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  • Iain Donnelly

Is this government now the single biggest threat to our national security?

Updated: Oct 21, 2022

The events of the last seven days have shocked a British public already feeling thoroughly exhausted and ground down by the relentless chaos, drama and dishonesty of a government increasingly out of control and contemptuous of the standards of behaviour expected of those they govern and contemptuous of the standards of professionalism expected of every other occupation.

So, what’s my point? ‘You write about policing Iain; why are you writing about this stuff?’ I hear you ask.

Two reasons.

The first reason is that I am convinced that we are being led by a government that should probably now be treated as a serious national security threat to the UK.

Am I being overly dramatic when I say that? Maybe.

I'm a very reasonable and typically fair minded person, but the damage that has been caused latterly really concerns me. I spent a large part of my career investigating national security threats and organisations that would do us harm; so I feel qualified to comment.

Let’s look at the evidence and then you can make up your own mind.

Many of us believed that the MP's expenses scandal in 2009 had to be the ultimate low point for British politics as the public recoiled at revelations of outrageous liberties taken by MPs who had defrauded taxpayers on an industrial scale. Many ended up with criminal convictions, and some went to prison. There was a genuine sense in Britain that this would be a turning point. It had to be because we thought it couldn’t get any worse.

But we were wrong. It was going to get a lot worse.

Since then, we have all watched with an increasing sense of unreality and impotence as the Tory government since 2010 starved every public service of resources with crippling austerity measures. This unquestionably created greater inequality in Britain, increased homelessness, worsened the mental health of entire communities and created a culture of dependency on food banks to feed the poorest families. Public safety has been a bloody disaster, with policing crippled by cuts and an explosion of gun and knife crime that has cost the lives of scores of children.

We then had the dishonesty of the Johnson premiership. The proroguing of parliament, achieved by misleading the Queen, was later ruled unlawful by the Supreme Court. Johnson broke the ministerial code with his criminal sanction over Partygate, and he went on to redraft the code to reduce the potential sanctions for ministers who break the rules, removing references to honesty, integrity, transparency and accountability. This resulted in the resignation of his ethics advisor Christopher Geidt. Unsurprisingly, Johnson then decided that he no longer needed an ethics advisor, given that his last two ethics advisors and anti-corruption tsar John Penrose had all resigned in despair.

Finally, even his strongest supporters decided that enough was enough, and he was forced out in disgrace. Surely now, things must change for the better. Wouldn’t they?

No, sadly not.

In the last seven days, we have seen yet another unelected Tory Prime Minister conspire with her Chancellor to trash the economy with reckless, ideological policies that they were warned would cause the pound to tank and push up interest rates. Policies that will benefit only the rich.

The revelation that they are now seriously contemplating reducing benefits to help pay for this mess shows their contempt for those worst off in society. If anyone doubts how out of control and out of her depth our new Prime Minister is, you need to listen to the compilation of her interviews with local BBC stations . It’s toe-curlingly bad, and I almost (but not quite) started feeling sorry for her—a great example of arrogance and personal ambition outstripping experience and competence.

The British Government has three National Security Objectives. Here they are.

· National Security Objective 1 - to protect our people – at home, in our Overseas Territories and abroad, and to protect our territory, economic security, infrastructure and way of life.

· National Security Objective 2 - to project our global influence – reducing the likelihood of threats materialising and affecting the UK, our interests, and those of our allies and partners.

· National Security Objective 3 - to promote our prosperity – seizing opportunities, working innovatively and supporting UK industry.

Objective 1 is to protect the British people.

How’s that one going? Well, anyone who’s read what I say in my book, in this blog or listened to my podcast will know it’s been a slow-moving car crash. The stats are eye-watering. 50% of police stations closed and sold off, 75% in London. A demoralised and underfunded police service is struggling to deal with the simplest of crimes because they’re overwhelmed by the fallout and mess caused by Tory cuts to other public services. Police officers resigning en masse after a few years, ensuring that there will a lack of experience to staff units dedicated to fighting serious crime and terrorism.

Objective 2 is to protect our global influence.

How’s that one going? In short, the rest of the world (and Europe in particular) has been watching from between its fingers with a mixture of horror and grim fascination as the UK implodes. This government hasn’t just shot itself in the foot internationally. It pointed the gun at every other limb and emptied the magazine. We have no trade deal with Europe, and even the USA has stopped taking our calls. Truss has allegedly asked civil servants to stop using the term 'Special relationship' in our dealings with the USA and openly proposed that President Macron, (our nearest neighbour, a nuclear power and G7 member) may be our enemy rather than our friend. The UK is turning into the sickly child with two left feet that no one wants on their football team.

Objective 3 is to promote our prosperity.

How’s that one going? How do you think it’s going? Yeah…thought so.

Set against the government’s own national security objectives, they themselves, weirdly, are probably now the single biggest threat that the UK faces to its national security.

The second reason I’m talking about this is more in line with my more typical musings on policing.

Why? Because there is now a genuine risk of severe public disorder and civil disobedience on a much larger scale than we saw with the Poll Tax riots of 1990.

The latest Truss revelation that she plans to claw back some of the revenue from tax cuts for the rich with an attack on benefits; proposing that they rise in line with earnings rather than inflation, has very uncomfortable echoes of her hero Margaret Thatcher, the architect of the hated ‘Poll Tax’. The Poll Tax or ‘Community Charge’ ensured that large families occupying relatively small houses would see their charges increase considerably. Thatcher was accused of saving the rich money and moving the cost onto the poor.

I didn’t go to Trafalgar Square in 1990. Like poor Cinders left behind to sweep the grate, I had to stay behind and watch it all unfolding on TV. It was horrific, and many of my colleagues were badly injured that day. Some of them never recovered, with serious brain injuries and epileptic fits for the rest of their lives.

The scale of what might happen is potentially much greater than the Poll Tax issue.

We have a deeply unpopular, authoritarian government that has imposed three unpopular Prime Ministers on us. They have all, in different ways, been a bit of a disaster, and the latest seems to be plumbing new depths of arrogance and incompetence.

However, it is the impact of this government on deepening inequality that will ultimately be their downfall. They shamelessly look after their own kind, and everyone else can basically go screw themselves.

I wouldn’t mind so much if people like Liz Truss and Kwasi Kwarteng had to don flameproofs and take the half-bricks to their head with only a short shield and leg guards to protect them. But we all know that it’ll be the cops who get thrust into the frontline.

As always, politicians like Liz Truss are writing cheques that police officers will have to cash with their blood, broken bones and mental health.

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