Operation Gooseberry

When The Mole arrived in the office, all he could hear was Number Two ranting and raving.

"We need to have a bloody shoot-to-kill policy in Brussels!" his deputy was yelling. "I am just fed up with these Euro bureaucrats. You cannot do this, you cannot do that. You cannot work hard because that it is unfair on lazy Latins so they insist you only work 35 hours a week because otherwise they will not be able to stay competitive. The next thing you know they will be ordering us to cut down our Great British trees because French cars crash into them and kill the occupants. If a car hits a tree, they say, the tree is to blame! Oh, but if you are French or German it is perfectly acceptable that your government fails to meet the economic limits laid down in the 1997 Stability and Growth Pact. You simply get all the Finance Ministers together and twist their arms until they agree that you can overspend as much as you like. It's a !@*!?@ outrage."

The Mole raised an eyebrow.

"What HAS got into him?" asked The Mole with his best choirboy look on his face.

Miss Pringle-Featherby (of the Berkshire Pringle-Featherbys) was nibbling on the edge of a croissant, like the mouse that she was.

"Something from Human Resources," she said quickly and quietly.

"The next thing you know we'll be having that lot stopping us bugging Eddie Jordan because his language is so colourful that now we are an equal opportunities employer it will offend all those pretty little female ear drums."

"Bugging Jordan?" said The Mole. "Are we doing that?"

"Absolutely," said Penelope (Roedean), looking up from the February edition of Guns & Ammo. "Operation Gooseberry."

"Gooseberry?" said The Mole.

"They were going through a fruity phase at the time," Penelope shrugged.

"I'd forgotten," said The Mole. "What have we learned?"

"Well actually not very much," said Penelope. "The bug was voice-activated and Eddie Jordan's office was not used that much. When it was there a lot of Jordan's libidinous lexicon."

"Libidinous lexicon?" said The Mole.

"Talking dirty," said Penelope, without even a hint of a blush.

"Now you come to mention it," said The Mole. "I vaguely remember the operation. A couple of our chaps went in a couple of years ago digusuised as laminators and because staff turnover had been so high no-one noticed the difference.

"Now here is the funny thing," said Penelope. "The Jordan signal suddenly went dead. Nothing. No ifs or buts, no effing and blinding. Nothing. It was most inconvenient because it was right in the middle of this Verstappen business."

"It would have been a big help to have known where Nick Heidfeld's money is coming from," said The Mole. The car has no hint of any German sponsor. Jordan is happy for everyone to assume that the money is coming from Mercedes-Benz but it is definitely not that. Heidfield is no longer a fixture in the corridors at Unterturkheim. And now we have Jordan saying very nice things about Ford. A few months ago he was talking in less positive terms. Now he says that Ford is wonderful.

"My money is on the fact that Ford Germany has come to Nick's rescue," said Penelope. "Back before Heidfeld was a Mercedes man he was a Ford driver. The German market is very important to the Ford boys and right now it is all Schumacher and Schumacher. Ford might have grabbed at the only German asset which does not have "Schumacher" written on it."

"Well, it could be right" said The Mole. "But there was this weird Jordan press release the other day which I thought was rather revealing. The one that attacked Jos Verstappen's manager Huub Rothengatter. Obviously Jordan was under attack from the legions of Verstappen fans and wanted to divert attention. But there was Jordan ranting and raving in print that Huub had screwed the Verstappen deal by asking for an exorbitant commission or something like that. It was shocking. In Formula 1 exorbitant commissions are a measure of your brilliance not a source of criticism. I reckon that Rothengatter was blocking the Verstappen deals because he had been ridden out of his role by Michel Perridon of Trust, who reckoned that he was the man with the money and so should negotiate all of Jos's deals."

"If I were Jordan and I found myself with Jos was out of the picture but two decent sponsors sitting on their thumbs, I would turn to them and start being really smarmy," said Penelope.

"Would you?" said The Mole.

"And another thing..." ranted Number Two on the background.

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