I concluded my entry on July 10th by saying: ‘I am certainly not going to feel that my security will be in any way enhanced by knowing that Chris Grayling will be chairing our national Intelligence and Security Committee.’ After successfully managing to stall the operation of this important committee for six months via the simple expedient of avoiding getting round to nominating its Tory membership, it had become clear to Cummings and Johnson that they would have to succumb to the inevitable and allow it to start functioning – but only on their own terms. Baldrickian cunning plan B was to make sure that whatever it is that they are so anxious to keep hidden would stay under wraps via the appointment of one of their less intellectually gifted Brexiteer yes-men to the chair of the committee. The constitution of the Intelligence and Security Committee, which, uniquely, sees the chair being independently elected by the other members of the committee, would be no obstacle. When had a mere principle stood in the way of either Johnson or Cummings getting what he wanted?
Alas, even Machiavelli and Rasputin must have had their off days: their cunning plans, unlike those of the A Team, will sometimes not have come together. There will have been days when, distracted by side-issues like an outbreak of the plague or the after effects of a bad batch of vodka, or perhaps even concerns that their eye-sight might be failing or that a recent dalliance might come to light, they allowed themselves to be outmaneuvered. So to Tory consternation and unexpected schadenfreude for the rest of us, as it turned out, Grayling wasn’t elected after all. Julian Lewis, a Tory right-wing Brexiteer who is obviously less biddable than his Tory right-wing Brexiteer counterpart Grayling, was elected instead, thanks to collusion with the Labour members of the committee. This coup put paid to both parts of the Cummings/Johnson cunning plan in one fell swoop. Not only did they not end up with their ventriloquist’s dummy in the chair, but, potentially even more problematic, they have been landed with a chair who actually knows something about Intelligence and Security. Lewis has been a member of the Defence Select Committee since 2010, and a member of the Intelligence and Security Committee since 2014. So the bit of the plan that involved having Grayling make the same mess of chairing, and thereby discrediting, the Intelligence and Security Committee as he has of every government department he has ever been put in charge of disappeared out of the window at the same time.
In normal circumstances arch manipulators would tend to keep quiet about it if they had tried illegitimately and unsuccessfully to manoeuver their stooges into the chair of a committee they shouldn’t have been interfering with. They would go back into their darkened room and concoct cunning plan C. But that is all too evidently not the Johnson and Cummings bullyboy style. They clearly don’t give a damn that the world knows they have been involved in skull-duggery, or even that they have been outmaneuvered in the dirty tricks department, provided it also knows that they have exacted appropriate revenge. Nobody had better try to do anything like that again, particularly not if it involves colluding with members of the opposition. No doubt regretting that their whips are not allowed to take their titles literally, they have had to content themselves with having Julian Lewis thrown out of the Conservative party. As a shining example of how to ‘Take back Control’ that may yet prove something of a double-edged sword: while it demonstrates a ruthless vindictiveness towards any party member who might have the temerity to cross them, and could serve its purpose as a deterrent, it simultaneously ensures that the Chair of this key committee is genuinely independent of any political party and that the long delayed report on Russian interference in the general election will see the light of day very soon. It might yet prove not to have been a particularly brilliant tactical move on the part of a Prime Minister who has a lot to hide, extending from the number of children he has fathered to who knows what else, to alienate and antagonise the chair of parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee and, in the process, deprive his party of its majority on the committee.