Post 55 – The gay fascist ‘Führer’ Kerner is honey-trapped in Athens – excerpts from WEIMAR VIBES

Chapter 15

           These are trying times. I haven’t slept well and my British Airways flight is crossing over the Gulf of Corinth. Thoughts of Plato and Aristotle pop up followed by poor old Socrates. He’s the one I can identify with. He saw what was happening, opened his mouth and was promptly dispatched with a mug of hemlock.

          The Greeks are all laid back and effortlessly macho at Athens Airport. It’s hot and a young woman approaches when I get out of arrivals. She’s very serious, with quaintly bobbed blonde hair, sensible shoes and a tailored suit.

          ‘I’m Lowenna Urquhart from the Embassy’ she says. ‘Levinia asked me to meet you.’

          ‘Lowenna? ‘

          ‘Yes. We’ve booked you in at the Grande Bretagne. I understand you’re due to meet with Herr Kerner.’

          I’ve been trying not to think about this. But Lowenna’s insistent, so I get my phone out in the car park. Oscar’s on voice mail. ‘Call me when you get this,’ I say. ‘I’ve arrived and look forward to seeing you.’

          ‘Your colleague Battersby has a plan,’ Lowenna tells me. ‘I gather your brief is to try and find out what Herr Kerner is going to speak about at Cape Sounion tomorrow.’

          ‘Yes – that’s right … is Battersby here now?’

          She nods and I’m worried.

          ‘He came last night,’ she says, and then after a pause, ‘I was wondering if perhaps you can see any parallels between our situation now and Europe between the two World Wars?’

          What do I say? She’s clearly bright: A Foreign Office fast tracker who’s now with Her Majesty’s security services.

          ‘Well, there’s a lot of unemployment,’ I answer tentatively. ‘It’s also getting a bit scary on the streets.’ I’m not too hot on thirties history, although I enjoyed Lisa Minelli in Cabaret.

          We’re heading into Athens and the sensible Lowenna’s sizing me up at traffic lights.

         ‘I think it’s more to do with decadence,’ she says, ‘where morality and one’s sense of community has been sidelined. You may not agree, but I feel we’ve all become quite debauched and depraved – especially in the UK.’

         ‘Right – ‘ Well there you go.

         ‘I do think Levinia is pretty brilliant though,’ she says with a sigh when the Greek Parliament buildings loom up ahead. ‘I’d really like to work more closely with her in London.’

          There’s more than a bit of heroine worship here I feel. It’s close to infatuation. This is a girls’ thing though. I don’t need to get involved.

         ‘We’ve arrived!’ I say pointing up at the splendid GRANDE BRETAGNE HOTEL, which fills one side of Syntagma Square. We’re right in the middle of Athens; within walking distance of the Acropolis, and there are great open-air cafes around the square.

         ‘I can’t wait here,’ Lowenna says when we pull up in front of the hotel. ‘We’ve booked you into a decent room though. Perhaps you could call me when you’ve seen Herr Kerner’

        She gives me a piece of paper with a mobile number. We’ll maybe have dinner later. But a porter’s already taken my overnight bag and Lowenna’s waving from behind her blonde bob.

        I’m greeted in the lobby by Aristos. A simpatico, moustachioed under-manager with a welcoming smile.

        ‘Herr Doktor Kerner not here this moment. Soon though I think, sir … so Homer take you bag up.’

        He’s got my room key and he’s reaching out for the bag. I’m looking over at a bar area where some guys are chatting. They’re young, handsome, women’s magazine types and I’m immediately suspicious. It’s the way they hold their hips, jiggle the jewellery on their hands and simper occasionally that worries me. These guys are bait, I’m sure. God knows, I’ve used such people many times to compromise targets for salacious stories.

        Homer’s grinning me over towards the lift. I leave reluctantly and mistakenly give him a twenty Euro note when we get to the fifth floor. I thought it was two pounds, and I’m wondering why he’s backing out the door with a slavering volley of thanks in Greek English.

        Apart from the en-suite bedroom, I’ve got a separate lounge with a balcony that faces the Acropolis. It’s fantastic, but I’m already on the phone to Ray McVeigh in London.

        ‘I read your piece in The Post,’ he says.

       ‘Right – well, a lot of the stuff was altered.’

        ‘Of course … and how are you coping?’

