Friday 7 March 2003
At home in Heathrow
'Those tanks and guns at Heathrow airport weren't meant to protect passengers. They were meant to protect the Government'
Continuing our advice column on what to do if you feel your business is threatened by potential terrorist or military action
Do you think Iraq will really attack Britain?
If I were a bookie, I would say the odds were 1,000 to one against. Iraq has never ever attacked Britain in the history of the world. Never. Ever. On the other hand, Britain has attacked Iraq, or invaded Iraq, on several occasions, even though Iraq presented no threat to us at the time. So going merely by the form book, I would say that they have more to fear from us than vice versa.
Well, forgetting Iraq, will al-Qa'ida attack British targets?
The one thing that unites all al-Qa'ida strikes is their element of surprise. They depend utterly on mounting a surprise attack. Now, at the moment everyone is expecting an al-Qa'ida attack on London. So if al-Qa'ida attacks, it will not be a surprise attack. Therefore it is most unlikely that al-Qa'ida will attack. Because they do not make expected attacks.
So they won't make an attack on London?
But on Salisbury, yes.
Well, nobody is expecting an attack on a sleepy cathedral city. So maybe...
But surely everyone is making plans to get out of London and set up emergency HQs in the country?
Yes. In places such as Salisbury.
That's it. Al-Qa'ida will wait until everyone has relocated to Salisbury and then, bang!
No. Bomb Reading.
Reading? Why Reading?
Because if al-Qa'ida has a secret merger with English Heritage, English Heritage will persuade al-Qa'ida to attack somewhere that we can afford to lose on heritage and historical grounds.
But what makes you think that English Heritage and al-Qa'ida have merged?
It makes a lot of business sense. They have the same fundamentalist ideals, harking back to a mythical past. They both operate clandestinely, both have small movable cells, both have secret funding, and both move under cover of darkness and do their dirty work before anyone knows what is going on.
Yes, but al-Qa'ida is a closed society.
Do you know anyone who works for English Heritage?
No, I don't actually.
Quite. Think about it.
But what about the rumour that there are, in fact, no threats to Britain? And that it has all been secretly put about by a government that needs to whip up support for its war aims? So it occupies Heathrow suddenly with troops and tanks and makes everyone feel jittery, even though there is no known threat to anywhere?
Don't be silly. Those tanks and guns weren't meant to protect passengers. They were meant to protect the Government.
The Government? Where does it come into the Heathrow scenario?
Oh, the Cabinet is temporarily housed out there in a safe haven. The heart of government is currently in Terminal 4 at Heathrow. That's where they go every day.
Good shopping. Easy access to the planes. Surrounded by hotels with conference facilities.
It's a bit close to Reading, though, isn't it?
Everywhere is close to Reading! That's the beauty of relocating to Reading! Suddenly, you're in the heart of the transport network, whether road, rail or air! Journeys that were impossible before suddenly become reality! And there's much much more to Reading than just transport – there's shops and culture and countryside, too! If you want to know more about modern Reading, just drop a line to...
Hold on, hold on. You've changed. You sound different. You've been got at, haven't you? The people at Reading have slipped you a bribe since this piece started, haven't they?
And there's the university and our very own Hexagon Theatre at Reading, and a multiplex cinema...
Right. That's it. I'm staying in London. I'm refusing to get swept up in this panic. If it means going to Reading, I'll stay put. Thank you and goodbye.
That was a government propaganda attempt to calm your nerves and get you to stay in London.
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