AUGUST 5, 2004
The Permanent Under Secretary goes by the rather unfortunate acronym of PUS and The Mole used this and several other rather more colourful expletives on his return from the Bank Holiday weekend when he discovered a memo informing him that the Motor Racing and Tinpot Dictator Department was to be broken up. All work relating to Tinpot Dictators would henceforth be handled by something called the Global Issues Directorate, which lurks in the corridors of the Foreign & Commonwealth Office in King Charles Street. This, the memo added, would require a reduction in the number of staff of MRTDD, which would be renamed the Automobile Sport Intelligence Department.
"Acid?" said The Mole. "That's all we need."
The more he read the more angry he became. He had expected some changes after his old pal Dickie Dearlove had retired in June to become Master of Pembroke College, Cambridge but he thought that John Scarlett, the new man, would understand the need for a strong MRTDD.
"For goodness sake," said The Mole. "He was a Moscow Man. He must understand that motor racing is moving ever closer to the tinpot dictators of the world as tobacco legislation tightens."
"Are they getting the FIA as well?" said Miss Pringle-Featherby (of the Berkshire Pringle-Featherbys) when The Mole told her the news.
"Why?" said The Mole.
His personal assistant shrugged.
"Just asking," she said.
Before long The Mole was striding around and, recognizing the signs, Miss Pringle-Featherby suggested he have "a sit down" and "a nice cup of tea". She said "never mind" several times, but it had no effect. The Mole did mind. He minded rather a lot. He minded that his deputy, known as Number Two, was to be transferred to something called the Historical Interpretation Unit at the FCO. No-one was quite sure what this meant but The Mole did his best to make his deputy feel better when he broke the news to him later that morning.
"I suppose that it means that you will be a sort of historical spin doctor, dealing with people who ask questions about documents that the government does not want to talk about but does not dare to shred," said The Mole. "I think that would be splendid training. The way things are going you will be perfectly qualified in a couple to years to come back and take my job. Formula 1is all about spin at the moment. Image is much more important than substance."
"That is total rubbish," said Number Two, with the tact and diplomacy that would make him stand out in the Diplomatic Service. "People in F1 blather on about all kinds of crap but the fact remains that it is a results-based industry. Winners are winners. If a team builds a good car, it wins. If the commercial people do a good job, they get more money; if the promoter does his job properly the TV figures go up and if the racing is exciting the FIA has come up with good rules. It is all about results. You can gabble on like a turkey about what you want people to think and you can dress yourself up in a frock but that doesn't make you a girl. In Formula 1 you always get found out."
"But I am a girl," said Miss Pringle-Featherby, who seemed to have been left behind in the argument.
There was an uncomfortable pause.
"Well," said Penelope (Roedean) finally, deciding to break the thin ice. "I think that you will be very good at heritage-enhancement although I really don't see why they have to reinvent the present, let alone the past. They'll be reinventing the future next."
"I think that is what election campaigns are all about," said The Mole, with a rather resigned sigh.
Later there were tears when The Mole had to tell his best researcher Penelope (Benenden) that she too was being transferred to the FCO. She disappeared, sobbing, to the Ladies.
"I know she is really called Jane and has a crush on Max Mosley," said Penelope (Roedean), "but the poor dear doesn't deserve King Charles Street. That's a frightful thing."
"Well," said Number Two, looking forlornly into the depths of his pipe. "She could have got a staff job in one of those damned bunkers. You know, the hope-we-never-use-them nuclear shelters for politicians and the like, to be used only after the world goes boom. You get bored because nothing is happening and the only thing you have to look forward to is being locked up underground with a bunch of cabinet ministers, trying to run a country that has ceased to exist, closed off from the world by bomb-proof doors, watching as your air and water gradually run out."
"Sounds like a meeting of the F1 Commission," said The Mole.
"Well, let's look on the bright side," said Miss Pringle-Featherby. "It could have been a transfer to the War Graves Commission."
"Actually," said Number Two, "I would have rather liked that. I am a bit of specialist on war graves. Did you know that there is a Chinese cemetery on the Western Front in France."
The Mole was finally speechless.
"I suspect that the people buried there were consulate workers gunned down by irate Formula 1 journalists trying to get visas for the Chinese GP?" said Penelope (Roedean), with a little twinkle in her eye.
Number Two looked at her strangely.
"Well," she said. "The Chinese government wants Western opinion-formers to go to Shanghai and sing the praises of the wonderful open and friendly New China. But at the same time they are making it very difficult for the F1 press to get visas."
"That is pretty stupid," said The Mole.
"Yes," said Number Two, "but don't mention it aloud. They might run you over with a tank."
"I'm not talking about this," said The Mole. "The Global Issues Directorate can deal with it!"
Click here to read previous Mole columns: The Mole Archive