        With difficulty, I tell him. My Neuro-Linguistic Programming sailing boat anchor keeps capsizing. Substituting images of Julia Stein doesn’t help. I keep thinking of her walking out and leaving me with the awful Beatrice Quilley.

        ‘You need a clearer definition between your self and your persona, Rudi. It would help if you could concentrate on the latter. You’ve got to try and see yourself simply as a mouthpiece for the collective unconscious. So to that extent, you are a conduit.’

        A big plastic pipe, maybe. Which is fine until someone pulls the flush upstairs.

        ‘Are you still there?’ McVeigh asks while I think about his suggestion.

        ‘Yes … just about.’

        ‘You do, however, need to guard against seeing yourself as a latter-day guru figure. Because if at any stage you start believing what you’re saying while you’re in role, as it were, then I feel we would have to arrange for extra sessions.’

        I’m already in for a fifty quid minimum on this telephone conversation. Therapy’s not cheap, even with McVeigh.

        ‘I have to go now,’ he says. ‘I’ve got someone quite important in the waiting room.’

        ‘Ah – ‘

        ‘A member of the Shadow Cabinet, Rudi … but I can’t say any more – so ciao.’

         My man’s coming up in the world. I’m concerned about my new public persona though. Mairead thinks I’m an even lower form of life than I was previously. Julia’s already walked away. And then there’s Angela. Going through her mental anguish with the good Sisters in Alabama. If she sees my Time for a Change piece with the shifty by-line photo, she might stick pins in my cheeks while scrawling NASTY FASCIST! across everything I’ve written.

         Depressing thoughts, but the phone’s ringing on the desk in my executive lounge.

        ‘Rudi?’

        ‘Oscar – ‘

        ‘I’m in the lobby.’

        I’ll be right down, mien Führer. First off though, it’s deep breaths and a few seconds with the sound of a mantra I got from a spaced-out Buddhist.

        The lift takes me to a basement area, and then reception. Two of the slightly effeminate looking Greek guys at the bar are talking to Oscar. They’re luring him in, I feel. He’s a sexually ambivalent quester who’s susceptible to flattery.

        ‘Rudi Flynn,’ Kerner says with a big beam and a symbolic hug. ‘I want you to meet Cristo and Alex. They represent the PKK Council here in Athens. You know the party?’

        A hard right faction that’s recently detached itself from the Greek conservative mainstream. They’ve got weak handshakes and evasive eyes. Latter day brownshirts maybe. But before the Night of the Long Knives when Ernst Rohm and his gay comrades all got topped by Adolf’s uber virile SS heteros.

         ‘We go now, Oscar,’ one of them says abruptly. ‘And see you later … OK?’

          I’m not even in the frame here, but Kerner’s acting like they’re his new best friends.

         ‘Come,’ he commands when they leave.

         We’re having lemon tea. He asks for some pastries as an afterthought. He then grips my hand and homes in on my eyes. ‘You’ve done very well,’ he says. ‘You surprised me, Rudi … your Post piece was brilliant. It articulates all of the points we stand for. I want you to become Communications Director for our Nationalist Alliance in Britain.’

         Wow. Would people bow as I walked down the street? No one’s ever asked me to direct anything. In role, it’s flattering. In the real world, I’d be in a pit of shit: A politically incorrect pariah. ‘The man’s a racist, my dear,’ Beatrice Quilley would whisper. ‘Do I need to say any more? Is this the sort of person you’d want to be involved with, even if only fleetingly? No – of course not!’

        ‘I’m honoured, Oscar,’ I say. ‘I’d be delighted. ‘What we must do now is work together to maximise our input at the conference tomorrow.’

       ‘Exactly!’ Kerner agrees, banging the table. ‘We need to complement each other. I thought you might reiterate points from you piece in The Post. It might help though if you could put more emphasis on the whole welfare state dependency culture. This must change.’

        That’s not a problem, I tell the Herr Führer Doktor. What I want to know though is what’s the main thrust of Kerner’s address at Cape Sounion going to be the next day?

        ‘You see out there?’ he says with a great flourish.

         There are straggling protestors against capitalism being moved on by the cops. But on a small hill beyond this half-hearted lot, there is the glory that was Greece.

          ‘The Parthenon?’

          ‘Yes … and with all it conjures up. I’m going for simplicity tomorrow, Rudi. I want to link Aristotle and his ideas on democracy with disaster. We need to return to the more enlightened meritocracy that was put forward by Plato … what do you think?’

