GCHQ Anniversary Exhibition
Sponsored amongst others by Raytheon UK and QinetiQ, it was with great pleasure yesterday morning that I attended the opening of a special exhibition in the Science Museum London yesterday morning entitled Top Secret: From Ciphers to Cyber Security.
Coinciding with the 100th anniversary of the foundation of what today is GCHQ (Government Communications Headquarters – Intelligence and Security Organisation) the ‘Top Secret’ – From Cyphers to Cyber Security exhibition sets out to explore the evolution of a century’s worth of communications intelligence activity through hand written documents, photographs, de-classified files and previously unseen decoding devices through both first and second world wars, the cold-war and right the way up to the latest innovations in cyber security today.
The work of GCHQ is probably the most important of anything that we as a nation does in relation to national defence and security. From a variety of locations spread around the country, to the vital Enigma codebreaking exploits of Alan Turing and his team at Bletchley Park during the Second World War together with Colossus (a set of computers designed to help cryptanalysis of the Lorenz cypher from 1943) though the cold-war years right up to present day highly secure Cheltenham Spa based GCHQ where the UK’s primary intelligence agency has been located in its fine ‘oval’ Headquarters building since 2003.
This splendid not to be missed exhibition at the Science Museum in South Kensington will show the willing onlooker not only why intelligence plays a vital role in national defence and security but why also the UK is held in such high esteem internationally for its expertise in the field of high-level discreet intelligence and cyber activities today.
I note reports that the Secretary of State for Defence, the Rt. Hon Penny Mordaunt has called for British shipbuilding to be a “red line” in any future deal with the European Union. Reports suggest that the Secretary of State has written to the Brexit Secretary, Stephen Barclay urging him to make the case for shipbuilding to be protected.
The history behind this is that during May trade-union leaders raised increased fears that MOD contracts to build supply vessels for the Royal Navy looked increasingly likely to go to Spain. Currently, only ships classified as warships and submarines have to be built in the UK – supply ships are not similarly protected.
Defence Procurement Minister Stuart Andrew is reported to have said “We do have actually a team UK bid in there and what we are trying to achieve is ensure that we are getting the very best price for all the capability that we need. If we were to cancel this competition now, we would put at risk the services that we need for [to support] the new Royal Navy carrier.”
Mr Andrew’s comments are clearly unsupportive of ensuring that support ships come under the same protected sovereign capability requirement process. France, Germany and even Spain would never dream of buying the support ships that they have from abroad so why is it that we should not similarly protect our own shipyards? I am grateful to the Secretary of State for the support that you have promised to provide.
Labour Digs Itself Another Big Hole
My goodness, one has to wonder which planet Jeremy Corbyn has been on for the past three years when he says that he has “done what I think a leader should do……an awful lot of listening to party members, trade unions and the wider Labour movement” before coming to a revised position in relation to Britain’s referendum decision to leave the European Union and his now calling on the next Tory Party leader to hold another referendum!
The new official line from Mr. Corbyn is that Labour would, in the event of a second referendum, campaign for remain. Well, that is what he says but in reality, with so many Labour MP’s having voted to leave and, just as he himself has done up to now, refusing to get behind a second referendum, I rather doubt that Mr. Corbyn will manage to carry more than half his party over the line.
IN a BBC interview Mr. Corbyn apparently said that he would “make a case” to Parliament in September to get another referendum and in the meantime, Labour will “do everything we can to take no-deal off the table or, to stop a damaging deal of the sort [that he suggests] Jeremy Hunt or Boris Johnson propose”.
Asked if he had changed his position because of pressure from colleagues, Mr Corbyn said: “Not a bit of it. I’ve been listening and I’ve enjoyed it.” He said that he could not say what Labour’s position would be at a general election, but would decide it “very quickly”, depending on the circumstances at the time, whenever one was called. In a letter to [Labour Party] members, he said that Labour continued to believe the “compromise plan” set out for Brexit during cross-party talks with the government earlier this year was a “sensible alternative that could bring the country together”. This included a customs union, a strong single market relationship and the protection of environmental regulations and rights at work.
This is a make or break deal for Labour and while it changes little for the Conservatives, it does bring the possibility of a second referendum nearer should the next Prime Minister attempt to move forward toward a no-deal Brexit.
All this might appear to suggest that if another referendum was to be held the vote to leave might well be reversed. Sadly, given the entrenched views of those who voted to leave in the 2016 referendum vote, whilst a reversal of the first decision might be what I would wish, if my reading of the temperature is correct, that in a second referendum would probably not be the case. At least yesterday’s vote in House of Commons, one that effectively scuppers the notion of proroguing Parliament in order to allow a no-deal Brexit to occur, is one step in the right direction of ensuring we will not leave the EU without a deal in place – albeit that is does not completely rule that scenario out. What a dreadful mess this country is in!
Over time and watching the tempo of hostile replies that I have received when ‘commentary’ has veered onto the ‘Remain’ stance I take the view that ’Leavers’ are more entrenched than they have ever been.
CHW (London – 10th July 2019)
Howard Wheeldon FRAeS
Wheeldon Strategic Advisory Ltd,
M: +44 7710 779785