show image

Gummer appointed as anti-Russian security tsar

Cabinet office minister Ben Gummer (pictured) has been appointed “anti-subversion minister” with a brief to protect the integrity and security of the next general election.

The irony of having an anti-Russian “tsar” has been pointed out in a number of comments on the national papers’ websites; we’re only too pleased to bring it to your attention again.

Cyber security threat

Prime among his responsibilities will be to protect the UK from any impending security threat from foreign powers, particularly when they try to influence the result of the next general election. A government statement referred to “broad efforts within government to protect the integrity of UK democratic life”, which is comfortingly woolly.

Recent incidents that have prompted the move include, according to official sources such as the foreign secretary speaking over the weekend: the attack on French television channel TVMonde in 2015, Montenegro’s attempted coup and of course the allegations of Russian involvement in the election of Donald Trump as president of the USA.

Speaking on Robert Peston’s TV show yesterday, foreign secretary Boris Johnson actually said of Russian intelligence: “You’ve seen what happened in the United States where there’s no question at all that they were involved in the hacking of the Democratic National Convention.”

It may actually be worth taking a second to reflect that the foreign secretary can, on national television, confirm Russian involvement in the election of the US president and cause neither a diplomatic incident nor further calls for an inquiry into the election. These are curious times.

Specific measures

The appointment is backed by the foundation of the National Cyber Security Centre a couple of weeks ago, which will offer seminars and help to all political parties in keeping their servers secure. Resistance to “fake news” will also be part of Gummer’s brief, although frankly we’re guessing this is one of those roles that will evolve over time and end up looking completely different.