This turned out to be one of those vaguely frustrating days. Meg and I had determined that we would venture out onto the High Street to make an optician’s appointment for both of us at Boot’s opticians. When we got there the store was closed – some kind of annual holiday so we would have to wait until tomorrow. I thought we would walk up and down the High Street (Tuesday is a market day when stallholders sell their wares) to see if a little hardware man who sells bits and pieces was there today as I needed to buy a wire brush. Frustratingly, he wasn’t there so having got all masked up we de-masked ourselves at the end of the High Street and made off for the park (where all of our usual benches were occupied – it was that kind of day) So we drank our coffee, admired the local heron who has a club foot and the locals call ‘Henry’ and made for home, encountering none of our normal friends en route. As we were walking home, the weather clouded over and what started off as quite a pleasant day became cloudy and oppressive.
The principal news of the day was the publication of the Intelligence and Security Committee’s report into the amount of illegitimate Russian influence in some of the recent UK electoral processes. Astonishingly, it appears that the security questions did not ask itself any questions about the amount of Russian influence as it felt that this would drag it into the arena of party politics which it wanted to avoid. However, it now looks as though it is belatedly recognised that Russian influence had been at work in the Scottish referendum. Noting that the Russians had attempted to interfere (and may well have done ) in the last USA presidential election when Trump was elected, it was now recognised that the Russian state liked to dabble in any politics that would destabilise any countries in the West. There is absolutely no official information whether there was any Russian influence in the Brexit campaign. However, the report recognises that London is now the money-laundering capital of the world as the UK welcomes Russian money following the opening of a new visa route in 1994 for foreigners who invested in the county and that few questions, were asked, if any, about the provenance of this considerable (Russian) wealth as Russian oligarchs embedded themselves into many aspects of British society (football clubs etc.) Although no questions were asked of MI6 about the involvement of Russia in the Brexit campaign, it seems inconceivable that Putin would not have seized the opportunity to destabilise the UK (by it being involved in a massive internal debate for years), weaken the EU (by detaching one of its members), aid the break up of the UK (if Scotland then Northern Ireland eventually leave the UK) and, add a stroke, greatly reduce any influence that the UK might have in the world (losing its place on the UK security council, for example). It is all a bit reminiscent of Horatio Nelson putting the telescope to his blind eye and saying ‘I see no flag’ so that he could countermand orders.
Under these circumstances, one has to turn to sources other than the British media which is now so supine. If you were to turn to the Huffington Post (independent of the Murdoch empire) you would read the following:
But there is also a lot we didn’t learn. Including footnotes, there are a grand total of 175 redactions in the report, indicated simply by three asterisks. Of course, there is one inference we can make about all of them – they’re redacted because they’re super juicy and top-secret.
The phrase that is being most commonly deployed is that our security services ‘took their eye off the ball‘. To the parliamentary committee that is meant to oversee their activities, the security services provided only six lines of written comment. By way of contrast, the American authorities treated allegations of Russian interference much more seriously. And a very detailed analysis of the 2016 presidential campaign by Kathleen Hall Jamieson has concluded ‘How Russia Helped Swing the Election for Trump’ Her meticulous analysis of online activity during the 2016 campaign makes a powerful case that targeted cyberattacks by hackers and trolls were decisive. In the case of our own Brexit campaign, it seems equally likely that Russian money and Russian cyberspace attacks helped to change the national mood (and you would only have to influence two people in a hundred – one person in 50) to reverse the result…