Sunday, March 04, 2007

Deep rumblings in the deep state

The plan to break up the Home Office and let John Reid keep the macho bits is permitting us a rare glimpse of the core executive in action. Consider this story in teh Grauniad. First of all, note the close symbiosis of the Cabinet Office and the intelligence services - historically, the Cabinet Secretariat evolved at much the same time as the Committee of Imperial Defence and MI5, under the hand of Sir Maurice Hankey, so this is no surprise. But it's nice to have examples.

For example, Reid, or rather the Home Office top bureaucracy, claims to have won a power-struggle to get control of the Cabinet Office's emergency planning/crisis management machinery. This is interesting in itself, as traditionally, war planning and civil defence grew out of the MOD and the Cabinet Office intelligence-administrative complex, not the police-judicial Home Office. Note, though, that the organisation responsible for the revived civil defence effort is the Intelligence and Resilience Unit - the two are joined at the hip.

Even though this outfit and its head, Sir Richard "We're fucked - you're fucked, I'm fucked, the whole department's fucked" Mottram, are moving into the Home Office, this link is going to be maintained. Mottram will remain as chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee, very much rooted in the CabSec/intel world, and as the Cabinet Office Intelligence and Security Coordinator. That's not so much double-hatted as triple-hatted.

It's also a significant power grab by the Home Office, as they would now own part of the central intelligence analysis and policy machinery as well as MI5 and NCIS, and a share of Mottram's responsibility for funding the intelligence services. Traditionally, the Cabinet Office control of the analysis-policy centre, with the division of responsibility for intelligence between the Home and Foreign Offices, has provided a balance of power between them and a useful division between intelligence collection and policy advice.

Hence the reaction of the Foreign Office to suggestions that SIS and GCHQ might come under Reid's aegis as a single lead for intelligence. There is no way they will let that happen without a vicious struggle.

On the other hand, the CabSec probably thinks they've defanged the Home Office by wiring their man into it, and it's also a classic civil service move to square the circle by having the Foreign Office spooks still report to the JIC and IS Coordinator, rather than to a new Home Office-run intelligence centre...but making the JIC Chair/IS Coordinator's staff join the Home Office. Of course, the Foreign Office is probably thinking that, like any personal union, it can only last while Mottram's in charge.

This amused me, though:
The shakeup will leave the new "core" Home Office responsible for policing, serious and organised crime, counter-terrorism strategy, MI5, immigration and nationality, passports, drugs and antisocial behaviour.
The Ministry for Counter-Terrorism, Internal Espionage, Organised Crime, Border Control, and Unauthorised Football in Public Parks, then.

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