Novichok: in the light of new Salisbury incompetence, should we rethink the Skripal affair completely?

by John Ward

A new Prime Minister, a new Foreign Secretary, and a major breach of Porton Down security that threatened to become political dynamite for a Conservative Government already struggling to survive after an ill-timed General Election. Is this how the Salisbury Novichok saga started – as a means to cover up incompetence by blaming Putin? 


Nothing is ever this simple, but herewith the Overture: a jaundiced eye applied to the latest Salisbury New Stuff about New Stuff, which by now is seriously Old Hat Stuff.

The unexpectedly good news about England’s soccer success thus far (and the Russians turning out to be exemplary World Cup hosts in every way) has got everyone calmed down and in a generally good mood. That plus the best summer for many a long year means that, on the whole, the last thing anyone cares about is NATO and the collective security orgasms of Federica Mogherini. In fact, the only thing irritating the 17.4 million Leave-voting UK adults (that’s 52% for the mathematically dyslexic) is that unelected power, bad losers, PR whores like Nina Schick, Care in the Community loons like Baron Astonish and geopolitics are getting in the way of what’s left of our democracy.

Tomorrow sees a crunch Cabinet meeting. My hunch is that it will be followed by much smiling and loyalty signalling, but nothing that either the 17.4 million or the Sprouts of Brussels will sign up to… things stand. So in order to please the US and its spawn NATO, the spin tempo has been upped a little – and that’s almost certainly why we see Novichok back in the headlines, increased public fears about deadly contamination, and Land Rover saying Brexit may well cause them to pull out of the UK. Perhaps the hope is that the harder Brexit cases in the Cabinet can be persuaded (with the help of dire MI5/6 warnings) to accept closer links to the Eutanic than they would prefer.

But as I suggested at the outset, nothing is that simple…..although among the more twisted minds in the Big Vauxhall Box, it may well be one dimension of what’s going on here.

In fact, if one analyses the events more closely, what I think we’re watching here is part politicians looking for distraction, part gross incompetence on the part of the security and police forces of Britain, part Theresa May trying to box her way out of a mineshaft and – possibly – a new avenue of thinking about how the Salisbury saga got started that has come to light purely by accident.

Just to confuse you further, I want to start at the beginning, by writing about incompetence. I have long held the view (based on experience and memory, not ideology or a vivid imagination) that such conspiracies as exist often start as an attempt to cover up incompetence. We’re in a mess not “thanks to” Brexit but because Theresa May’s antennae are incompetent, politicians lie nonstop, our Foreign Secretary is incompetent, and police, security forces, military intelligence, the FCO and the Home Office are a truly vomituous mix of self-interested mendacity incapable of catching cholera in a sewer, let alone “terrorists”.

Consider the track record before, during and since the Novichok nonsense:

  • There are now 18,000 jihadists in Britain, and we don’t where they are.
  • After four months on the case, those forces from which we expect expertise got the original Skripal diagnosis wrong, got the injured copper’s condition wrong – and stumbled about being “sure” in turn that Ms Skripal’s flight baggage, Mr Skripal’s car AC system, a park bench and a doorknob were the media used to try and bump them off.
  • The scientists at Porton Down started by saying they didn’t know the identity of the nerve agent for sure, then they became more sure, but not as sure as Boris Johnson said they were, because he’s a pathological liar with form as long as the Grand National.
  • Not a single suspect has been identified or held beyond the “somebody in Russia being protected by the Putin régime” line that suffers, lets face it, a credibility gap wider than the Grand Canyon. Grand Nationals and Canyons, you see: the governmental classes believe in Big when it comes to fibbing….as indeed they do in most things.
  • Boris Johnson attempted to start World War III by called the World Cup “an attempt to do what Hitler did with the 1936 Olympics”. This morning – in the light of Novichok II – May’s security minister Ben Wallace told Sky News that “the World Cup is not about politics, it is about extraordinary athletes doing extraordinary things”. Bit of a difference in emphasis there? Surely not. After all, BoJo said he would boycott the tournament…..but then changed his mind once England started winning.
  • As regards this new case, it is now Thursday, the cops and Special Branch have been on it for 5 days, and the certainties were elucidated thus by the rather dull Mr Wallace today: “We don’t know exactly where the couple went last weekend and we haven’t as yet located any next of kin, but we think at some time on Saturday or perhaps Sunday it’s not clear, they may have gone to a hog roast. But what’s clear from what we know so far is that this was not an attack as such, and may well be some left-over Novichok from the previous incident.” That’s up there with Peter Cook’s memorable sketch about Inspector Streeb-Greebling and the Great Train Robbery of 1963: “I should like to reassure the public that no train has been stolen, merely the money substances it was carrying”.
  • Wallace then went on to say the UK had requested help from the Putin government and this had been refused. I’m sorry, but that is a blatant lie: the Russians offered full cooperation to the Foreign Office, and they rebuffed it – for reasons which remain the subject of richly-deserved speculation.
  • Every day for eight days on the trot during the Skripal affair, we were treated to the sight of yet more “expert” nerve agent clean-up Johnnies kitted out to the gills, and it now turns out that the clean-up was in fact a f**k-up, because they missed a bit. The way you do.
  • So the Government’s insistence that Salisbury was a safe zone afterwards was also a load of cobblers….as a result of which two more people are now in Salisbury hospital being treated by staff subjected to yet more D-Notice threats about not talking the evil press – who are “just poking about in things that don’t concern them”, as Prince Andrew is wont to remark.

