Thursday 15 October 2009
Defence of the Realm
On Tuesday evening I walked over to Chatham House where Professor Christopher Andrews gave an entertaining talk with the title of this post. He had some interesting things to say - including the view he expressed that sometimes it was the politicians who were more obsessed with "subversives" than MI5 itself. He also pointed out that when Harold Wilson became Prime Minister in 1974 he was worried that the Labour Government might by hit by its own "Profumo Affair" - something which had destabalised the Tories and let him into 10 Downing Street. He made George Wigg (the Labour MP who had managed to use procedure to place the Profumo Affair on the record in Parliament and led the pursuit of Profumo which ultimately resulted in the latter's resignation.) his own personal 'National Security Adviser'. Wigg fed him with gossip and was the link to MI5 & MI6. Professor Andrews did not seem impressed with Wigg's contribution.
The talk coincided with the recent publication of Professor Andrew's latest book, the MI5 authorised history of that organisation. I didn't buy the book - as I won't have chance it read it at the moment - but, based on the respect I have for Professor Andrew's previous work - and the presentation he gave - I will be buying it soon - and reading it!
One message was very clear - the need to learn from history. He put intelligence failures down to what he described as "Historical Attention Deficit Syndrome".