          I’m struggling with differences between Aristotle, the good guy in the UK, and Plato the baddie: The inclusive Brownite democrat versus the authoritarian Hitler type fascist.

         ‘This is excellent,’ I say. ‘First rate, Oscar. And what’s the next step?’

         For a moment, the perfectly toned butt of a passing waiter distracts Kerner. I’m homing in on his inclinations. One must be careful with snap interpretations though. This guy’s in the frame as Europe’s new saviour: A latter day Adolf. While I’m on duty for Her Majesty. It doesn’t help if I get carried away with lewd and possibly homophobic suppositions about my target.

       ‘We have support,’ Kerner says confidently. ‘We can win elections. England will be our first test, Rudi. There are precedents for our ideas with the British. In fact, if Hitler had crossed the channel, I’m sure Oswald Mosley’s people could have formed a government.’

       It’s stretching credulity to see Mr and Mrs Middle Britain embracing Oscar at the upcoming UK elections. If unemployment rises however, and people are strapped for cash. Well – maybe it’s possible to see a Weimar-like saviour winning hearts and votes. My task, as defined by the lovely Levinia, is to agree with everything Kerner says. His crown’s there for the taking – no, I don’t believe this.

       ‘I’m having dinner this evening with some guests at the conference,’ Kerner says. ‘Would you like to join us.’

       ‘I’d be delighted … although there is a point I wanted to raise with you.’

       ‘What’s that?’

       ‘It’s your allusion to Mosley,’ I say with my best winning grin. ‘He had a following in the UK during the thirties. His supporters though were mainly unemployed workers. Today, the people you need to win over are largely disillusioned middle-class professionals: People who might previously have been liberals or New Labour voters. I can’t quite see how you’re going to get them on board.’

        Kerner’s shaking his head indulgently. He’s also patting my knee.

         ‘They’re already with us, he assures me. Maybe not ostensibly at the moment. They’re joined us in spirit though … just as the German people were alongside Hitler and the Nationalists in Germany as Weimar crumbled. There isn’t any alternative to Plato now … we’re the future!’

          ‘Sure – yes … I see that.’

          ‘And I want to congratulate you,’ the Führer in waiting says with another more lingering pat on my thigh. ‘It’s been a while since we last saw eye-to-eye with each other, Rudi … I believe you’re now well and truly on track though. We have a common goal. I see an important role for you in the new order that’s returning to Europe.’

Chapter 16

            It’s Kerner’s predictions about the return of a New Order to Europe that worry me. Leni Riefenstahl and her Hitler eulogy movie, Triumph of the Will, was a surprise in West Cork. Now, along with massed ranks of the Waffen SS singing Deutschland Uber Alles, I’ve got George Grosz and his scar-faced Prussian tycoons. They’re busily deflowering impoverished male and female orphans while limbless First war veterans look on helplessly.

            I call Lowenna when I get out into Syntagma Square. Her phone’s off, so I tell her I’ve seen Kerner. As I left the hotel, he was talking to yet another darkly handsome young man. He had a dazzling smile and laughed playfully when Kerner spoke. At one stage, he covered his face like a girl blushing. I put it down to the relaxed joie de vivre of Mediterranean living and walked up towards the Acropolis.

            You can’t come to Greece without seeing a few ruins. It’s hard work though and I’m wilting with the heat. After an hour, spurred on with thoughts of Melina Mercouri demanding that the British Museum return her marbles, I’ve had enough. I walk back to the centre of town and see blue flashing lights and police cars outside the Grande Bretagne Hotel. Maybe someone’s had their wallet stolen, or there’s been a disagreement about a bill. I turn away and walk towards an open-air café in a quiet corner of the square. I need to chill, and I’m surrounded by agreeable youngsters, most of whom seem to be American students.

            ‘Excuse me, sir, but are you vacationing?’ one of them asks after a while.

            No, I tell him. I’m in town on a journalistic assignment. I’m trying to find out how the Greeks are coping with what remains of their vast and under-utilised Olympic sites. This doesn’t put the young man off, however. We talk about the work of Henry Miller on whom he’s doing a dissertation at Columbia University. It’s a sensitive topic, and a girl called Robyn has strong views on the deceased writer.

            ‘He was entirely dick-centred!’ she exclaims. ‘He saw women as sex objects to be used and abused. He doesn’t deserve shelf space in any bookstore or library. He was crap, man!’

