Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Bitter Together: 10. Selective Hearing

"Ms Cakes, we would first like to thank you for your attendance today at this in camera National Security Select Committee investigation", Lord Connell of Ae (ex Labour First Minister of Scotland) intoned, "Our first interest is; just why did you so peremptorily leave your position as Deputy at Internal Affairs - was it a career move or simply prudence?"

"My Lord, honourable members, it was, as you have so sanguinely identified, a bit of both. I was invited to put myself forward for the assistant commissioner post over six months ago and was informed after the final interview the post was mine should I wish to take it up. I then explained that until the Olympics in London was complete I felt I could not take up their offer until the start of the Olympics at the earliest. Given my CV they EU Commission kindly decided to hold the job vacant pending this date and the agreement of a start date."

"Is it right to suggest the authorisation of 'Operation Cockleshell' was the impetus to jump?" broke in George McCutcheon (SNP Moray).

" Again, honourable members, you have cut to the chase. I can only say I was always on the fringe of the planning of 'Cockleshell' as the organisation of the operation was on a need to know basis between Sir Nigel and the Prime Minister. If I had been asked for an opinion, I would have suggested if the operation had to be initiated then the political battle to stop Scotland seceding has already been lost. When I heard of the authorisation I initiated steps to take up my EU Assistant Commissioner role to protect my professional reputation and to distance myself from what I considered a piece of political suicide."

"Ms Cakes, I find your line disengenious. Surely, as Sir Nigel was indisposed, it was you who sought Prime Ministerial approval and initiated this operation you claim to have disavowed!” bellowed Sir Crispin Knightley (Con Grantham).

“Honourable members, on the subject of ’Cockleshell’ authorisation, may I present to your committee a copy of the E-mail sent to me by Mr Grindstone on this subject seeking clarification which I suggest shows ‘Cockleshell’ had already been activated with Sir Nigel‘s agreement, so had no need of any further steps by me.”

The chief clerk handed copies out to all members, there was a clear intake of breath at almost the same time by all the committee members followed by the deathly silence of an unavoidable truth. It was clear that both Sir Nigel and the Prime Minister had authorised ‘Cockleshell’ if this E-mail was corroborated from any other independent source.

“Ms Cakes, surely an operation of this importance and impact would not be run by a level five civil servant, such as Grindstone, you can not expect me to believe that!”, Sir Crispin Knightley was an old school Tory who always spoke in exclamation marks but it was clear this time he his heart was not in it. He was starting to understand there was little likelihood of saving the prime minister but being a loyal, old school, Tory MP and Etonian a chap had to try, for form’s sake.

“It appears on the day Sir Nigel decided the situation required the operation to go ahead, Mr Grindstone was the only staff member not already engaged on departmental tasks, so the task would fall to him - by default.”
“So”, came back Mr McCutcheon, “You are basically saying that any of the Internal Affairs department civil servants who had an eye to their future would have ensured they had a crowded desk when this particular operation’s folder landed on their desk?”

“Not even the departmental Tea Lady would have touched this particular task unless under severe duress or torture.”

“Why then would Mr Grindstone have carried out the task?” queried Lord Ae.

“He is an old school civil servant, my Lord, steeped in the perverse idea that what ever is done in the Government’s name can never be wrong and is always for the greater good.”

Sir Crispin tried one last exclamation mark, “ We have been assured he was acting alone, a rogue terrorist infiltrated into your department by the Scottish National Liberation Army, according to the Prime Minister’s Office - young lady, what do you say to that!”

The reply to Sir Crispin’s question was unrestrained, eyes filling with tears, deep, sobbing laughter from Ms Cakes.

The Select Committee failed in all respects to come up with a solution to cover Cambourne's backside. Not one witness would tell them what they wanted to hear. The Head of the SIS pointed out they had officially shut down their operational role in 'Cockleshell' on the Prime Minister's request and the SAS general officer simply said 'Cockleshell' never heard of it nor has anyone in the SAS. The political spin that it was all Grindstone's doing had no evidence to support it. The reality: Cambourne was toast.

