Wednesday, 27 April 2016

What IF?

Bert Hopkins sat in the control room watching the cameras which cover Whitehall and Horse Guards. Originally there had been a two man crew, one monitoring all 24 screens and one who took control when close ups or tracking of movement was required; after a G4S in house review it was decided the job only needed one man, on a zero hours contract (of course) and minimum wage, doing twelve hour shifts and no overtime. This, according to G4S, was progress and cost effectiveness at work. To the men and women made redundant it was just a way of further increasing G4S profit margins, on an all ready lucrative UK Government contract, at the working people's expense. Bert thought maybe G4S had a point as over the last four years the highlights of the night shift were recording close ups of drunken couples having 'knee tremblers', in corners where they did not think they could be seen, for the day shift.

Bert looked at his watch, it was 3 am. He wandered back to the 'staff area' where the kettle and microwave were positioned and having placed a microwave burger to heat up ("Just like MacDonalds" claimed the bumf on the wrapping) he put the kettle on to boil to make himself an equally fake 'instant' cappuccino. As the chemicals frothed and fumed in his mug and the flabby burger flowed across the paper plate struggling to live up to the over blown claims made by the wrapping, Bert noticed an HGV pulling onto the Horse Guards Parade ground. He left the drink and burger in the 'staff area' and took control of a camera to see what was up. It was a tank transporter with a tank on the back. This did not worry Bert as he had been briefed to expect from around 3 am tank transporters would start turning up. Apparently there was some do on Horse Guards to do with the Royal Tank Corps going into action on the Somme for the first time. Bert checked the front of the cab but the driver had the blinds down, already getting some shut eye before off loading commenced at 6 am; "Lucky blighter", thought Bert. Bert checked the registration was MoD then turned his back on the banks of screens to finish the epicurean delights awaiting him in the 'staff area'. As he picked up his mug to take a slurp, all the cameras watching Horse Guards flared as they sought to adapt to a sudden increase in light levels; all except the one on the back corner of 10 Downing Street which had gone 'off line'.

As the cameras regained their sight Bert could no longer see the tank transporter as it was surrounded in orange smoke and glimmers of tinsel. He tried to get the Downing Street camera back on line but all tests showed a total equipment failure. He called up the digital recording for the camera to see if that would help him diagnose the problem. There was the tank transporter and it looked as if the camera was looking straight down the barrel of the tank on its back. Bert thought he saw a puff of smoke from the muzzle of the tank's main gun and almost simultaneously the camera went 'off line'. He checked a couple more times and became certain there was smoke coming from the muzzle which could only mean the tank had fired at Downing Street. Yet Bert found that hard to believe. Surely the MoD would not allow a tank with live weapon rounds to be placed in the centre of the UK Government Ministries. He went back to the bank of screens and picking the camera which covered the back of Downing Street zoomed in through the dissipating smoke to see where the back of 10 Downing Street had been there was now a hole at the end farthest from Whitehall and the roof had collapsed for about of the third of its length. He immediately rang his shift manager, based at Canary Wharf, who finally answered on the third attempt and suggested Bert was either pissed or had been at the wacky-baccy. Bert patched him into the live feed which was showing evermore clearly, as the smoke and dust cleared, the collapse of 10 Downing Street was all too real. There was a long silence at the Canary Wharf end, an 'Oh shit!' or two followed by a bout of stating the bleeding obvious as in:
  • Keep the cameras running
  • Don't wipe anything
  • Have you called the police
  • No don't call the police that's my job
  • Don't leave until the police get to you
  • Keep your eyes open
  • And don't bloody wipe anything
Being an ex Met copper, Bert started reviewing and copying the data from each camera from the time the transporter first came into view. What he saw impressed him. By comparing timings he realised the puff of smoke he had seen on the Downing Street camera was in fact the second round fired by the tank. Three further rounds were fired, the action lasting under ten seconds from the first round being fired. At that point the tank fired smoke bombs and parachute flares blinding all the cameras still working for around twenty seconds but it was at least a minute before the cameras could distinguish shapes and a full three minutes before they returned to full definition. The first two rounds appeared to burst on the outside of Downing Street below the camera and the next three inside the building, blowing the corner out and wrecking the internal steel skeleton to the extent the roof collapsed. Who ever carried this out, thought Bert, are highly professional and never intended to kill anyone important because they would have targeted the Prime Minister or Chancellor's flat. Further they carried out the attack when the office end of Downing Street should be empty. His control room phone rang, it was the Terrorist Cell at Scotland Yard and with a couple of clicks of the mouse they had all the data Bert had collated and copied zipped off to them. Five minutes later his manager in Canary Wharf phoned him and told Bert to gather up all the data as Scotland Yard wanted it and G4S were giving their full cooperation. Bert thought about telling the self important twat in Canary Wharf that it was already done and dusted but opted to say that he would get right on to it, instead, as the idea of playing this 22 year old 'manager' as a mug was awfully appealing.