             There’s a literary war starting up between the vacationing boys and the girls. I think it’s more to do with differing positions on gender, sexuality and politics. I’m ordering a beer and thinking about an ouzo chaser when one of the girls detaches herself from the group and gives me a smile.

            ‘Hi – I’m Melissa,’ she says. ‘What do you think about the way it’s going now?’

            ‘You mean with the riots and stuff?’

            ‘Yes.’

           It’s a good question. I want to be up-beat.

          ‘With a bit of luck, it’s just a blip. We’ll get over it.’

         ‘You don’t really believe that?’

        No – I don’t, and you can’t fuck with these youngsters. They see right through the bullshit. Melissa’s main interest is in writing poetry. She smiles when I tell her I’m mainly a tabloid journalist.

       ‘I think this man Kerner has a lot of support,’ she says, pointing towards a crowd of demonstrators gathering in the centre of the square. One of them has a placard that says FREE KERNER! in large letters. He’s being attacked by a cop with a rifle butt.

       ‘Shit – excuse me!’ I say to Melissa. My phone’s off, again, and when I switch it on Battersby screams at me. ‘Will you get your fucking arse over here now, you wanker! And I swear …’

        I press the off button and grin at Melissa. ‘I’ve got a problem … are you around later?’

             ‘Not this evening,’ she says. ‘Maybe tomorrow … in Zadar’s bar.’

            I’ll see her there. She reminds me of a girl who sang on the Charles Bridge in Prague. She went there every day with her guitar. People liked her songs. They would throw coins in her beret and she would smile. When she had enough for a meal, she’d wave and take off.

            Greek gendarmerie with riot shields are surrounding the Syntagma Square. I have to show my passport to get through to the hotel. On the entrance steps, I can see more demonstrators with FREE KERNER! placards outside the Greek Parliament buildings.

            Battersby’s losing it in the hotel lobby. ‘You fucking cunt!’ he yells. It’s inappropriate, and I’m about to walk out. ‘Sorry, Rudi,’ he says at the door. ‘It’s all totally fucked!’

            Lowenna Urquhart is standing like a statue in the background. She doesn’t normally have to deal with people like Battersby: An outsider, who’s been brought in to assist the security services. He may have a short-term contract with Levinia’s department, but Lowenna clearly thinks that he’s an uncivilised hooligan.

            ‘They’ve arrested Kerner,’ he says, ‘for lewd behaviour with an under-aged youth. But it’s a complete cock-up. They didn’t get any shots of him actually buggering the kid.’

            This would never have happened on Fleet Street or at Canary Wharf. We knew how to set up our honey traps, and we always got the incriminating pictures.

            ‘Hang on,’ Battersby says when his phone rings. His head keeps nodding while he listens.

            ‘Right,’ he confides when it’s over. ‘They’re holding Kerner for twenty four hours. We’ll see what happens then … in the meanwhile, Rudi, you’re in the frame.’

            ‘In what way?’

            ‘Well – you were down to speak with Kerner tomorrow at Cape Sounion. He’s now in jail … so you’re the main man, dimbo.’

            ‘I’m not sure if … ‘

            ‘Preparation’s the key, matey. You’ve got to know what you’re doing. Lowenna … be a doll, would you; order food with wine from room service. We’ll take the whisky upstairs.’

            Lowenna Urquhart is, I’m sure, sticking pins into a mental picture of Battersby. He’s a pushy incarnation of everything her landed Hampshire parents have always despised. Rough, raw, loud and there. She does, however, deliver on what he’s asked for. The booze is welcome, and in the absence of a flip-chart, Battersby tapes sheets of A1 paper all over the walls of my hotel suite.

            Down in Syntagma Square and outside the Greek Parliament buildings, left and right wing demonstrators are clashing. There are National Alliance posters along with pictures of Kerner. ‘It’s a fit up!’ one of them announces before a police water cannon hits the bearer.

            ‘We can use what’s happening here, or at any English football match, to illustrate points in your presentation,’ Battersby tells me, and Lowenna’s perking up.

            ‘Teenage drinkers and gangs have got to be a target,’ she says. ‘They’re completely ruining our country. Most of it’s down to the fact that their parents are totally incapable.’

            Would she stand in for me at Cape Sounion? I wonder. She’s got a lot of down to earth spirit. She’s also got Battersby thinking about issues that concern our middle classes.

