Meanwhile in Downing Street...

Lord Ashdown settled down to enjoy the present which Henry VII, the French king, had given him. Well, not all of it at once - even for a British politician, seventeen bottles of Alfred Gratien champagne in one day might be a bit much. No, he'd have two, maybe three bottles - that should easily be sufficient. After all he wanted to stay relatively together as he scrutinised the map of Germany with his Foreign Affairs Advisor Menzies Campbell (whose strange Scottish name was pronounced "Mingiz"). He mustn't ever let Ming, who hardly seemed to drink for some reason, let him think he was ahead of the PM.

"So are you sure about this, Ming?" he asked, still suspicious about Menzies' spies' findings.

"Absolutely: Nienhagen is where it's been discovered. And lots of it."

"And George Frederick didn't choose to share that with his American friends?" asked Lord Ashdown, slightly surprised that something as useful as the discovery of a new supply of crude oil should be kept from the Americans by their old ally, the German Kaiser. While this topic certainly deserved to be filed in his brain under "Moderately interesting" and stored in case it were in some way useful in the future it was a bit of a distraction from his main theme.

"Let's be in no doubt about this, Ming, if we can prize the Americans away from the Germans, we'll have a great trading partner to keep the Whigs happy AND if we keep in with the Italians, we'll keep the Tories happy. We could be in power forever."

Menzies repressed a smile. Lord Ashdown always sounded a little as though he were making a speech. He was tempted to say, "Actually, there is only me in here, Paddy," but he resisted the temptation.

Lord Ashdown grilled his colleague for more intelligence on Germany and plied him with... well, as much booze as he could persuade his friend to have. He'd never seen Menzies drink more than one bottle max in a day - he'd never quite known why.

There was a group which randomly blew up shopping centres in the west of England and claimed that they did it because they wanted a Jewish homeland. These extremists, denounced by the Jewish community at large, also occasionally destroyed railway stations in Germany, book shops in France, ice cream vans in Rome and what the Americans were pleased to call "candy stores" in the USA to get their message across. They had just destroyed a large Hershey installation in Maryland. Lord Ashdown had rubbed his hands together when he'd found this out. Could he persuade the Americans to turn against the Germans by highlighting all the things that Beni Ha Aretz had done across the Globe, including this latest outrage in Maryland, and claiming that there was some link between the German government and the fundamentalist organisation? Fair enough, you'd have to omit the bit about Beni Ha Aretz actually carrying out explosions in Germany itself, of course. That would somewhat confuse the picture.

The two Whigs thrashed this plan out over another few glasses (or, in Ming's case, another one glass) of Alfred Gratien. It seemed like a good 'un.

Lord Ashdown asked if Mr. Campebell's agents had managed to come up with anything regarding the Kaiser having any weapons of mass destruction?

Apparently some French peasants living near the border claimed to have seen some long objects which looked like rockets being moved around in the middle of the night.

Lord Ashdown, despite the amount he'd had to drink, wondered why the Germans would be stupid enough to move weaponry around right next to an international border where your enemy could see it with the naked eye. He shrugged. Who cares? It was a good story. He told his advisor to add that one in.

"And, Ming, let me be quite clear about this," said the PM, back into his speech mode, "A rift with Germany could see the Americans safely back in our camp, where they belong."

Menzies had thought of another brainwave. Why not speak to Communist Russia to see if they'd like to start up a border dispute with the Germans over Kaliningrad in exchange for a little British aid? Independently persuade Fascist Italy that if they wanted Southern Tyrol back, there'd be no objections from the British. Then speak to Henry VII and tell him that any French plans for getting Alsace 100% back under French control would get full British backing. Germany would feel threatened from all sides and would probably react aggressively, at which point the British could say to America, "Look what a bunch of lunatics the Germans are - taking on all their neighbours like that!"

Paddy Ashdown was very grateful to his assistant. That was a good 'un.

"Let me be quite plain about this, Ming," he said, "the time has come for me to open a bottle of Scotch."

"Now you're speaking my language, Prime Minister," said Menzies as the golden liquid was poured into his glass.

The clinked glasses.


The End

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