In Scotland the online article exposing the possible links between members of Glasgow Labour and organised crime caused a major stramash. O'Halloran's first response was to try and bully his way out of trouble by shouting and screaming on the television channels and radio programs of Scotland. His legal attempt to get an interim interdict against the online 'newspaper' to withdraw the offending articles failed in the Court of Session. The Lord President gave the opinion that a politician who lived his life by using the spot light could hardly complain when the spotlight also lighted up areas of his life he would rather keep n the dark. If the Lord President gave this interim interdict it would clearly be prejudging the police investigation currently underway in Scotland. Let the process take its course, the time for Mr O'Hallorhan to take any personal legal action was after the police had determined the truth or otherwise of the articles in question. There would be no leave to appeal.

O'Hallorhan's demise came not from the police's examination of his links to Murphy but his wife and secretary making a formal complaint about O'Hallorhan's violence against themselves both verbal and physical with a sizeable sheaf of documented and other evidence to the desk officer at Shettlestone Police station. O'Hallorhan did himself no favours in the Sheriff Court when asked to plead, he lost the head completely and threatened his wife with a 'doin' for her lack of loyalty. He then fought with his defence counsel who tried to get him to shut up and restrain him. The Sheriff refused bail on the likelihood of O'Hallorhan committing further offences on this charge, then recalled him to his court and gave him 28 days in Saughton Prison for contempt of court.

The recovery office of HM Taxes and Revenue took an interest in the information with regards the links between Glasgow Labour politicians and organised crime and were at last successful in getting a warrant to carry out an in depth investigation into the business dealings and tax affairs of Mr 'Spud' Murphy. Surprisingly there was none of the usual obfuscation on the matter from the Glasgow Fiscal's Office that had so benighted previous attempts.

The first Murphy knew about his assets being frozen was when he was released from police custody or as it is known 'helping Strathclyde Police with their inquiries'. His wife told him all their bank accounts had been frozen and their passports had been impounded. The writing was clearly on the wall but luckily for Murphy, he and his wife had an emergency set of Irish Passports and £50k in cash in the house safe. A ferry trip from Stranrear to Larne, pop over the border and a flight from Dublin saw them beyond the law, in South America, with enough in their Cayman Islands account to keep them happy for the rest of their lives which, depending on how the McGovern Clan reacted to the massive hole being punched into their criminal organisation, might not be that long.

The document of Murphy's that most intrigued Nigel Sturgeon of HM Taxes and Revenue was the list of 'political donations'  Mr Murphy had meticulously kept which clearly detailed the local politicians being run by Murphy and, by inference, the McGovern's. There were a number of high profile members of Glasgow Labour amongst the foot sloggers, on the list, chief among them O'Hallorhan. A quick phone call to his boss, an application to the Sheriff and O'Hallorhan's banking accounts were frozen as well. Sturgeon took great interest in the size of the cash donations from Murphy to O'Hallorhan, how the donations were handled and the lack of any mention of these donations in O'Hallorhan's returns or declarations to the Electoral Commission and more importantly, in his view, to HM Tax Officers.

Louis Rodin went round and tidied up a few loose ends that might squeal if squeezed by the police. This, in turn, lead to a couple of council bye-elections in the east end of Glasgow. The McGovern's then put in place 'plan B' and to all intents and purposes their business carried on as before.

The Scottish Labour leader, Daphne McLung, was now facing an internal revolt as more and more Scottish Labour members stopped toeing the New Labour party line on North Briton, started saying maybe independence for Scotland was not a bad idea after all and was it not about time the supposed 'independent' leader of New Labour in Scotland started putting Scotland, rather than Westminster, first. Daphne's voice in London was silent on this for now and advised a low profile until the mess had blown over.

The First Minister kept a diplomatic silence. It was the best way to act when your political enemies were doing such a good job of ripping themselves to bits.  2014 and the referendum was still a long way off, any crowing could well cause the thrawn and canny Scottish electorate to think again about the SNP's suitability as the party of Scottish Government. With the SNP's core political aim so close, this was a risk not worth taking.

The MET's anti-terrorist commissioner was coming under ever increasing pressure from 'political sources' to stop the steady drip of corrosive information leaking out Grindstone's solicitors in Woking. He approached Chief Justice Corncrake to seek a warrant under the Official Secrets Act. Lord Chief Justice Corncrake was from a 'High Tory' family littered with grand fathers, uncles and cousins who had held high office in the English legal profession and in parliament. The MET's counsel was certain it would be a rubber stamp application, after all his Lordship's brother was the current Lord Chancellor of England and cousin the Solicitor General.

