Do you follow me, or have you lost the plot?

`We follow Al Fayed to make sure nothing happens to him. We're looking after him like a baby'
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The Independent Culture
TODAY, WE continue our award-winning off-beat series:

Very Unusual Jobs Indeed

Number 47:

A man who keeps surveillance on Mohamed Al Fayed for MI5.

"That's right," says Tony Pastor (not his real name). "I keep surveillance on Mohamed Al Fayed (not his real name either). Night and day. For MI5. Course, MI5's not MI5's real name either. But people still call it MI5 because they can't remember the new name. Bit like MOT. There's no MOT any more, but people still call it the MOT. You with me?"

Tony Pastor's conversation is a bit like that all the time. Dodging and swerving. All over the place. Suddenly diverting to follow a stray idea. His job's a bit like that too. Switching and cutting back. Following Mohamed Al Fayed. Making sure nobody knows he's there.

Let's get this straight. You follow Mohamed Al Fayed for MI5 in order to find out if he gets into trouble, or what he's up to? Or just to get some incriminating material on him?

Tony Pastor stares at me almost goggle-eyed.

"You don't get it, do you? Listen. We follow Mohamed Al Fayed to make sure nothing happens to him. We're looking after him like a baby."

Hold on, hold on, hold on. Why would MI5, whom Mohamed Al Fayed hates, want to protect him?

"I'll spell it out for you very simply. Fayed thinks there is a conspiracy to get his family. He thinks Diana and Dodi were murdered by MI5. Now, nobody takes him seriously. We don't even take him seriously ourselves. And we don't have to try to incriminate him - every time he opens his mouth he incriminates himself. But just imagine what people would think if Mohamed Al Fayed were involved in some kind of accident. Imagine if he was killed in a car crash, to put it at its worst! People would immediately say, Oh, so there was a plot after all! Diana was murdered after all! It would look very bad for us, you see?"

I see. So you're looking after Mohamed Al Fayed in order to make sure nothing happens to him so that nobody can say there is a plot against him?

"Spot on."

But is it really part of MI5's job to look after its enemies?

"Everyone has to look after their enemy. Would it surprise you to learn that the Reverend Ian Paisley is guarded night and day?"

By whom?

"The IRA."

"The IRA guarding Ian Paisley???"

"Sure. Paisley is the best weapon the IRA have. Every time he opens his mouth he discredits his own side. It would be a tragedy for the IRA if he went. So they keep a secret guard on him. Paisley doesn't know this, of course. He wouldn't believe it if you told him. Can you imagine someone telling Paisley that the Pope was making sure he came to no harm?"

Tony Pastor chuckles.

"There was a time when we got really riled by Al Fayed saying that MI5 were murderers and hitmen. We even thought at one point of..."

Of having him rubbed out?

"No. Tempting, but no. What we thought of doing was suing him for libel. But then we came to our senses. After all, Mohamed Al Fayed seems to be driven by one thing only, by the urge to become British. To that end he is buying up all the most British things he can find - Harrods, Punch, Fulham FC, Diana, Princess of Wales. No point MI5 coming out into the open and suing a man like that. He'd probably try to buy up MI5 as well... Sorry - where was I?"

"Following Mohamed Al Fayed."

"Right. Well, the funny thing is that while we have been trailing him, making sure he doesn't get into trouble, we have picked up some pretty interesting information about him."

What sort of information?

"Let's just say, if we ever wanted to blackmail him, it would be no problem."

Well, why don't you?

"Maybe we will," says Tony Pastor. "Put it this way. If he ever does go very quiet, it is almost certainly because we are blackmailing him."

And then there really would be a plot against him? But for once he wouldn't be able to say so?

"Yeah," says Tony Pastor. "Be ironic, wouldn't it?"