Debates on the euro crisis, an impressive speech on cyber security by Lord Reid, and the best fish and chips in Britain fill the week of the director of Buckingham university's Centre for Security and Intelligence StudiesSunday
My wife Linda and I drive over to Henley where we are invited to Sue and James Elles's drinks party. I discuss the eurozone crisis with a Conservative government minister who is very gloomy. I say that Cameron should stop talking the crisis up – the minister looks bored as if he's heard it all before. But the party is tremendous.
The day starts like all working days, with reading emails and the Sky News
website. Sky News
itself is having a field day with the eurozone crisis. Of course, Rupert Murdoch never liked the euro, or the European Union for that matter, but even euro supporters like me can see that awful errors have been made. It's seriously irritating when political incompetence lets the wrong people get things right. I begin to work on an intriguing and scholarly Reading PhD thesis about Soviet deception policies in the 1980s.
The afternoon is spent thinking about the new threat to our national security posed by cyber attacks and cyber espionage, and how we can best work on this subject to the benefit of our students. Then by train to London for the inaugural dinner of the university's Humanities Research Institute. It's an impressive affair, attended by some of Britain's best-known historians and Buckingham's guests including Titanic author Frances Wilson, a graduate of ours, and Sir Christopher Mallaby, an old friend from his time as our ambassador to West Germany. Such a clever man. We discuss the euro crisis and agree that it's bad news for everyone.
Returning to London for a cyber conference. Lord (John) Reid, the former home secretary, gives the keynote speech after the billed speaker cancels. I'm there with some students, my colleague Julian Richards and Tim Watson the forensic cyber expert from DMU/Leicester, with whom we are working on some ideas. We agree Reid is very good indeed.
After a working lunch I head back home to a parish council meeting. Local politics can be very depressing and should have more proper analysis than it gets. Here, all councillors bar one are unelected as there are as many vacancies as candidates; all are 'independent' so there is no party discipline; and some have sat in their places for two decades. Most are amazingly conceited and several really nasty. They dislike each other intensely but hate newcomers even more. Votes are always unpredictable relying on shifting and arbitrary coalitions, often reversing decisions taken the week before. I've had more sleepless nights after council meetings than from any other committee I've ever sat on. Tonight I fear a number of councillors are being economical with the truth about an apparently bizarre payment of £2,000 and that it will lead to my resignation. It did.
The real problem with David Cameron and Eric Pickles' localism agenda is that localism in this parish, at any rate, frequently has more to do with vendettas than anything else. The public interest is rarely, if ever, even mentioned. That the gentlemen of Whitehall are busy abolishing Standards Boards for local politics in England is just stir crazy. Another sleepless night.
The day is spent teaching our 20 MA students all day – I have them in the morning, Julian in the afternoon. They are a bright lot. Half of them come from outside the United Kingdom – from Finland, Belgium, Pakistan, Nigeria, the United States, Germany, Singapore and the Gulf. We explore cyber security issues and the changing nature of the UK's security and intelligence machinery. There is a board meeting later than afternoon. Buckingham is special for all sorts of reasons, not just because it is quite independent of government control. We actually discuss big questions.
After supper Linda and I watch Panorama on BBC
TV about the Katya Zatuliveter case – she's just 'won' it. They use four sequences from their interview with me. I hear myself say I think it's a blow to MI5 in one sense but in another they've got precisely what they want: no one serious will ever get within a million miles of her again.
More teaching: tutorials today. One of the many reasons I relish working at Buckingham is that they take teaching seriously and provide the space for this. I don't know if they've seen me on TV. I don't ask and they don't tell. At lunchtime I do a BBC
Asian Network phone-in programme. The subject is Babar Ahmad and whether he should be extradited to the USA. I think he should. As always, the network is scrupulously fair and Nihal, the host, both charming and provocative.
A morning of writing about cyber security issues. Then two confidential meetings in London, one about intelligence in a very smart London club, the other about the future of UK higher education in an even smarter penthouse overlooking the Thames. Both are troubling: confused security policy and mad tuition fees policy – it will beggar the young if they can pay, and bankrupt the nation if they can't. Has David Willetts learned nothing from the US mortgage crisis? £60k plus for a degree from a second rate university? It beggars belief. I write up my notes of what's been said in the train going home. After supper we watch Larry David in Curb Your Enthusiasm. Originally recommended by Mike Ahmad, my daughter's husband, we know of no funnier or sadly wise programme on telly.
We head off for North Devon where we have a bolthole by the sea. We love it. We stop at Barnstaple to buy fish from Passmore's, the best fish shop in Britain, and meat from Gratton's, the best old-style butchers we know. At lunch time, I do a live interview with West German Radio
on the euro crisis and Cameron's 'nyet' in Brussels. I say that this looks like the beginning of a divorce; if he carries on, we will be leaving the EU because what it has become is not what most British people want and they will, in the end, get their way because that is how democracy works. It's time the debate was brought to a close.
Within minutes of the broadcast, DeutschlandRadio
calls and wants me to say it again as does Southern German
radio. Then the weekend starts with fresh squid and crab.Professor Anthony Glees is director of the Centre for Security and Intelligence Studies at the University of Buckingham in the United Kingdom