Brexit Britain is only able to have one enemy at a time – and it’s not Russia any more

When the culture secretary briskly announced the government’s decision to end the involvement of China’s telecoms giant in 5G, this country’s foreign policy is suddenly in a different world, writes Mary Dejevsky

Thursday 16 July 2020 20:46 BST
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How often, over the past 10 years or so, have any of our leading politicians sought to look behind the Cold War cliches?
How often, over the past 10 years or so, have any of our leading politicians sought to look behind the Cold War cliches? (AP)

The long-awaited report on claims of Russian interference in UK political life is finally expected to see the light of day next week, just before parliament rises for the recess. All the necessary ducks are finally in a row: parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee has been reconstituted, though not with the chair the prime minister wanted. The government has a big majority, so there is no election on the horizon, and there are plenty of diversions for public attention, including the continuing ups and downs of the coronavirus and what remains of people’s plans for the summer.

But the government apparently needed another one – another diversion, that is. And it came in the form of an accusation by the foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, that it was “almost certain that Russian actors” had interfered in the 2019 election. Regrettably, that “almost certain” qualification works almost every time. Think about it. If the government or the Intelligence and Security Committee could prove that Russia did interfere, you can bet your bottom dollar they would have said so. The “almost” in such contexts means “not”.

This is about pre-emptive defence. With no evidence of any Russian electoral interference pre-2019, I surmise, the government is trying to deflect attention from the other likely strand of the report: the use of money, and not just Russian money, to influence UK politics. Let’s see.

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