‘Amateur night for Baldricks’ doesn’t even begin to get close to this as a track record, does it? One is reminded of the Jeremy Thorpe conspiracy Judge – also satirised by Cook – who said in a sketch devised by Peter, “I turn now to evidence of blah-blah….a man who could not even organise the simplest murder plot without cocking it up”. How we miss Cookie, and what a ball he’d be having with all this make-believe if he were still made flesh.

But it’s the clean-up-cock-up connection that has made me think again about how the Skripal affair got started in the first place.

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There are several things that have always bothered me beyond any other doubts in relation to the Salisbury caper:

  1. It has been largely assumed by the media that the Skripals were and are British agents. In fact, as they had already been turned by MI5, there is no reason at all to believe firmly in their loyalty to any single sovereign. Are they simply still loyal to the Russian Federation?
  2. I always felt that their decision to settle in England almost within walking distance of the Portan Down Chemical Warfare facility was stretching coincidence somewhat. Did Russian controllers ask them to settle there?
  3. The timing of the attack never made any sense at all in the light of Russia’s need to dilute a developing Russophobic narrative by using the World Cup as a showpiece.
  4. When Johnson, May, Trump and Macron turned the incident into an excuse to bomb Syria as “a warning” to Putin, they did so by accusing Assad of chemical warfare on his own People. Objectively, the kindest thing one can say about that accusation is that it too made no sense, and a variety of “experts” on the scene have said in unison that they have found no evidence of such an attack having occurred.

Suppose that Slog’s Law of Cock-up producing Cover-up turned to Cocker-ups’ advantage applies here?

That is to say, let’s suggest that the real centre of the original Black Op was Portan Down itself. That Sergei Skripal had fed the facility via his British controllers with stolen “formulae” obtained by his still active daughter Yulia. This was in fact for ‘Novichok’ -which the Russians could use as bait, as it was no longer of interest to them: having once been New Stuff, it was now Obsolete Stuff.

But then something alerted either the Porton Down scientists or MI5 to the fact that the Skripals were still RF agents. By this time, Boris Johnson was properly installed as Foreign Secretary with May (still close to the security services following her Home Office stint) in Number Ten. They were briefed that there was a problem.

And indeed it was a problem, for the Skripals had outwitted UK military intelligence…and thus there had been a massive security breach which had to be disguised as something else.

So somewhere along the line, somebody – the CIA maybe – got involved and came up with the idea of making the best of a bad job….by killing the Skripals with “Russian” nerve agent, blaming it on Putin, and using his close alliance with alleged chemical weapon beast Assad to enable the NATO bombing of key Syrian air force installations….and thus pass advantage on to his enemies – who were being bankrolled by the Pentagon, the CIA, John McCain and a host of other psychos.

But as always, the experts f**ked up. The dose the newly revealed traitors got was nowhere near strong enough to kill them….perhaps even because their Russian controllers had deliberately falsified the formula they fed to MI5 via Yulia Skripal.

And then down the road, the chemical clear-up was screwed up as well. Which brings us to where we are today.

Now obviously, this is informed guesswork, and there could be many points where my theory here is at fault.

I ask you only this: does it strike you as more or less credible than the Dan-Dare-meets-Flash-Gordon bollocks we’ve all been asked to swallow up until now?

Let’s face it, it wouldn’t be the first time that government incompetence has been turned to geopolitical advantage via opportunist lies.


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