Pilkington’s Gamble : Scene 4

“My Lords, Ladies and Gentelmen….”  

Pilkington had a sense of deja vue.  He looked around to the room.  Many faces from that morning’s meeting were present.  There were some regular attendees for this type of meeting. Others that looked familiar, but there were several who did not.  

“Thank you for keeping your diaries clear for this.  I hope the pennants and advertising you saw outside and in the entrance foyer were convincing.  Certainly they seemed to have only attracted the attention of few curious tourists.  I think we can safely say we are now in session.  If I could invite you to open the embargo-marked envelope you were handed on your way up here.  The contents are designed by way of background information.  You will note they are marked “EYES ONLY” and individually numbered.  As is customary – we would ask you hand over the documents before leaving this hall.  The contents are to not be shared with anyone outside this room.”.

“A quick run over the housekeeping.  The facilities are towards the back of the hall and in the event of fire…”

Pilkington had heard this umpteen times before.  His attention turned to the fact that he still had his Volksempfängerfon on him.

“Has anyone any questions?”

Several hands raised.  

“Thank you for reminding me of that point.  As you will find out this is no ordinary hot-wash-up session.  That’s why the normal surrender of phones and other media you usually put into temporary custody has not been applied in this instance.  Indeed, the choice of this particular venue and this hall in particular is deliberate.

We’ll leave it at that, if we may.  By way of an additional layer of assurance we’ve arranged with colleagues in the immediate vicinity to temporarily switch their surveillance equipment to “dummy mode”.   I hope that will give you an indication of the seriouness of this session.  

If I may misquote the former Chief of Staff of the Second Army back in 1917 “I do not know whether or not we shall change history today but we shall certainly alter it”.  I will now hand you over to Viktor-Pierre – or VP as he prefers to be known.  He’s well known to you all in his role as Chief Planning Coordinator of the annual Civil-Military Cooperation Exercises”.

Pilkington listened intently – as did the rest of the audience.  This was, after all, a UK audience – none of that wandering around that our American cousins tended to do at their briefing meetings.

VP continued “As with the preparations for the Messines Ridge action, secrecy is of paramount importance to the success of this operation.  That action was against a defined enemy who wore distinctive uniforms.   That era saw the revolution in Russia and the subsequent rise of the Soviet Union.  As with this weekend’s fictional exercise this ushered in the long term execution of the communist “ideological subversion”.   We are witnessing its effects today.  Not in some far-off part of the former British Empire or the Commonwealth.  We are seeing its effects right here, right now, in the cradle of parlimentary democracy.

That was the background senario for the weekend’s crisis management exercise.  It was good to see active participation of all Departments and Agencies.  Not since the Y2K Exercise Chocolate Box has there been such a broad representation.  Unfortunately the injects we had hoped to be able to test did not get played.  In particular those powers introduced, albeit it soemwhat contenciously, during the COVID epidemic.

Hosting the London Olympics gave us valuable “lessons learned”, as did the five-week prorogation of Parliament in 2019.

What we are using this wash-up session for is to consider the “what ifs” of the weekend’s unplayed injects.  Think of it, if you will, as a table top exercise.

The outcomes and conclusions we reach today will determine if fictional excercise could be turned into reality.  If I could ask you to turn to the last page of your briefing packs……”

There was much shuffling of papers and several quiet utterences of “a ha”, “wow” and similar.

Pilkington looked at his pack.  He was heartened to see the names of several colleagues he knew well and could readily work with.   One was denoted only by an alpha-numeric identifier.  

“Now if you would convene in your respective groups in the allocated side rooms to form your initial assessments.  If we could say reconvene in 45 minutes back here in the hall and we’ll take a show of hands on the plausibility of the actions and their likelihood of success.

Pilkington joined his allocated group and was slightly taken aback to see the gentleman he had enjoyed a stroll with in St James’ Park only a few hours before.  The gentleman was the last to go in the quick tour-de-table for introductions……”Hello, Call me Harry”.