Foreign & Commonwealth Office
by Foreign and Commonwealth Office is licensed under CC BY 2.0


It’s just after lunchtime on a day in early February, the capital is bathed in bright sunshine but the breeze, from the east, is chilling to the bone. We can see;

An office in Whitehall, dominated by two deep sash windows, a large green leather topped mahogany desk stands on a Persian carpet in front of the windows.

 A jovial looking rotund man in his early 50’s sits at the desk, he is reading some papers which he has obviously taken from a red leather briefcase perched on a small table at the side of him. The man has a shock of unruly blonde hair; he is wearing an immaculately cut and obviously expensive light grey mohair suit that shines in the sunlight that streams through the windows behind him. His white shirt is tailored and pristine; his old school tie loosened at the neck, the top button of the shirt is unfastened.

A mobile telephone rings, breaking the mans concentration. He opens first the right hand drawer of the desk, which contains two telephones, neither of which is ringing. He opens the left hand drawer, again, two telephones, both silent. He reaches under the desktop and flips a catch. A hidden drawer is revealed containing a telephone, the screen is flashing in the shadows; the ringtone is the Eton Boat Song.

The man looks at the screen, noting the number is blocked, sighs and lifts the phone to his ear.


The man;  “Hello, is that you Toby, bloody hell old chap, I hope it’s good news, we’re having a bally stinker”

Toby;  “Yah, me alright, a bally stinker eh? We might just have something of a germ of an idea that could put you in her ladyships’ good books and, at the same time, do the cause a power of good.”

The man;  “Bloody marvellous old boy, can we do this over a secure line or do we need to meet up to discuss, I can always get a room at the club.”

Toby;  “Phones fine old bean. I don’t suppose you’ve ever watched that American TV series Homeland have you? Sunday nights, Channel 4.

The man;  “Not seen it, Sunday nights’ usually reserved for a visit to number 3 wifey, the one numbers 1 and 2 don’t know about.  What’s the story?”

Toby;  “Russia old boy, seems the script was commissioned before the US elections, which might have been awkward, but the whole thing centres around a Russian spy ring involved in a dirty tricks campaign to bring down a female President. They obviously thought Hillary was going to win and they wanted to use the series to quash the Russian/Uranium One narrative. It’s quite an intricate plot line so I wouldn’t bother yourself with watching it, it might get a tad confusing. The nice people at Langley sent over the full series, sort of a training manual on disc. I suppose they thought we might learn something. Turns out, unless I miss my guess, we have”

The man;  “I’m not getting your drift Toby, I know we’ve got a bit of a spat going with Vlad and we aren’t exactly in bed with Trump but I really don’t see what good a television show can do to get us into the voters good books. This bally Brexit things getting on everyones pip, if you could actually come up with something, like I’ve been asking you about for weeks now, to divert a bit of attention away while we shaft the fishermen, extend the transition period by a couple of years and sign up to the EU defence mechanism without causing too much of a hoo-hah, well then you’d be talking”.

Toby;  “I say, you’re a bally mind reader, no wonder you  ended up with your own office on Whitehall. I’ve just watched episode 9 with a couple of the team from the black ops crew. Long story short, they’ve got an FBI double agent in for questioning but they can’t crack him. Someone comes up with the idea of poisoning him with a nerve agent, implicating the Russians and getting him to talk. Obviously the stuff they use couldn’t be the weapons grade type, it’d kill the bugger in seconds, but anyway, as simple as it seems, it bally worked”.

The man;  “All well and good, but I still don’t get it. Even if we knew who the double agents were, how would that do us any good? I was hoping for something a bit more subtle, a beached oil tanker in Devon maybe or a roundup of a couple of hundred far right terrorists, something for the Greens and Labour to get diverted by and to give those bloody Brexiteers something to think about ”.