Lord Corncrake's opinion was otherwise. He ruled the application as being not on the grounds of 'National Security' as the information was already in the public domain and clearly of a political nature, rather than a danger to the state. Simply printing of the words 'Top Secret' on a Document of State did not automatically confer on the document the rights and privileges of a document of national importance, it was the content in the context of the external or internal threat to the nation that determined this. These documents clearly raised no threat to the 'state' and if proved true could well be seen in a contrary wise manner as to where the threat to the State actually lay. The warrant was refused, as was any right of appeal.

Stanhope left Pembrokeshire at four in the morning leaving a warm sleepy Marie whom he would rather have not. He switched his mobile on for the first time since Thursday and even before he placed in the hands free unit it was lighting up like a Christmas Tree as the real world sought to get a hold of him. As he passed Bristol Stanhope turned on the radio to listen to the Today program. What he heard made his heart sing.  The program lead with Corncrake's refusal late on Sunday night to allow the information on 'Cockleshell' leaked by Grindstone to be covered by a 'D' notice or subject to any other legal restriction under the Official Secrets Act. Stanhope listened as it was suggested that any chance of a 'Cockleshell' cover up by the Government was at an end. The BBC's political editor went further by stating it put the future of Cambourne as Prime Minister in serious doubt given the established links between the Prime Minister and Internal Affairs on this specific matter. The Prime Minister's fate now lay in the hands of the National Security Select Committee's findings who had been interviewing key members of Internal Affairs over the weekend and were preparing an interim report for this afternoon's emergency Privy Council meeting. As he was passing Uxbridge Stanhope listened to the Met anti-terrorist commissioner, who he was on his way to meet, stating there were three men who the police would like to interview. One was seriously ill after a major stroke, one had fled the country and the other was protected by Parliamentary privilege, at present. Mr Grindstone was no longer the key suspect in the 'Cockleshell' attacks. The Interpol warrant seeking his arrest and detention had been withdrawn at the request of the Crown Office. Mr Grindstone was free to return to the UK without fear of arrest or imprisonment and the police hoped he would agree to help them as a key witness in building any future prosecution case.

Grindstone smiled to himself as he watched the tale unwind on BBC World News. He popped into Victoria and left a letter with the British Embassy Staff informing them where he was currently staying, if they wanted to get in contact. He also sent Ms Price a postcard  of the Seychelles' Giant Tortoises and told her he hoped to be home in another week or two. On his return to the Reef Hotel he had a session of golf coaching and then plated nine holes with the professional. It was fun, golf was the first sport he had ever tried that rewarded people for being precise, accurate and analytical.

The journalistic vultures were soon up and circling over Downing Street prior to landing on prime viewing spots. They chattered as senior Tory Party grandees came and went all morning. The fell into a stupor over lunch perking up early afternoon when the Libdem Deputy prime minister arrived. They bickered to camera about what it all could mean and flapped listlessly as nothing continued to happen. At four thirty excitement as the prime ministerial Jaguar drew up out side number10. At five pm Cambourne scuttled criminally into the car, almost as if he had a blanket over his head and was handcuffed. At five thirty Mr Beige, leader of the Libdems and deputy prime minister came out to the microphones in front of number 10 and simply stated the obvious Cambourne was gone, he would be acting prime minister until the coalition agreed what to do next and no he would not take any questions which left the journalistic vultures to make up any story they liked for their newsrooms with ever spiralling hubris about the sensational outcome of the day's political activities - sensational; only to them.

It would be nice to think Cambourne faced criminal charges but he apologised to the House of Commons which everyone thought was 'good form', 'damn decent of him' so he avoid the 25 years minimum prison sentence anyone else would have faced for his act of terrorism and retired on a big fat parliamentary pension with his only punishment being no ennoblement, banned from joining the vermin in ermine. Then again, when his old man popped his clogs Cambourne would pick up the hereditary one.

Grindstone came home to his fifteen minutes of fame as the ultimate whistle blower, out Wiki leaking Wicket Leeks. He returned to his terrace house in Woking, went round and picked his cat up from Ms Price. The cat made her feelings known by turning her back to him, raising her tail vertically with the occasional twitch and giving Grindstone the solo, pink, evil eye as she strode out of the front door. Having said thank you to Ms Price, once more, Grindstone followed his cat out. Thereafter Grindstone often invited Ms Price to share holidays with him ... separate rooms, mind.

The End:

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