HolidaysAugust 6, 2008
The Mosley Scandal sent shudders through the British motorsport community in the early part of the summer. Everyone had to endure jokes about racing people liking a bit of spanking, which annoyed pretty much everyone. Then the British GP was sent to Donington Park.
A few days later The Mole received a summons from C, the chief of the Secret Intelligence Service.
The two men had known one another since their days as government gun-slingers in the hot spots of the Cold War, but C – now Sir Michael – had been credited with mastermining the escape of British spy Oleg Gordievsky from Russia in 1985 and he had never looked back. When he was thrown out of Moscow in 1994 it helped his career, and he retired in 2001 as Director of Security, moving on to become head of the Joint Intelligence Committee and a close associate of Tony Blair, which did him no harm at all.
“It’s all a bit of a mess, isn’t it?” C said. “We think that you could use a bit of a rest.”
For a moment The Mole thought he was being fired.
“There is not much that can be done,” C went on. “You’ve been doing sterling service for years, the British motorsport industry is thriving, we’ve seen off the French, and we think you deserve a break. We are going to close down MRTDD for the summer, send the girls off on training courses and redecorate the place. Get some twerp with red glasses and a pigtail to do some feng shui with plant pots.”
The Mole looked in amazement at C.
“When a city is being demolished, you do not need the architects there measuring for the future with their tin helmets on, do you?” he said. “You need chaps with great big wrecking balls or high explosives. That is where we are now. No good can come of all this until Mosley’s legal actions are over and we see what is left.”
And so The Mole packed his briefcase and went home early, leaving the girls in a very excited state.
As Oswald drove him through the suburbs, The Mole ruminated on his life. It was true he had been working too hard. He had scarcely seen The Colonel and the Reverend O. This was not such a bad thing, he mused, when he considered what The Colonel would say about Mosley.
“Should have his brains pulled out of his nose with a boat-hook,” was the actual wording when the pair met that evening in the local pub.
The Reverend O was kinder.
“Deplorable,” he said. “Thank God that we have the Lambeth Conference to worry about. We have to debate gay bishops, but at least they are not spanking each other – as far as we know.”
“And no nuns involved,” said The Colonel.
The Mole found only one person who felt that Mosley should stay on. Isabelle, his French agent, who reckoned that the situation was good news for the sport.
“You French,” said The Mole. “You have different morality.”
“Yes,” she replied. “And we have more fun. Anyway, now he is destroyed, it is better to keep him. A politician who gets caught is the best kind of politician, because they then need to do good things to repair the damage and create a legacy. Look at our President Nicolas Sarkozy. His opinion polls fell through the bottom when he was spending all his time shagging with that modele, but now he is doing good things. He will be fine, unless he goes back to his old arrogant ways.”
The Mole realised he did not care. It was time for a break. Mrs Mole tutted somewhat when told the news that they would be driving to the Mole’s villa, overlooking the Bay of Angels, but she was soon making sandwiches and asking about insurance policies, which The Mole took to be a good sign.
And that was that. They disappeared to a world of sunshine, bouillabaisse, ratatouille, tapenade, pissaladiere and other long complicated words that confuse the English. The Mole noted, in his usual academic way, that the ladies on the beaches seemed as lithe and tanned as ever, but he contented himself with Mrs Mole, some robust reds, a number of afternoon naps and occasional saucy thoughts.
While he was away, the refurbishment was done and then Miss Pringle-Featherby (of the Berkshire Pringle-Featherbys) sat in the office alone, reading sex surveys in Cosmo and trying to do sudoku puzzles. The dust gently landed and the ginger nut biscuits lost their crunch. Life went on.
It was only after the Mosley court case was done that The Mole received a call from C.
“Time to get back to it,” he said. “We have to figure out what Mosley is up to now. There was a piece in The Times which I think was most interesting. It talked about reforming the FIA and about a sovereign wealth fund coming along to buy out CVC.”
“Yes,” said The Mole. “I saw that.”
“Odd, wasn’t it?” said C. “He could have just said something like ‘new investors’ but he made specific reference to a ‘sovereign wealth fund’.”
“It sounds like perhaps he has a plan,” said The Mole. “He wants to change FIA governance to ‘take greater control over the sport’ and get his green agenda moving forward, but perhaps he has also been courting some new money to get CVC out of the picture. They are money men. If someone comes along with a big enough cheque they will leave.”
The conversation ended and The Mole informed Mrs Mole that their holidays were at an end.
“Bother!” she said and began packing.
“A sovereign wealth fund,” said The Mole to himself, as he settled on the terrace with a last glass of rose. “Now, who do we know who has one of them?”
A sovereign wealth fund is a very specific thing, he mused. It is state-owned and they usually exist only in countries where there is money to burn. Abu Dhabi has the biggest. It has assets of $875bn. Norway is next with a fund worth about $400bn. Singapore has one. And Kuwait too. As The Mole pondered, he was struck by a thought. In Dubai there is a large sovereign fund known as Dubai World. It has $100bn of assets. It manages a portfolio of businesses and projects for the Dubai Government, across a wide range of industry segments and projects that promote Dubai as a hub for commerce and trading. It is chaired by a man called Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem.
“Bin Sulayem,” said The Mole.
The man who got Mosley 40 votes at the FIA General Assembly. Mohammed ben Sulayem.
“What a coincidence,” said The Mole. “One of Mosley’s biggest supporters has a brother with a sovereign wealth fund.”