that she wanted to speak to him about being a "fourth sector pathfinder" on another occasion. Mr. Stone goes on to inform her that Ella and a group of other girls attacked another Year 7 student with a hair straightener. He also seems concerned about the lack of involvement Nicola and James have in her life due to the long hours of their work.
He reluctantly informs her that he has no choice but to exclude Ella, and that Nicola must take her home with her. She then has to step out to take another phonecall, where Ollie Reeder informs her that Peter Mannion and the opposition know about her switching Ellas schools on Malcolm Tucker's orders. Overwhelmed, Nicola begins to cry, with the only thing Ollie can do to comfort her is reassure her the press wont use the story as it is a personal issue. Going back to Stone, he states that due to guidelines her government have introduced on zero tolerance towards bullying he has no choice. On the verge of tears again, Nicola tells him how the press would have a field day with such information and she doesnt want her daughter to be caught up in the vicious frenzy. Sympathising with her, Mr. Stone says he will temporarily halt the exclusion, but a pupil behaviour contract must be drawn up with Nicola, Ella and her husband present. She thanks him and leaves, not before plugging the Fourth Sector Initiative once again.
Back at the DoSAC offices, she is met by Peter Mannion, her opposite number in the Shadow Cabinet who is visiting the department. He informs her that despite knowing about the situation with her daughter and the bullying, he will not be saying anything about it to the press, believing it would be below his dignity to do so. Nicola thanks him, and then calls in Glenn Cullen, Ollie Reeder and Terri Coverley to ask them how Mannion and the opposition know. As she plans to go home to give Ella "a kiss and the bollocking of her life", she receives a text from Malcolm Tucker, who instead demands she come to Number 10 to meet with him.
In Malcolms office, she asks for a glass of whiskey, which he happily provides. Going over the days events, he assures her the press won't run with the story about Ella bullying, as it is too personal. However, they will run with the story about Martin Stone giving a cabinet ministers daughter preferential treatment, which will undoubtedly result the school governors forcing him to resign. Shocked, and not wanting to ruin a good mans career, she says it should be her who resigns. Tucker disagrees, claiming if she resigns now she will be up in the ranks with the "expenses fiddlers" and those who "asphyxiate themselves whilst wanking in a Travelodge", not to mention the horrendous media scrutiny her daughter will face as a result. Nicola finally breaks down in tears, which forces Malcolm to give her a pep talk, reminding her that her main aim: Ella not being expelled, has been a success. She then goes on to say that she isnt exactly pleased her daughter will remain in such a "shit" school, whose only redeeming feature was its headmaster that she has now forced out. Sensing her emotion, Malcolm quietly hints that the party woudnt object to Nicola moving Ella from the school after a term or two, provided she does it quietly.
Nicola, along with Terri Coverley and Glenn Cullen, arrive at the studio of BBC 5 Live, where she is set to do a joint interview alongside Peter Mannion, her opposite number in the Shadow Cabinet. They meet with the host of the show, Richard Bacon, who Nicola previously met at a Red Cross function. To her dismay however, he doesn't remember he, but seems to be much closer with Mannion. The two opposing groups are then put together in the same, very small green room as they prepare for the broadcast, where Phil Smith and Glenn Cullen trade insults.
Murray, along with Ollie Reeder and other colleagues, arrives at the offices hungover after the first official departmental party the night before. Ollie mentions she is now known as "Mojito Murray", and they had to install speedbumps at the bar. Due to launch her Fourth Sector Initiative later that day, she is informed that only four donors are confirmed to be attending. She is then given help with her makeup from Terri Coverley, who applies it a bit heavily for her liking. During the pre-recording interview with low level newcomer Gavin Boyes from the BBC Ten O'Clock News, she says she would love there to be a female leader at some point, her support for Prime Minister Tom Davis, claiming he is "the best man for the job".
After the recorded interview, she meets with Ben Swain, who is now working for the Department for Education after she fired him from DoSAC in an offscreen incident. He claims a policy she has introduced is identical to one her was formulating (the Unify Initiative) before she kicked him out of the department. Meeting with Malcolm Tucker, she informs him about her mis-speaking in the interview, which he tells her not to worry about. However, it then becomes apparent that the BBC is running the clip on their website, and have mistakenly believed she was hinting at a potential bid for the party leadership, "firing the starting pistol" in triggering a surprise leadership contest. With journalists already swarming the building, Nicola and the rest of her team are remanded within the Richmond Terrace offices in a lockdown ordered by Malcolm. News outlets then further incorrectly report that she is intending to use the Fourth Sector Initiative policy speech to announce her candidacy.
After reading several nasty comments about her online, she accuses Ben Swain of emailing his contacts to further the abuse, something he admits to. She asks him why he is doing this, to which he replies it is a combination of boredom and he hates her. Glenn Cullen then announces that the media is speculating that Ben may be Nicolas potential running mate, as he was seen entering the DoSAC offices but hasnt left (due to the lockdown). Terri Coverley then informs her that the Daily Mail is endorsing her candidacy, siding with her due to her stand against "shoddy journalism at the BBC". In a plan to subdue the press frenzy, Malcolm Tucker tells her to leave the building and pretend she has an appointment to go to, and to say to the press she is not challenging Tom Davis's leadership and he is "the man of the moment". However, upon meeting the press she mistakenly says he is the "right man for the moment", leading to further speculation she doesnt want him to remain in office in the future. The press also ask her about Glenn Cullen's plans to stand as an MP, which she claims she knows nothing about. Watching live on the TV, Malcolm orders Terri to bring Nicola back into the building, where he chastises her for saying the wrong thing.
She then receives a call from James Murray, her husband, who appears to be supporting her supposed bid. Nicola angrily tells him that he doesnt know her at all, and hangs up. Speaking to Terri Coverley, she reveals the only reason he is supporting her is so he can brag for his own sake to his contemporaries, and that he is not a supporting wall but a partition in their marriage. She further mentions that he has refused to go to couples counselling to resolve their deep set issues.
Mrs. Murray conflicts with Tucker when he demands that she send her eldest daughter, Ella, to a comprehensive school, rather than her preferred choice of an independent school.Also on the issue of her husband and PFI contracts. This later backfires when her daughter rebels and begins to bully another student at the school.
*"Episode 3.1"—The Thick of It, Series Three (First appearance) *"Episode 3.2"—The Thick of It, Series Three *"Episode 3.3"—The Thick of It, Series Three *"Episode 3.4"—The Thick of It, Series Three *"Episode 3.5"—The Thick of It, Series Three *"Episode 3.6"—The Thick of It, Series Three *"Episode 3.7"—The Thick of It, Series Three *"Episode 3.8"—The Thick of It, Series Three