Not cricket

"Fabulous!" said The Colonel (The Mole's next door neighbour and a staunch supporter of the Conservative Party). "Another scandal to expose those filthy Labourites."

He paused, hrmphed slightly, and then popped a sweet green olive into his mouth. He washed it down with a shot of Chardonnay that The Mole had been kind enough to supply him with.

It was a lovely afternoon in Surrey, which is a rare thing these days, and The Mole has decided to have a day at home, after the excesses of the British Grand Prix, where he and the Penelopes had been busy day and night.

The Colonel, being a retired soul, made himself available for a drinks party at about four. The Mole, who had been sitting in the summer house, quietly pondering the F1 world, had not planned a drinks party, but he could not find a decent argument when The Colonel said that the sun was "over the yard arm".

The Colonel seemed in a very good mood. The Mole discovered that this was due to the publication of Alastair Campbell's long-awaited diaries. Campbell, Tony Blair's spin doctor in the early years, had waited until his former master had left office. His diary ran to an impressive two and a half million words, although fortunately a sensible publisher had edited these down to just 350,000.

"It is still a cat-killing book," said The Mole. "It is far too long, but I guess no-one will ever read it."

Someone had obviously told the journalists where to look because, before lunch, they had started writing stories suggesting that the new Prime Minister Gordon Brown - who was Blair's Chancellor of the Exchequer back in 1997 - had deliberately lied about the secret donation made by Bernie Ecclestone to the Labour Party, which coincided (rather unfortunately) with Labour deciding that Formula 1 should be exempt from a ban on tobacco advertising.

"The book shows that they had agreed a media strategy about the donation three days before Brown went on the BBC and said he did not know anything about it," said The Colonel. "That tells you all you need to know."

"It sounds to me as though Campbell has used his spin-doctoring skills to promote the book," said The Mole. "He was, after all, a pretty good spin doctor."

"No such thing as a good spin doctor," said The Colonel. "Unless it's a dead one."

"I wouldn't mention that to the Conservative Party," said The Mole.

"Anyway," he went on. It is not good news for me!"

The Colonel popped another olive into his mouth and said "why?" with his eyebrows.

"From what I hear Bernie was busy working away with the new government trying to convince them that it is time to give Max a peerage. The FIA President would then go off to the House of Lords and become Lord Mosley of Green Gables and thus leave motor racing to get on with ruining the environment. Everyone knows that all this environmental stuff is going to be expensive and all they really want to do is race the same basic cars and engines as they are now, and not have to spend all this money developing things which will have no effect at all on the environment, beyond their symbolic value."

"Oh," said The Colonel, who had not thought of it like that.

"And if Gordon Brown has a scandal relating to Formula 1," The Mole went on, "it will mean that not only will Mosley stick around, singing "Greensleeves" with Tony Purnell, but there will also not be any government money for the British Grand Prix. It is not good at all. All we have now is Peter Hain, the Minister of whatever it is he's the minister of, saying it is time the government chipped in."

"Oh," said The Colonel. "I see what you mean."

"This Stepneygate business is bad enough," said The Mole.

There was a pause.

"Is it true that they caught Mike Coughlan because he wanted all the Ferrari stuff put on a disk and asked his missus to find someone to do it."

The Mole sighed.

"Yes I believe it is." he said.

"Blimey," said The Colonel.

"What Ferrari doesn't seem to have is any evidence that Nigel Stepney gave the information to Coughlan. If Ferrari had evidence of Stepney's involvement he would be mentioned in the case in England, wouldn't he? Stepney denies he gave the documents to Coughlan. Who knows? Whatever happened, Coughlan ought to have immediately reported the arrival of the documents to the police. The fact that he did not do this means that he could be charged with receiving stolen goods, knowing them to have been stolen.

"But McLaren obviously knows how he got them because when all this business started it put out a press statement saying that Coughlan received 'a package of technical information from a Ferrari employee at the end of April'. That little gem did not appear by accident. You can bet that the McLaren lawyers asked about that before the statement went out. The only way McLaren could know that information was if Coughlan had told them."

"Yes," said The Colonel.

"There have been reports in Italy and Germany that Coughlan showed the documents to one of his superiors at McLaren," said The Mole. "Some newspapers have even named McLaren Racing managing-director Jonathan Neale. The key question is really one of timing. It is quite possible that Coughlan showed Neale the documents as soon as the team knew there was a problem. The team needed to know just how bad the mess was going to be. However, if Neale saw the documents before that moment, then it is very worrying. I doubt it. It is not McLaren's style."

"I'll tell you one thing," The Mole added. "Some of the McLaren folk are very unhappy with the way the story has been presented to the media by Ferrari."

"Hey," said The Colonel. "Formula 1 is war. Shoot the prisoners. Bomb the cities."

"When it sure as hell isn't cricket," said The Mole.

July 10 2007

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