Friday, 28 January 2011

It's all a matter of trust

Danielle’s applied for a couple of jobs which require security clearance – one of the firms was supplying sensitive equipment to the Ministry of Defence, carburettors, I think, or perhaps windscreen wipers – while the other produced barcodes, and obviously we don’t want the Chinese to know just how much we’re prepared to pay for wrapped vegetables in our supermarkets.

It was made clear to her that she was a bit of an outsider for either job, because we tend not to appoint to sensitive positions people who are... how shall I put this? ... is there a way of avoiding an insulting term? ... no, I’m just going to have to bite the bullet and risk causing offence... foreigners. You see, Danielle’s French, and you don’t get much more foreign than that. I mean, we let them ashore in Sussex in 1066, and look what happened.

Anyway, I fully appreciate the concern. You can’t really trust anyone but a Brit, can you? You even need to be careful with the Welsh and the Scots. No, to be really sure of your ground, you have to stick with the English.

We’ve had some striking examples recently. There was that Metropolitan Police agent Mark Kennedy who, under the name Mark Stone, spent years posing as an activist inside the environmental movement. Deep penetration was the name of his game, and he took it rather further with some of the female members of the movement than his lords and masters had originally intended. Or so they claim now. I think the point was to show that, although the police mostly believe in conspiracy, they’re fully prepared to entertain a bit of cock up too.

Since his story came out, it’s emerged there were several more of his colleagues inside the wackier reaches of the green movement. One of them, Jim Boyling, aka Jim Sutton, went so far as to marry one of the activists and have a couple of children by her. That’s a level of devotion to the service of the public that I believe unrivalled since the days of East Germany and their glorious State Security. You can imagine how much more easily I sleep knowing that out there are men capable of scaling the same moral heights as the heroes of the former Stasi, to protect us all from the threat of the tree huggers.

Boyling (left) and Kennedy: two of England's finest and truest
But the best has to be story of Alan Johnson. Until a week ago, he was Labour spokesman on the economy (a subject on which he confessed he knew nothing). He’s been obliged to step down (and make way for Ed Balls, who knows a great deal more). By doing so he brings to an end a career that it would be hard to describe as glittering – he doesn’t do glitter, our Alan: he’s not really gold, but other metals are almost as valuable, you know, among them lead. Though deprived of sheen, his career had been long and successful, taking him to one of the great offices of state, Home Secretary, responsible among other things for the police.

Which is ironic, since if he’s stepped down, it’s because of the behaviour of his police protection agent. These are the bodyguards provided for serving and former politicians, whether they’re gilded like Tony Blair or leaden like Johnson. The copper assigned to Johnson had gone so far in the task of getting close to his protégés as to have an affair with Laura, Alan’s wife.

These are the men and women who have been certified as trustworthy by the state, receiving official security clearance.

With such models, I can’t help wondering how Danielle should feel if she doesn’t get the same level of clearance herself. Disappointed, of course. But shouldn’t she perhaps feel a little bit flattered too? Or at least relieved?

1 comment:

Malc Dow said...