Daily Mail

Se­cu­rity must al­ways trump grubby pol­i­tics

- Politics · United Kingdom · Secret Intelligence Service · Boris Johnson · Chris Grayling · Arbeidersparty · Government Communications Headquarters · Julian Lewis

TO pro­tect Bri­tain from ter­ror­ists, cy­ber­hack­ers and hos­tile states, our in­tel­li­gence agen­cies re­ceive sweep­ing clan­des­tine pow­ers – the so-called ‘dark arts’.

The quid pro quo is that these watch­ers – MI5, MI6 and GCHQ, plus their mas­ters in Gov­ern­ment – are them­selves watched by Par­lia­ment’s se­cre­tive In­tel­li­gence and Se­cu­rity Com­mit­tee (ISC).

The im­por­tance of na­tional se­cu­rity is so colos­sal that this watch­dog is sup­posed to tran­scend grubby pol­i­tics. No 10 should there­fore be ashamed of its bun­gled at­tempt to hi­jack it. Con­temp­tu­ously, Boris John­son and his ap­pa­ratchiks schemed to im­pose a lackey as chair­man – Chris Grayling, whose dis­as­trous Cabi­net ca­reer earned him the so­bri­quet ‘Fail­ing Grayling’.

To their fury, the plot back­fired. Throw­ing a tantrum, No 10 promptly re­moved the whip from the suc­cess­ful can­di­date, Tory Ju­lian Lewis. In­fin­itely bet­ter qual­i­fied for the cru­cial post, his crime was to re­ceive sup­port from Labour MPs.

Adding in­sult to in­jury, the im­par­tial com­mit­tee quickly vowed to pub­lish a po­ten­tially awk­ward re­port into Rus­sian in­ter­fer­ence in Uk elec­tions, which the Prime Min­is­ter had sat on – fu­elling con­spir­acy the­o­ries. Could Down­ing Street have scored a more spec­tac­u­lar own goal?

Again, Mr John­son stands ac­cused of con­trol-freak­ery. Is he re­ally so ter­ri­fied of scru­tiny he needed to ma­nip­u­late the ISC?

With his Gov­ern­ment widely con­sid­ered to be botch­ing the coro­n­avirus re­sponse, it’s baf­fling he should be­come side­tracked by po­lit­i­cal chi­canery. How in­com­pe­tent that No 10’s favoured can­di­date couldn’t even win a vote they’d tried to rig.

And for a wannabe spy watch­dog, it speaks vol­umes that Mr Grayling failed to spot ma­noeu­vres un­der his very nose.

By pun­ish­ing Mr Lewis, who is steeped in se­cu­rity, the PM risks ap­pear­ing cava­lier about vi­tal safe­guards against abuse of state power. The sav­ing grace is that the bid to politi­cise the ISC crashed. Never should ide­ol­ogy trump na­tional se­cu­rity.

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