Monday, July 02, 2007

Timing and Regime Change

Two days after the regime change in the UK, the new Prime Minister was not woken up with the news of an attempted car bombing in Central London. (He was not told until 6am, and was displeased when he heard that the new Home Secretary had been told hours ago.) The following day, there was an attack on Glasgow Airport. The country remains in a state of critical alert.

Nobody seems to have any doubt that the timing of these incidents is related to the regime change in the UK. But what exactly is the point?

From a political point of view, the timing is bad for the Conservative Party. Instead of their devoting Gordon Brown's first weekend as Prime Minister to mounting the first of many attacks on his policies and personality, they were obliged to express the usual outrage at the attacks, and their general support (subject to the usual exclusions and caveats) for all necessary security measures.

Gordon Brown and Jacqui Smith appeared on television dressed just right - he looking statesmanlike, she looking like a plain clothes policewoman - and the public will be suitably calmed.

In the past, conspiracy theorists have often imagined that the main beneficiary of security attacks has been the state machinery itself, and have tried to find links between the perpetrators and the security forces. For all I know, false allegations about this week's incidents may already be circulating on the Internet.

But if we discount explanations of this kind, we are left with a puzzle. Why do the plotters of these attacks care whether Blair or Brown is Prime Minister - what possible difference does it make to their supposed agenda?

But that's just the point - it doesn't. The underlying message of these attacks is that, as far as the plotters are concerned, nothing has changed. And presumably nothing would change if the Conservatives were elected either. This message is reinforced by the timing, and therefore helps to explain the timing.

In other words, the trigger for the events is the non-occurrence (in the eyes of the plotters) of real regime change. This is another example of an intriguing phenomenon - positive effects produced by negative causes. (Although the reality of regime change may be a matter of opinion, it is the opinions of the plotters and their potential supporters that we need to look at first if we wish to understand the timing of their actions.)