Positive discrimination

The Mole had been called for a meeting with The Mandarin from the Personnel Directorate and, as the Club is a gentlemanly walk from The Mandarin's office in the Old Admiralty Building, The Mole suggested it would be a good idea for them to meet there for lunch. The motor racing world, it seemed, was causing the service some headaches.

The Mandarin talked a while about equality, diversity and the Modernising Government White Paper of 1999.

"What are you on about?" The Mole asked finally, as they were embarking on the main course.

The Mandarin looked carefully around him and then whispered.

"Mole, old man, you need more fat girls in your department."

"Have they all gone mad?" said The Mole. "Good Lord, it just doesn't work like that! What I need is the best of the best. I need girls with brains and bodies because getting information out of these testosterone-pumping F1 types is always easier if you have a raunchy little number with a short frock. End of story."

"Well, obviously I accept that," said The Mandarin. "But it does not LOOK good."

"It looks good to me," said The Mole.

There was a pregnant pause.

"So image is more important than reality?" The Mole said. "It is good for Ferrari and BAR to race with light fuel loads at Monza and make it look as though they are competitive, when quite clearly the cars were hopeless on that particular track? Is that what you are saying? Is there some new policy which allows fat girls to walk around the difficult obstacles on the assault courses at Ford Monkton? Are they now allowed to have a breather every 15 minutes when they are shadowing a suspect?"

The Mandarin looked rather worried.

"Well, of course, I see your point," he said, perhaps a little too smoothly, "but you have an entire department of beautiful women. There are no fat girls at all. Not one of your team has even a hint of a moustache. None of them are racially diverse and they all seem to have quite normal sex lives."

"Would it help if they had normal sex lives with racially diverse people?" asked The Mole.

"It would be something," said The Mandarin. "Right now, it just doesn't look good. Your department is too much like Bay Watch."

The Mole pretended to understand the reference.

"And besides," The Mandarin added, using the kind of logic that makes Max Mosley stand out from the crowd, "there are so many good-looking girls in F1 these days, that a fat one would go completely unnoticed. The best evidence suggests it would be the perfect cover for a new agent.

"Except when she blocked the stairwells," said The Mole, as he speared his fork into a stray piece of chicken that had tried to escape from his plate.

The Mole had been around the block in Whitehall enough to know that when the mandarins ask, they must be obeyed and so he was already thinking about what to do. There were two possibilities: there was a girl that he used occasionally, known in the office as Agent Orange, on account of a bad habit she had of using too much fake tan. She was a big-boned lass and not classically beautiful.

And then there was a big girl that the Penelopes, in their bitchiness, always referred to as Kate Mossad. He used her at busy times. She was quite good.

"Perhaps I could use more temporary staff," The Mole said in civil service code. "There are some freelances out there with fuller figures."

The Mandarin nodded.

"I knew you'd understand," he said. "And after a bit I dare say the budget people would put an end to that."

"Quite so," said The Mole. "We cannot waste too much public money."

When he returned to Vauxhall Cross, he explained to Penelope (Roedean) that they needed some more help.

"What with the Ferrari driver rumours, Buttongate, tobacco sponsorship politics and the general hubbub of trying to find a solution for F1's legislative and commercial problems. We could use Kate Mossad to try to figure out what was happening down at Red Bull Racing.

Penelope did not seem to be too impressed.

"I don't think it needs much work," she said, rather harshly. "Those loopy Austrians have been spending too much time at high altitude and oxygen starvation does terrible things to the brain. They seem to have forgotten that Tonio Liuzzi came into Formula 1 with the best record ever in Formula 3000 and has been sitting around getting frustrated ever since. When you do that to a real talent, they just walk. Look what Alain Prost did to McLaren or Ayrton Senna did to Toleman and come to think of it, Michael Schumacher did not exactly hang about at Jordan, did he?

"Christian Klien seems like a nice enough sort of bloke," said The Mole.

"Yes," replied Penelope, "but he is not the next Kimi Raikkonen."

"No," said The Mole, thoughtfully, stirring his tea.

"If Red Bull doesn't pick Liuzzi for next year, he is going to walk away and do a deal with BMW. I'd bet money on it. I think it is mad to promote drivers for marketing reasons. It's woolly thinking. Look at BAR-Honda this year. Jenson Button. He's perfect (which is why they want to pay him so much money). He's the hero type. He represents power independence, freedom, cowboys, all the things that sponsors want teenage girls to associate with. And he's a quick driver with 24 points in the bag. Takuma Sato, Japanese bloke. Nice enough. Occasionally quick. Honda man. He's scored one point this year.

"Look at Renault," she went on. "They need a French bloke in the team to make it look like they care, so they hire Franck Montagny. If they used Heikki Kovalainen maybe the test car would go quicker. And look at Ralf Schumacher's career at Williams. The BMW people wanted a German and so they did not win much. If you want to win things, you have to hire the fastest blokes and it does not matter if they come from Iceland or Tuvalu. That is why Ron Dennis has Juan Pablo Montoya and Kimi Raikkonen. Neither of them are exactly McLaren material are they? When they should be interfacing positively and optimising the potential of their sponsorship opportunities in a discreet and grey fashion, Kimi is allegedly getting drunk as a skunk and getting into the Finnish scandal rags and Monty is either playing with motorbikes or with small children. And probably both at the same time!"

"So I guess you think Michael Schumacher will end up at McLaren," said The Mole.

"Not a bad idea," said Penelope. "Family values. German. A role model for the German working class, who might one day afford a Mercedes-Benz. That one is a no-brainer for Norbert Haug, isn't it?

"I must say," she added, "I just don't go for all this positive discrimination rubbish."

"No," murmured The Mole, "I suppose not. But you know how things are. Sometimes people in power have very odd ideas."

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