​War by any other name... by Chris White

British Prime Ministers live and work at a highly prestigious address - 10 Downing Street, close to the Houses of Parliament, and to Buckingham Palace, the home of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. For decades successive holders of that office have been downed by scandalous stories, negative gossip and public disenchantment. But never has Westminster witnessed such an extreme series of events as those currently unfolding.

Boris Johnson is besieged by errors largely of his own making: but don't government leaders everywhere enjoy entitled lifestyles that are far removed from those of the people they represent?

In Britain today it is impossible to escape reports and conversations delighting in the impending downfall of the Prime Minister. I was isolated in this social context until I heard an interview with Ben Smith, former editor of BuzzFeed News and one of the men behind Politico, that aims to rival the likes of The New York Times, CNN and the BBC.

What caught my attention was his very firm statement that news reporting must be presented in a global context. As I have repeatedly stated, no individual issue is isolated. Every item in the news agenda has repercussions that reverberate far and wide.

There is, apparently, no obvious contender for Boris Johnson’s job in a governing party that is so internally divided. Do the British people really want a long period of political disruption and a possible general election? That is the wider question.

On Thursday of last week one leading international financial organisation reported that the pound sterling was at a two year high against the euro. The British economy appears to be recovering from both the pandemic crisis - and Brexit - and while there are also negative issues it seems from reports that a significant number believe that Boris and his team are due some credit.

But hey-ho, that is just politics, isn’t it? The bigger picture is that peace talks between Russia and the US over Ukraine have failed and the threat of war has not gone away. Within hours the news was dominated by reports of multiple cyber-attacks in Ukraine that have been generally blamed on Russia.

Back in July the head of Britain’s MI5 warned that cyber attacks were a major threat and were being used to foment terrorism. Just last week the head of Britain’s armed forces commented on the Russian threat to undersea cables - an issue that has cropped up from time to time over the past 20 years. Admiral Sir Tony Radakin described the cable system as "the world's real information system" explaining that they transmit internet data and that damaging them could lead to a declaration of war.

That, at the height of Boris Johnson’s self-imposed problems, the secret service MI5 should warn that a lawyer was a high-level Chinese agent in the Westminster Parliament, opened up yet another political scandal involving all parties. Similar stories have been reported across Europe.

For decades the media have been reporting how Russia and China have been hacking the west’s computer systems. That they have obtained almost all the computerised information held by governments, business and the military is not a far reach of the imagination.

Perhaps more pertinent in the shorter term is that both China and Russia have been generating false information on the internet and in the media. Someone in Deal asked me the other day why has no one has been arrested and charged for leaking information and photographs taken in private offices and on private land?

On reflection he may have touched on an important point. Should we be asking whether the breakdown in trust and confidentiality, not just in Britain but across the western world particularly including Europe, is perpetrated by people with sinister agendas?

That stupid party fiascos should lead to the downfall of an elected government at a time when a physical war is a real threat is bad enough. That everyone is ignoring that western democracies are actually suffering cyber-attacks and manipulation that generates false news amounting to a form of war is frightening.

If Boris should go, the consequences could impact on the whole western alliance!

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Chris White

Chris White

Chris White is a former UK national newspaper journalist and was the founder and editor of a magazine focussed on EU affairs.

Now writing for EUToday, Chris has his own column, 'Chris's Corner'.

Chris is a member of the Chartered Institute of Journalists, a professional association for journalists, the senior such body in the UK and the oldest in the world, having been founded in October 1884

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