So, the day finally arrived. The eternal ghost at the Tory feast has finally emerged into the public domain – in the form of the much heralded and long delayed Russia report.
To merely regard it as “long delayed” doesn’t really do sufficient justice to the outright painful dragging of feet which took place to delay its publication. It was placed on Boris Johnson’s desk on the 17th October; completed, fully reviewed and ready for its findings to be released. The standard turn around time for a simple matter of prime ministerial approval is ten days – Boris Johnson managed to delay it for nine months.
Given the endless litany of pitiful and downright illogical excuses trotted out over this period by all manner of subservient Downing Street stooges, many wondered whether this report would ever see the light of day at all. I know I did. After all, the government had even resorted to the frankly absurd measure of attempting to grant chronic failure Chris Grayling meaningful employment in order to potentially block its release.
Fortunately, having somehow managed to underestimate Chris Grayling’s innate ability to inexplicably fail, this last throw of the dice died unceremoniously on its arse – though the news that this now almost mythical report was finally going to see the light of day still caught many by surprise. In fact, Nigel Farage found himself so stupefied with excitement that he announced his conclusions of the report nearly three hours before he’d actually be able to read it.
So, putting Nigel’s laughable delusions of purity to one side, what did the report actually say?
For the especially curious amongst you who wish to go one step beyond Nigel Farage and actually read the blasted thing, it can be viewed in its totality here (inevitable redactions not withstanding, of course). However, if you simply wish for an overarching, take away message in relation to how those pesky Russians subverted our democracy and aided in a steaming pile of Brexit being shat out upon our collective front lawn, here it is:
The government found no evidence of Russian involvement in the Brexit referendum – because they didn’t bother to look for it.
Now the committee itself stopped short of saying this was a nefarious act of deliberate avoidance because, let’s face it, they lacked both the remit and resources required to even come close substantiating such an accusation – but we can engage in some amount of deductive reasoning based on what we already know.
For instance the manner in which this report was continually downplayed and delayed, while dubious from the very outset, has now been exposed. In fact, the committee representatives went to considerable length to notify the watching world that the seemingly endless repertoire of excuses the government had used to justify the lack of publication were patently false. On each and every count.
No ifs. No buts. Entirely false.
Given that the government’s own paper trail of brazen dishonesty has led us to the inescapable conclusion that there was something in this report they had wanted to hide, you then have to look into what this could be. The most damning element of the report is clearly the government’s utterly bewildering refusal to even take a cursory glance at potential Russian inference, so we’ll make it our choice for further examination.
It has long been an open secret that Russia are at the very forefront of cyber warfare. It’s an incontrovertible fact and the supporting evidence is harder to ignore than being bludgeoned round the head with a frozen haddock. In a world where military and economic supremacy forever eludes them, they have to engage in more underhand tactics – utilising both our inherent credulity and an over-reliance on easily manipulated social media platforms to build our understanding of the world around us. Whether it’s through perpetuating the flow of misinformation or sowing the insidious seeds of social discord, as a tactic for destabilising rival nations it’s proven to be far more cost effective than staging military incursions.
Entertaining the notion that our government legitimately didn’t consider such skulduggery to even be a potential threat to UK democracy, would be to grant them such a minuscule level of competence they’d find themselves outwitted by the average kidney stone. However, while many critics would likely buy into the idea that recent Tory governments have been unfathomably incapable, the far more likely alternative is that they simply didn’t want to open that potential Pandora’s box.
Why would they be so afraid, you ask? For a start, even if they were to uncover the slightest whiff of interference in the Brexit referendum it would serve to undermine the vote – and, as we’re all acutely aware, the idea that the result was somehow sacrosanct and beyond all question forms the cornerstone of Brexiteer (and, by extension, Tory) rhetoric. Without this safe haven of boneheaded obfuscation, the justification for Boris’ Brexit crumbles to dust.
But that’s a mere ideological concern. The real meat of the matter likely lies in the increasingly sinister links the Conservatives have with Russia – not least in the form of party donors. Furthermore, Vote Leave figurehead, former Foreign Secretary and current regrettable Prime Minister Boris Johnson has more than his fair share of mysterious and unexplained links to Russian oligarchs – so how do you think Boris Johnson feels about following through with the intelligence committee recommendation to finally sanction an investigation?
Take a guess.
Even to the less sceptical of souls, such an astonishing failure of government and dereliction of duty with regards to basic national security should raise serious questions; not least in relation to the personal motivations lingering underneath each and every calamitous decision – but what can be done about it?
Regrettably, as with many potential solutions to the innumerable ills which serve as a blight on our nation, the answer finds itself marooned in the realm of starry-eyed idealism rather than being firmly grounded in any plausible reality – but alas, a stubborn, almost fanatical devotion to the mission of never letting this matter rest is the only remotely viable chance of recourse which exists.
As a citizenry, we’ve been dealt a “Fuck you” so potent it should have sufficient strength cross those normally impassible partisan borders and enrage the populace as a whole. We’ve all been played for saps by Boris and friends. They spent an entire nine months attempting to sweep the Russia report under the carpet, being sure to further bury the truth under a fresh layer of bullshit whenever pressed upon its whereabouts.
Irrespective of what side of the political fence you pitch your tent upon, the message of today’s report is impossible to deny: whether it be through gross incompetence or self interested chicanery, the collective sum of recent Tory governments have failed the country – and both the media and electorate should not let this matter rest until the guilty have finally been held accountable.
Of course, impassioned calls to action aside, I don’t consider any scenario in which justice is actually done to be the least bit plausible. In all probability, this will merely disappear like a fart in the wind. Gone the way of the stink created by Robert Jenrick’s dodgy dealings or the foul odour left in the wake of Dominic Cumming’s unconventional eye test. As pungent as both stenches once were, they’ve now all but vanished into the ether – all without any consequence being administered to the perpetrator.
Perhaps you’re fine with this. Maybe you’re sufficiently tribal to the extent whereby honesty and integrity are outmoded concepts to be cast aside in the relentless quest to help your side emerge triumphant in this increasingly preposterous “culture war”. If you’re that far gone, I’ll never be able to convince you otherwise.
But don’t kid yourself into thinking that Britain is a functional democracy accountable to the people – because in reality, you’re more powerless than ever.Follow @grahamlithgow