Party in the Park
SEPTEMBER 17, 2004
It was drizzling in Pall Mall as The Mole scurried from the taxi and up the stairs into The Club. The porter fussed over him, removing his coat, his briefcase and his umbrella and then The Mole was propelled into the Dining Room where The Minister was waiting for him at a table which looked out over the gardens.
"Lovely spot," said The Minister.
The Mole smiled the smile of a man who was meeting his boss.
"A busy day at the House?" he asked.
"Not really," said The Minister. "It doesn't really start until this afternoon. We have some Oral Questions for those goons at the Home Office and then an Opposition motion on the government's failure on crime and its failure to tackle climate change. Pretty dull."
"Well," said The Mole, "I do think you chaps at Westminster could do something about the weather."
The Minister smiled.
"What shall we order?" he said. "I fancy something light."
The Mole ordered potted shrimps and Dover sole. And a bottle of Guy Bossard's Muscadet.
"So tell me, Mole," said The Minister, as he watched the waitress scuttling away. "I want the inside line on the British Grand Prix. We want it to happen but we're not going to give Ecclestone any money."
"I think Bernie understands that," said The Mole. "I think that the British Racing Drivers' Club understands it. The problem is that Silverstone without your cash means no Grand Prix."
"Yes," said The Minister, "but you know Tony's situation. He has his work cut out winning the next election with the mess in Iraq and the last thing he needs is another Ecclestone scandal."
"So there is no hope?" said The Minister.
"I wouldn't worry too much," said The Mole. "I have this feeling that all this talk is a smokescreen. I think Bernie has other plans and Silverstone will only fill the gap until he is ready."
"Other plans?" said The Minister. "Do you mean Nigel Mansell?"
The Mole laughed out loud.
"You must be joking," he said. "I think Bernie is going to have a race in London."
The Minister looked aghast.
"I think that Harvey Goldsmith got a taste of the money that F1 could raise at that event in July," The Mole went on. "If you look at the numbers on that, you do not have to be a Bernoulli to work out that Silverstone got a three-day crowd of only 195,000 this year. Melbourne picked up a four-day crowd of 365,000. Why? Because the people of Melbourne did not have to travel far and they had a big party. London is twice the size of Melbourne and has better transportation. The Mayor is talking about two million people..."
"...well he is called Ken Livingstone!" said The Minister.
"...but I think half a million is easily do-able."
"Half a million!" said The Minister.
"Well, the Rolling Stones did that many people in Hyde Park in 1969."
"Yes, but it was free," said The Minister.
The Mole raised an eyebrow.
"I never inhaled," said The Minister.
They both laughed uneasily.
The potted shrimps arrived.
"Anyway do you see my logic?" said The Mole, as he took his first bite. "Bernie would make his money. Goldsmith would make his money. The city would make a pile from all the visitors and get lots of reflected glory. The Royal Parks make only £1.5m from events in Hyde Park and they have to rely on the Treasury for a grant of £24.2m each year. A Grand Prix could reduce that, couldn't it?"
The Minister nodded.
"That would mean that they could hold fewer events in the parks," The Mole continued, "which would keep the residents happy."
"Well, I doubt it would be that simple," said The Minister.
"There are 300 members of the Friends of Hyde Park," said The Mole. "And anyone who can afford to live around there has enough money for a second home. They can leave town for the Grand Prix weekend."
"A good point." said The Minister.
"The other thing is that if you look at Melbourne, the Grand Prix made the park a much nicer place. If you have to build a few extra roads or widen a few paths, it is not going to hurt anyone. There would be more room for cyclists and rollerskaters. And that will stop the residents whingeing about cyclists on the narrow paths."
"What about the Greens?" said The Minister.
"They did not stop the race in Melbourne, did they?" said The Mole. "Anyway, a little re-education and they would fins out that allowing the race would get them more trees, better facilities and a better park. A logical environmentalist would see the advantages."
"A what?" said The Minister.
"There is simply no argument against it," said The Mole. "If they say street racing is banned in Britain. You say that the Birmingham City Council Act of 1985 allowed the Birmingham Superprix to take place. If they say the park should not be used for such things you say that in 1851 they held the Great Exhibition in the park and built the Crystal Palace in the park. That was a building which covered 19 acres and it attracted six million visitors over a five month period. If that was allowed what is wrong with a Grand Prix for one weekend each year? If they say the park cannot handle it, you talk about 1968 and how they had one bug concert a month for four months."
"If they say that London doesn't need it, you talk about the Olympic Games."
"I think I get the picture" said The Minister.
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