Prime Minister Cameron huffed and puffed in the Cobra meeting. He could not believe anyone in the intelligence services or Chiefs of Staff had no wind of this attack. How, he ranted, could the MoD not know one of their front line tanks and its transporter were missing? Let alone how the perpetrators got hold of live shaped charge rounds to blow out the steel protective layer put in place after the PIRA mortar attack and then send three high explosive rounds through the hole to burst inside the building. Then who ever did it walked away, without being seen or detected like some modern day, invisible, fucking man! I could have been killed, a state I pay you lot, a lot of money to prevent happening. Well!

Well, the answer he received did little to lower Cameron's blood pressure or state of funk as there was no evidence linking the attack to any of the standard terrorist enemies of ISIS or the PIRA. The nature of the attack indicated this was something internal to the UK, probably political in nature and a result of Cameron's Tory Government's ever increasing dislocation from the UK electorate. The delivery of the attack said special forces given its planning, execution and accuracy but whose special forces, there was no indication. It was not beyond doubt that the attack could have been carried out by disaffected members or ex-members of the SAS or SBS but the likelihood had been ruled out by both Hereford and Poole respectively. They had firm tabs on their disaffected personnel. 

Cameron suggested that maybe the UK special forces bosses at Hereford and Poole were in on the attack at which point the Chiefs of Staff turned on their heels and walked out leaving Cameron apoplectic, yelling you can not walk out on the Prime Minister. The Chief of Intelligence reminded Cameron they had every right to do so if they had lost the confidence of the Prime Minister and would now be taking their concerns direct to their supreme commander, HM Queen, and seeking her advice on what to do next as their primary responsibility was to the safety and security of the realm, the people of the UK and not Parliament or the Prime Minister - it says so on their commissions as officers. The Cabinet Secretary pointed out Mr Cameron was on the verge of triggering a constitutional crisis for the crown so he would get hold of the Queen's secretary and seek to head this potential political disaster for Mr Cameron off and unruffle the Chief's of Staff's feathers. To achieve this would require a fulsome apology from Mr Cameron for having doubted the Chief's of Staff's loyalty, integrity and that of the services they represent. It also crossed the Cabinet Secretary's mind that triggering a constitutional crisis and the collapse of Cameron's Government may well be part of the plan the unknown attackers were trying to bring to fruition as the straw which broke the camel's back on top of the EU referendum and the continuing unrest in Scotland against direct Westminster rule. The problem for the intelligence services, as the Cabinet Secretary discussed with the head of SIS on the way back to London from Chequers in the car, is there so many UK political factions, including a couple inside the Tory Party, who just can not wait for Prime Minister Cameron to fall flat on his face and would be more than happy to give him a helping push.

That evening the editor of the Sunday Telegraph received a text, "Be warned all of the corrupt and venal British Establishment and their 'hangers on' are legitimate targets until such time as truly representative democracy and a written constitution is established across the UK."

On the Sunday night, just as the main presses of the Times, Telegraph, Daily Mail and associated titles at Wapping were about to begin printing the main edition run, all power was lost and took three days to restore. When the main frame computers were run up at each of the papers on restoration of mains power, a virus was unleashed which crashed all computers, slaves and other devices connected to the mainframes by intranet, internet, wifi or Bluetooth across the UK. The cost to Times Corp alone, in sorting out the UK cyber terrorist attack, ran to tens of millions in costs and lost revenue. 

Upgrading cyber security in the UK commercial banking sector and financial trading floors, in response to the cyber attack on the UK Establishment Press, is already hitting the bottom line and trading volumes as UK and international investors became ever more concerned about any cyber attack rebounding on to them and taking down their own trading networks. The FTSE beginning to drop alarmingly and, along with it, the pound as it appears less and less secure as a reserve currency. Without doing very much at all, the secretive group seeking major constitutional change is steadily creating an environment of instability in the UK, both fiscal and political, that could bring the British Establishment's cozy little world crashing down around their ears. 

Yet still the police and intelligence services had no lead as to who was behind the demand for political reform or the attacks. Worse for the organs of the British State, opinion survey's were showing increasing support for the demand for true political reform and support for the campaign. A Yougov poll indicated that 60% of its members would still support the anonymous reform campaign even if they assassinated David Cameron or members of his Tory cabinet.

Historians are flooding BBC politics programs discussing the last time there was this level of discord and disaffection between the 'British Establishment' and the people, there was civil war, a republic and Charles the First lost his head.

Underlying and unsaid, as the count down to the EU referendum continues, the question remains, "What part of the British Establishment will be the next target and how will it be attacked?"

To which the answer remains, "Nobody knows."

Note: This is of course a piece of fiction, an anarchic short story and is not indicative of actual or future events.


  1. A cracking wee bit of fiction, thoroughly enjoyed it. Any chance of a follow up story?

  2. I take it the Tank Commander was not Ruthie?

    1. Barn door hit couldn't .... if it had been ....