Friday, 26 February 2010

Singer, Footballer, Prime Minister, Spy

Some household by the name of Cole has been dominating the British press recently. He, Ashley, makes far too much money kicking a football around; she, Cheryl, makes far too much money singing forgettable songs. It seems that their marriage has collapsed into a completely banal string of infidelities and recriminations of the kind that surround us all these days. I have no idea why this is supposed to interest me, or even why it’s news, since it seems to me the papers have been talking about it for months. That didn’t stop one of our tabloids devoting seven out of its first eight pages to the subject recently.

Meanwhile, the political pages are dominated by ‘Bullygate’, the latest manufactured scandal about Gordon Brown. Did he or didn’t he bully staff at Downing Street?

Perhaps one shouldn’t judge people one only knows through their public persona, but I can’t help feeling that Brown is not the kind of man I’d seek out for an evening at the pub: I think his mood swings and his brooding character would make him less than congenial company.

To be fair, there’s nothing to indicate that he’d be any more anxious to spend an evening with me.

Having said all that, I don’t expect the British electorate to select my drinking companions for me – apart from anything else, who knows what they might come up with? All I’d like voters to do is pick people who know how to rise to a challenge when things get rough.

They got pretty grim on Black Friday, 10 October 2008: stock markets were in free fall around the world and the international financial system was close to collapse. Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling, his Chancellor of the Exchequer, as we quaintly call our Minister of Finance, hauled civil servants and bankers into the Treasury – the Finance Ministry – over the weekend. While Brown and Darling jetted around Europe or the States making sure solutions were adopted internationally, the guys in London worked out the rescue package that stopped the whole house of cards falling over.

It strikes me that those are the qualities we should be looking for in leaders rather than conviviality over a pint or two. And, though I don’t want to belittle bullying as a source of misery in the workplace, I actually think that kind of decisiveness actually matters a little more.

So with the press dominated by stories about tedious footballers, their disconsolate wives and the personality of the Prime Minister, it’s been almost a relief to follow the Dubai Mossad hit story. It’s like seeing a Le Carré novel coming to life, with Israeli agents flying around in small groups to Frankfurt, Rome or Zurich, converging on Dubai, tracking their prey (no doubt making heavy use of ‘tradecraft’ and leaving their ‘signatures’ in various places), carrying out the hit and then scattering around the globe again.

It isn’t just any Le Carré novel – it’s The Little Drummer Girl.

In this country, the aspect of the case that’s created the most noise has been the fact that rather a lot of these guys used British passports. We’re most upset. And the Foreign Secretary told the Israeli ambassador so. You can imagine how the Israeli state was shaken to its foundations by so tough a sanction.

The real beauty of the British passport aspect is that it too is straight out of The Little Drummer Girl. At one point, Kurtz, the chief of the Israeli operation meets Commander Picton of the British Special Branch to enlist his assistance. Having agreed to help, Picton asks him to pass on a message to Kurtz’s boss, the legendary ‘Rook’:

‘He will please to stop using our bloody passports. If other people can manage without them, so can the Rook, damn him.’

Hey, Binyamin. Read the book. Follow the advice. Stop using our bloody passports.


Anonymous said...

i know israek was not involved in the dubai killing; they do not use 26 people to kill ONE individual; they are more likely to send ONE man over a Gaza school to kill 26!

Awoogamuffin said...

I thought you'd enjoy the Lecarré like nature of the assassination - it certainly struck me!