            ‘Yes – some emphasis on disorderly behaviour would be a good idea,’ he says. ‘The point to remember though is that if we didn’t support these lumpen elements with welfare benefits, we wouldn’t have the sort of difficulties we’re experiencing.’

            ‘But – ‘ I mutter. ‘You can’t just dismiss the British working classes out-of-hand. I mean, neither you nor I, Simon, were born with silver spoons in our mouths … right?’

            ‘Of course … and it’s probably best to acknowledge that quite a few good, ordinary working people were abused and exploited during the industrial revolution,’ Battersby says. ‘So we can probably link our current troubles with the universal enfranchisement that followed the Second World War. Plus all of the free schools, hospitals and housing … and of course the unemployment benefits.’

            ‘A noble ideal that was abused and went sour,’ I suggest and Battersby agrees.

            ‘My problem,’ I say after various ideas have gone up on the wall, ‘is that Kerner’s in jail. If I take his place as the main speaker tomorrow, he’ll know I’ve betrayed him. I’ll be in danger.’

            ‘Don’t worry, Lowenna assures me. ‘You’re with us now, Rudi. There’s no going back on that. We will guarantee your personal safety. If needs be, we’ll change your identity.’

            Great. I’ll be Joe Blogs in Southend-on-Sea; or maybe Pierre Onions in Bergerac.

            ‘So there’s nothing for you to worry about,’ she says. ‘You can do it.’

            Battersby’s looking at me like he thinks I need a good kicking.

            ‘We’ll take all of this Plato and Aristotle bollocks,’ he says, ‘and see where we can go with it. Aristotle’s the wally who’s with the masses. Plato’s the good guy. He’s an elitist, who wants a meritocracy, and you support him. This means you’ve got to take a firm line with all low-life elements. You bin social policy and any laws that are either too liberal, or which pander to political correctness.’

            Lowenna’s beaming. Battersby’s made a hit here. It’s an unlikely alliance and I seem to be the odd one out. I need to be clear about what it is I think they require from me.

            ‘OK … we want strong leadership and strict discipline. Any fooling around or drinking on the streets will be an offence. Hoodies, falling down trousers with tummy or bum revealing T-shirts will be banned. Recalcitrants will be birched and sent to jail; most probably on a remote Scottish island, where the weather’s awful. They’ll get bread and water while sewing up mailbags. They won’t be allowed out until they’ve passed five O levels or learned a trade. We need brickies, plasterers, plumbers, carpenters, mechanics and all sorts of fitters. Low lifes must attend parenting classes. They’ll not be allowed to have kids until they’ve passed the relevant tests.

            ‘All financial benefits will be given on merit. England will be run by the best and the brightest. The masses will be tolerated, but all privileges such as housing, healthcare and education must be earned. People will only be permitted to survive if they follow a path of righteous awareness and abstinence.’

            ‘Fucking great!’ Battersby yells. Lowenna bites her lower lip and gives a yelp.

            ‘There are various other issues to do with immigration, multiculturalism, pornography and sexuality. The first two are pretty straightforward. They’re to be discouraged. Pornography and all forms of bi, homo and under-age sexual shenanigans are absolutely out. Anyone caught indulging will be flogged. In extreme cases, offenders may be either castrated or locked up in a chastity belt.’

            ‘Shit! I didn’t think you had it in you, mate,’ Battersby says, impressed. ‘We’re hitting the ground running. This is fucking brilliant … however – we need to keep a grip on what we’re trying to do. The objective is to put you up as a media alternative to Kerner. Your job is to articulate ideas that our Government may, at an appropriate time, get behind, as it were. This means we may have to tone it down a bit on low or high life sexual activity, pornography and homophobia … although disapproval can of course be implicit.’

            I don’t think I care any more. I’ve lost Julia Stein, the love of my life. I’ve also probably alienated most of my neighbours in Islington. I may be on duty for Her Majesty, but Guardian readers everywhere will see me as a vile fascist. So fuck it. I might as well do what I’ve signed up for. At least that way I won’t get repossessed, and my former wife, Angela, will have some decent alimony payments if and when she’s released by the good sisters in Alabama.

            ‘We’ve done enough,’ Battersby says decisively. ‘I’ll make up cue cards and we can have a run through later. For now though, we’ve earned ourselves a night on the town.’

            ‘Gosh!’ Lowenna’s excited and patting her bob. ‘Where are we going, Simon?’

            ‘Pireaus,’ he says. ‘The US Sixth Fleet’s in town, so it’ll be lively.’

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