There’s a little debate about what exactly happened here.
The role of security minister was handed to Home Secretary Priti Patel around a month ago, after then-incumbent James Brokenshire announced that he had to give it up to fight cancer. He had had the disease before but it had returned.
This should have been on a strictly temporary – emergency – basis while Johnson found a replacement.
But Johnson dithered.
He left Patel in charge of the brief for more than a month and then – yesterday, the day after a gunman shot five people in Plymouth in the worst shooting incident on UK soil since 2010 – it was reported that Patel was taking over the role on a permanent basis.
Priti Patel to take over security minister brief on permanent basis
Another mindless, reckless decision by Johnson. https://t.co/c29E7Pa9MJ
— Clare Hepworth OBE (@Hepworthclare) August 13, 2021
If that decision actually came from Johnson, it didn’t last.
Priti Patel loses security minister brief after less than 24 hours | The Independent https://t.co/iZhK5X5tZl
— Oz – Sickrabbit Soundlabs 100% PRO LIFE 💙# (@SICKRABBIT67) August 14, 2021
It was announced that Damian Hinds would take on the brief, last than a day after we were told Patel would keep it.
Damian Hinds to be security minister after Johnson U-turn over Priti Patel https://t.co/fUNb8eDsE4
— Clare Hepworth OBE (@Hepworthclare) August 14, 2021
One is encouraged to speculate on the reason for the apparent confusion – and one logical answer presents itself immediately.
The ‘Security’ brief includes counter-terrorism, serious and organised crime, cybercrime, economic crime, hostile state activity, extradition, and royal and VIP protection.
It also covers online harms; the common travel area between the UK, Ireland, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands; aviation and maritime security; Grenfell; and flooding, hurricane, and natural disaster relief.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, the minister also oversaw the functioning of the domestic national security system, including MI5 and counter-terrorism policing, as well as the functioning of the serious and organised crime system, including the National Crime Agency, and cybersecurity.
Backtract a little…
“Hostile state activity”?
Didn’t Priti Patel go on a junket to Israel while pretending to be on holiday, hold meetings with a series of heavyweight Israeli politicians including then-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and then try to use her influence as (then-) International Development Secretary to divert some of that department’s budget to fund the Israel Defence Force occupying the Golan Heights in Syria?
And didn’t this happen only a few months after an Israeli Embassy employee conspired with at least one Conservative to have Foreign Office minister Alan Duncan removed from his position because he was perceived to be hostile to that country?
Both those actions could be deemed to be activity by a hostile state.
And one of them involved Patel herself. Clearly she is unfit to be trusted with such a sensitive government brief.
So I wonder whether Johnson was reminded of this, and changed his mind.
That would at least suggest that he has some sense of judgement.
The alternative – that he made his decision without even realising that his Home Secretary is herself a security risk – is horrifying indeed. Isn’t it?
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