Deep in the bowels of the Secret Intelligence Service’s HQ Agent Orange and her economic intelligence unit have been number crunching.
Under the Intelligence Service Act 1944 the Service’s remit extends to working “in the interests of the economic well-being of the UK” and Orange’s research is flagging up a red alert.
She murmours to a colleague: “Since 9/11 we’ve always been obsessed with Al-Queda and terrorist attacks on key installations and infra-structure. But could one of Osama bin Ladin’s spies, or some foreign power, have somehow infiltrated government at a senior level and is now sabotaging our economy?”
The statistical evidence they are accumulating is certainly pointing in that direction. Inflation is running at 4.4%, housing prices have fallen 12.5% year-on-year, mortgage lending and car sales have reached all time lows, unemployment is rising along with repossessions, and since the credit crunch started the pound has fallen by 20% against the euro.
And yet, Orange recalls, at the last budget the chancellor said that UK Limited was in good shape to face the economic storm and all the economic indicators were benign.
Orange says to her advisers:“Could this farrago of disasters all be the result of market forces, bad management, poor decisions, or no decisions at all. It doesn’t seem possible.”
As employees of the Crown they are embarrassed. Then a team member pipes up.
“It doesn’t seem possible that a secret agent could be working so close to the heart of government. Wouldn’t a foreign agent be all too obvious”?
Orange sneers dismissively.
She says: “Think Burgess, Maclean, and Philby and the Cambridge spy ring of the 1950s and then think of their fourth man, Sir Anthony Blunt – he was personal adviser on art to the Queen and he wasn’t exposed as a spy until 1979. Listen team we have to think the unthinkable.”
So they do the logical thing and start considering people who may have misadvised the PM and chancellor in the last year or so.
Housing minister Caroline Flint has committed some faux pas, they say. And then there’s her predecessor Yvette Cooper who screwed up the HIP initiative. Then their thoughts turn to Darling himself – the man with the evil eyebrows – he really dithered over Northern Rock and it was his statement that the economy was facing its worst test in 60 years that’s really screwing things up.
But the chancellor? That was too close to home, Orange sasy: “Perhaps we should think of the modus operandi of the possible culprit or culprits, that should narrow down the field.”
A colleague says:”Well, they’d have to sound plausible while talking absolute rubbish, otherwise they wouldn’t be able to fool the PM and his team.”
Agent Orange puts her head in her hand.
She says: “But for God’s sake that doesn’t rule anybody out, not even Brown.”
The truth then dawns – with the current government the forces of evil can afford to take a sabbatical.