Toby;  “You’re missing the point old chap. We need a booger man, right? Ideally it needs to be someone or something outside Britain but not within Europe. That really leaves us with two choices. As much as we’ve tried we can’t make anything stick to Trump. The Steele dossier was too over the top and, as much as I’d like to think the Stormy Daniels thing will get him I’m not certain we can wait that long. Anyway, given his supporters are the US equivalent of our racist, Islamaphobic, parochial, thick northern Leave voters they’d probably cheer him on. Let me outline a scenario for you and once you’ve heard it all tell me what you think. If you like the idea we’ll give it a go, if not we’ll sink a tanker in Branscombe Bay and round up a hundred or so of those cranky old buggers that comment on that Going Postal blog”.

The man;  “Well, I don’t suppose there’s any harm in listening to what you have to say. Are you sure this phone’s secure, wouldn’t want any of this to fall into the wrong hands, would we?”

Toby;  “Perfectly, just to be on the safe side though, destroy the sim card when we’ve finished, we’ll get a new one out to you tomorrow. Right, here we go, you probably weren’t aware but several years ago we did a prisoner swap with Russia. A couple of FSS agents went rogue and sold us a lot of very useful info. They got caught of course and received lengthy sentences in Russia but we traded them and now three of them live in the UK with no problems at all. This is where it gets interesting. One of them lives in Salisbury, our old mate Steele used to be his handler and there are rumours that he might have had something to do with providing background information on Trump. You can maybe see where we’re going with this now?”

The man;  “I think I might be catching on but  you need to make it a bit clearer. Are you suggesting we use this fellow to somehow stir the pot between Donald and Vlad so that we can play the good cop and win ourselves some brownie points? The ideal outcome for me would be that something so big was to happen that we might even be able to suspend Brexit or at least kick it a lot further down the road than we already have”.

Toby;  “Not quite, let me finish old boy. At a facility not a million miles from Salisbury, which shall remain nameless, we have a couple of samples of a very low grade nerve agent that was developed in the USSR thirty odd years ago. It’d take a gallon of the stuff to make anyone really poorly but a small dose, delivered on the quiet, would probably hospitalise the recipient for a couple of weeks and, if we spin it right, we could make some real political capital out of it, with the added bonus of getting the Yanks on our side against the Ruskies”.

The man;  “Intriguing, tell me more”.

Toby;  “The guy in Salisbury is called Yuri Skripal, he’s well known, his neighbours call him the retired Russian spy so the basic narrative is already in place. He lives alone, hardly ever has a visitor apart from his daughter who lives in Moscow, but she isn’t expected anytime soon. Every Saturday he nips into town, has a couple of beers and a bite to eat and then he goes home. We need to get to him in a public place if we can, this stuff is fast acting and he’ll need medical attention pretty quickly, but, if we plan it and time it right we should be able to start the ball rolling straight away. How does this sound for a juicy headline; “Russian Double Agent in Weapons Grade Nerve Agent Assassination Attempt, all indications point to a botched revenge attack ordered directly by Putin” eh”?

The man;  “Mmmm, it sounds good in theory, I like where you’re going with it but we need to be pretty certain there won’t be any cock ups. I don’t want anyone else contaminated, that’s a red line. We need to be able to trust the medics as well; they need to know what it is they’re dealing with without raising any suspicions. Most of all, categorically no leaks, need to know basis only and everyone singing from the same hymn sheet.  We want the information under our control, we drip feed it to the press, a bit at a time, if we rush it might seem a bit suspicious and we don’t want all the twitter nutters pointing fingers at your lot. We certainly don’t need any nosy buggers looking too closely at me or her ladyship on this. Are you sure he’ll make a full recovery and that we can rely on him to go along with the story”?

Toby;  “All bases covered old chap, the hospital has medics trained in recognising and treating nerve agent attacks, they are near the biggest store of them in Europe after all. Skripal just needs to pick up a contaminated menu, or a pen or a glass and he’ll be on his way to hospital in no time. We did consider smearing it on his door handle but that might be too risky, postman, a neighbour, that sort of thing. That’s our part of it though. You’ll get the back up from us in terms of identifying the source, the rest, as they say, is up to you.  I can promise you the whole thing will go like clockwork, there is seriously no need to worry about anything, when did MI6 ever let the government down”?

© Coloniescross 2018