How do we stop these flaming terrorists?

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The Independent Online
Frantic last-minute talks are being mounted today in order to avert a devastating programme of terrorism planned for this evening all across the British mainland, involving rocket attacks, Chinese mortar assaults and potatoes being dropped in large fires and getting burnt to a cinder.

"It is the same every year," said a harassed Home Office official. "It is the official anniversary of one of the holiest days in the history of the movement, and they insist on celebrating it. As a result we get a well-orchestrated mass outbreak of explosions and bombs all over Britain. It makes the Apprentice Boys' March look like Blind Man's Buff."

But what is it all for? What is this movement that celebrates such holy days?

"I wish we knew," says the harassed Home Office official. "They never come out and make any demands. They never insist on any reparation. They seem to have no organised head of operations. These demonstrations of violence seem totally uncorrelated, yet they happen with frightening punctuality and regularity. As you probably know, an organisation with no chain of command is a lot harder to penetrate than any other kind. These people make the IRA look like the Boy Scouts."

Where are they based?

"I only wish we knew," says what I can only describe as a harassed-looking Home Office official. "They can cause violence and burning anywhere in the British Isles at will. Our fire brigades are stretched to the limit on 5 November. When the IRA pull off a job, it immobilises that part of town and it monopolises the emergency services in one area. But this Guy Fawkes mob can immobilise the whole bloody country!"

Guy Fawkes? Ah, so you have a name, at least? A lead of some kind?

"That's where they're so bloody clever!" says the Home Office official, swearing for the second time in as many sentences, which is a sure sign of being harassed. "Yes, we thought we had a lead when this name came up but we couldn't find him anywhere on the computer until somebody had the bright idea of looking in the Crimes Unsolved (Historical) file. Then we found him. Catholic terrorist, executed 1605, attempted murder and arson. What use was that to us?"

Were there no leads at all?

"Well, we found a woman called Antonia Fraser who was a leading member of the modern Catholic establishment and who had written a life of this Fawkes man, so we hauled her in for questioning, but she was no help. She wouldn't say anything except `Buy the book!' We explained that we had bought the book but couldn't follow all of it and could she please in very simple words say what she thought had happened.

"She said she thought that Guy Fawkes was innocent and had been framed by the secret services, which is what they always say, so we were just going to slap her around a little when her husband arrived, steaming hot, screaming about civil liberties and torture and man's basic inhumanity to man, as if 5 November itself wasn't an outrage, and on a far worse scale! We couldn't get a word in edgeways when they were both at it, so we chucked them out still screaming, him saying he was going to turn it all into a powerful one-act drama about oppression and she saying she would back him all the way, and even attend the first night if she had to."

So where does that leave the peace process?

"Peace process?" says a very harassed Home Office official. "There is no peace process. There is just a series of last-minute, behind-the-scenes, under-the-table, behind-closed-doors, in-the-nick-of-time desperate talks."

Between whom?

"We don't even know that. That's how secret they are."

Then how do you know they are actually going on?

"We don't," confesses a harassed Home Office official. "I am just saying that to make it seem that something is happening. The truth is that we have no idea what is happening. We shall probably just leave them to get on with it as usual. There will be death and destruction on a grand scale and there is nothing we can do about it."

And that is why you look so harassed?

"No. That is because I work for Michael Howard."