View from Westminster

Recent events in Salisbury have certainly turned people’s minds to international relations. The image of a ‘hazchem’ dressed anti-terrorist officer, in front of Salisbury cathedral is a cross between MacMafia and an Alistair MacLean novel. An attempted murder using state created nerve agents is a very big deal.

Of course, there have been any number of unexplained deaths of Russian nationals over the years, but in the main, they have been using conventional methods. This week, Nikolai Glushkov was killed by, apparently, strangulation and already it is being linked to the Kremlin. But a strangling, a shooting, an ‘unexplained’ falling from a high window, a stabbing – all have an element of doubt about them regarding who did it. Without proof, we can only speculate whether these deaths were state sponsored, mafia induced, or simply an accident or random act of violence. But the weapon of choice in Salisbury has Russian state fingerprints all over it; it only remains to confirm once and for all (in the minds of the public) that this was a direct order from the Kremlin or whether a third party got hold of the nerve agent and used it to frame the Russian government for any number of reasons.

In a case like this, where evidence that is used by a state will have been collected in several imaginative ways, it is not possible to publish all the data and evidence collected. So, to a certain extent, we must trust the government with regard what they do and how they handle this. Parliament has the Intelligence and Security Committee that can look more carefully at the evidence and procedures under secure terms, and so parliament does have a way to scrutinise this confidential information. Similarly, the leader of the opposition, as a Privy Councillor, also gets to see a lot of the information.

However, one thing that does give me enormous confidence is that our Prime Minister spent over six years as Home Secretary. IN that role, she would have become incredibly familiar with all the issues that surround domestic security and will be, almost certainly, the best informed PM we could have hoped for this situation.

This week, 23 Russian and 23 British diplomats are packing their bags and going home. This is just the start of this story, and now is absolutely the right time for political parties to come together in our nation’s interest.