“I know that electrocuting race horses must seem like a pretty small scale scheme compared to some of the stuff we pulled off in the past, but there is a recession on, after all,” noted super villain Ernst Stavro Blofeld explained to Piers Morgan during an interview on the former tabloid editor’s new CNN show, in response to the hosts criticisms of his latest evil plot. “But believe me, this could still be a good earner – there’s still a lot of money in the racing business.” Blofeld and his international criminal organisation SPECTRE returned to the headlines after a hiatus of several decades, after claiming responsibility for the mysterious deaths by electrocution of two race horses at a recent race meeting in Newbury, before issuing an ultimatum to Britain’s racing industry that further horses would die unless its ransom demands were met. Although Blofeld has refused to confirm whether a ransom has actually been paid, there have been no further horse slayings. “In the current financial climate it just isn’t as easy as it used to be to get financial backing for those crazy schemes we used to come up with in the sixties and seventies,” he told Morgan. “Do you know how much it costs to set up something like hijacking a nuclear warhead to hold the world to ransom with? Not that you can get your hands on any nuclear weapons these days – demand from those crazy Islamic fundamentalist bastards have pushed the price through the roof. With the money from this job, which I financed myself from my personal savings, I’m hoping we can self-finance a bigger, more lucrative, plot next time. Perhaps one which takes me to the Bahamas, rather than Berkshire.”

Blofeld rejected Morgan’s accusation that it was actually the high failure rate of SPECTRE’s schemes which had eventually put off investors, alarmed at the poor rate of return they were getting. “Listen, the fact is that it is only the failures that get reported,” he retorted angrily. “For every failed venture, like that business to send those American rockets off course, there were at least ten successful ones that you never heard of because the ransom was paid. We have strong confidentiality clauses in all of our blackmail threats – we promise never to divulge details if they pay up!” The lack of corporate funding has forced SPECTRE to slim down its operations, cutting staff and eschewing the extravagant secret headquarters favoured in past decades. “Have you any idea what the overheads are like for a volcano which can launch spacecraft? The utility bills were a nightmare!” Blofeld told Morgan. “Let alone the costs of having it converted in the first place. These days we operate from a fully furnished office suite in Bromley and maintain most of our customer contacts via our website. It’s much more convenient.”

The super villain also admitted to Morgan that the market for SPECTRE’s kind of activities was nowadays far more competitive than it had been in the sixties and seventies. “We’re supposed to be the Special Executive for Counter-Intelligence, Terror, Revenge and Extortion, but these days the likes of al Qeada have cornered the terror business,” he sighed. “I wouldn’t mind, but they operate at a loss – they don’t seem interested in money at all! Crazy!” Revenge is another sector SPECTRE is finding it increasingly difficult to compete in. “These days if people want revenge, they just sell some embarrassing photos of their enemies to the tabloids,” Blofeld told Morgan. “As for extortion, that seems to be the preserve of fringe groups, threatening internet-based businesses with denial-of-service attacks and the like. There just doesn’t seem to be any demand for large scale schemes to blackmail the UN anymore.” The master criminal also bemoaned the difficulties of recruiting suitable henchmen. “Time was that we could easily attract top scientists, academics, intellectuals and industrialists into SPECTRE,” he sighs. “But nowadays these types no longer seem to see international villainy as an attractive career path. Now they all appear to see job security and benefits as being more desirable than the prospect of world domination. All the last microbiologist I interviewed, for instance, was interested in talking about was health care schemes and pensions!”

In attempt to attract higher quality staff, Blofeld admitted that he had been forced to make SPECTRE a friendlier workplace. “We used to take pride that in the fact that failure wasn’t tolerated in SPECTRE,” he says. “But now I have to give my operatives two verbal and one written warning before I can feed them to the piranhas.” According to the criminal genius, the lack of suitable personnel is another factor dictating the scale of his organisation’s current operations. “I’m being forced to trawl job centres and use work experience kids for the IT side – we can’t even recruit proper computer geeks. Apparently they can make more money running e-mail scams and bot-nets from the safety of their own bedrooms,” he laments. “Consequently, we have to keep everything simple and easily manageable – no spaceships, giant lasers or complex diamond smuggling rings, for instance.”

Morgan put it to Blofeld that the true reason for mounting the operation to disrupt British horse racing meetings by electrocuting the horses, was a desire to avoid going up against his arch-nemesis, James Bond, once more. “There’s no doubt that Mr Bond has been a nuisance in the past,” the master villain conceded, “and it is true that one advantage of basing our latest scheme in the UK is that Bond and his employers in the Secret Intelligence Service have no jurisdiction within Britain’s borders. We calculated that our only opposition would most likely be some dodgy ex-Jockeys employed as investigators by the bookies and owners – like in those Dick Francis novels. At worst, we’d find ourselves up against the Security Service MI5 – and they hold no fears for us. I’ve seen Spooks on the BBC, I know that all their operatives are Russian spies and incompetent bunglers.” Blofeld angrily refuted allegations that SPECTRE’s latest supposed plot was simply opportunism, and that the horses had at Newbury had been accidentally electrocuted by a faulty underground cable, with the crime syndicate falsely claiming responsibility in an attempt to bluff the racing industry into paying a ransom. “That’s an outrageous lie! How could anyone believe that a cable that had lain under the paddock for decades would suddenly become live and kill those two horses by accident, leaving their stable lads unscathed?” he snarled at Morgan, furiously banging the host’s desks with his fists. “I can assure you and your viewers that those nags were killed by an anti-horse ray devised by one of SPECTRE’s top scientific minds. Well, he used to work for Southern Electricity.”

Blofeld admitted that the ray wasn’t fired from a satellite, as it might have been during the halcyon days of his organisation. “Have you any idea how much it costs to have a satellite launched into orbit these days?” he asked. “No, we had it mounted on a kebab van in the car park. Far cheaper, plus we made over twenty five pounds selling kebabs and hotdogs that day. More than enough to pay for the petrol.” Blofeld concluded the interview by expressing his hope that the British government’s spending cuts might provide an opening for SPECTRE. “With Cameron wanting to outsource everything, I’m hoping that we could bid for some of that evil stuff governments do on the quiet,” he confided to Morgan. “You know the sort of thing – faking evidence of Weapons of Mass Destruction, destabilising foreign regimes, smearing UK activists and assassinations. I’m sure we can do it cheaper than MI6 and James-bloody-Bond – the bar bills will be lower, if nothing else.”