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  • Lawrence Bailey

When murky worlds collide

The events of Salisbury and subsequent fallout are chilling but much is still unclear as recriminations drag on - and it could stay that way.

Whatever the truth of things, it’s undeniable that those responsible showed a callous disregard for the victims and anyone else.

In many respects, the attack resembled a sloppily-executed drone strike where collateral damage happens because the aggressor has no respect for sovereignty nor any fear of meaningful retaliation.

Readers of espionage fiction will nod at this point in the knowledge that ‘Smiert Spionam’ (Death to Spies) calls for an exaggerated use of lethal force in a way that not only punishes traitors but deters others from thinking along the same lines.

I suppose that’s why the media are happy to portray events as something out of a John LeCarre novel. Of course, the spectacle of a plucky PM leading a nation under siege plays quite well too.

Every politician knows that a little jingoism goes a long way. For one thing, it blurs recollection that the same emergency services Mrs May has been busy praising are the ones she’s denied a decent wage increase to in years.

Similarly lost among the fist-bumping and posing for selfies is the inconvenient fact that her party sacked 319 personnel in 2011 as part of £129m in cuts to chemical weapons defence.

Anyway, the official line is to focus on bans, boycotts and diplomats packing their bags, while the UK financial establishment ensures its favourite Kensington-based oligarchs remain untroubled (and preferably conscious).

I’ve read calls that we should respond in kind. Little chance of that though. We Brits prefer to sell the wherewithal to other nations in arms deals so that can they dump home-made toxins on their own populace; a practice likely to continue until such time as our foreign policy develops a conscience.

That would be the same conscience that barely murmured a protest when Russia instigated atrocities in the Ukraine and marched its troops into the Crimea.

But let’s be fair, Downing Street has nothing like the level of state influence that's available to the Kremlin. So there’s little possibility of May dispatching a task force either physically or in cyberspace. Near enough a decade of privatising government agencies and scrapping strategic defence has made sure of that.

As for the warm words from Britain’s allies – these being the allies with which we’re otherwise dead keen to sever political and economic ties – it’s safe to assume that words is all we can expect. Trump is probably good for a few more tweets and then that’s yer lot.

That leaves us on our lonesome while media commentators look up ‘Cold War’ on Wikipedia or else remark how events have highlighted foreign policy divisions within Labour - as if Brexit hadn’t already done that job pretty effectively.

Meanwhile, as things increasingly descend into party politics, so fickle public attention switches to other important such as who’s likely to be hosting the next series of ‘I’m a Celebrity’ if Dec doesn't get out of rehab.

Too bad comrade. Looks like your fifteen minutes is up.

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