MI6 decides? Royal messenger, or key political player?
tony at cultureshop.org.uk
Thu May 7 18:49:11 BST 2015
A mere royal messenger, or a key political player?
MARCH 23RD, 2015 - 12:47
AM <http://www.thenational.scot/author/george_kerevan>GEORGE KEREVAN
YOU probably havent heard of Sir Christopher
Geidt, the Queens private secretary. But you
soon may. For in the bleary hours of the morning
of May 8 should the electoral calculus produce
a hung parliament Sir Chris will be at the
heart of the process to cobble together a new
government. He is one apex of the so-called
golden triangle, together with Cabinet
Secretary Jeremy Heywood and Chris Martin, the
Prime Ministers principal private secretary.
Collectively, they will orchestrate negotiations
with the palace that must end in Britains next
Prime Minister being called to Buck House to kiss hands.
Geidt gets angry not to mention litigious at
any suggestion he is anything other than an
anonymous cipher, a mere liaison person between
the monarch and her ministers, and someone with
no opinion of his own as to who forms the next
government. To suggest otherwise is to invite the
accusation one has watched too many episodes of
Wolf Hall. No, no: Sir Christopher is no Thomas
Cromwell, no Establishment eminence grise!
However, read the private secretarys job
description on the official royal website and one
finds this: The Private Secretary informs and
advises The Queen on constitutional, governmental
and political matters in the United Kingdom and
the Commonwealth. In other words, should Britain
find itself without a majority Government when
the sun rises on May 8, it will be Geidt who
advises the Head of State on the constitutional
niceties of what happens next. Others will no
doubt struggle to be heard but the adviser
closest to the ear of the Queen is Geidt.
No-one could be more Establishment that Sir
Christopher Geidt KCB, KCVO, OBE. He was born in
1961 and attended prep in Oxford before being
sent to the pukka Glenalmond boarding school in
Perthshire. In 2007, pupils at Glenalmond hit the
headlines after they made a spoof video that
featured them hunting local working-class
chavs on horseback and shooting them with
shotguns its still on YouTube. In 2008, a BBC
fly-on-the-wall documentary exposed a culture of
bullying at Glenalmond. One pupil complained:
When I first came here I was called a chav
because I had a strong Scottish accent.
In point of fact, Geidt is Scots on his mothers
side a Mackenzie. His grandfather, Kenneth
Mackenzie, was a fish curer and coal merchant
before setting up a successful Harris Tweed
factory in Stornoway, where he later became
provost. Geidt still owns a 365-acre sheep farm
on the Isle of Lewis, and has been seen helping
with the lambing. Whether he purred following the
referendum result, I have no idea.
After Glenalmond, Geidt enlisted in the Scots
Guards and was subsequently commissioned as an
officer in army intelligence. By the way, Geidt
hates being referred to as a spook. From 1994, he
worked for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office
and EU in sensitive diplomatic postings, such as
Sarajevo at the height of the Serb-Bosnian war.
He actually liaised directly with Radovan
Karadzic and the odious General Ratko Mladic,
both later indicted for war crimes.
In October 1989, Geidt and another former army
officer turned up in Pol Pots Cambodia
ostensibly to observe Vietnamese troops pull out
of the country. During a subsequent House of
Commons debate, Labour MP Bob Cryer used
parliamentary privilege to query why Geidt was
there: Surely not MI6? In 1991, Geidt sued the
left-wing journalist John Pilger over a TV
documentary that accused him of training Pol
Pots Khmer Rouge. This accusation was clearly
nonsense and Geidt won substantial damages.
However, his career history is a curious mix of
military intelligence, security analysis and
crisis diplomacy. That hardly suggests his current role is a sinecure.
Geidt is routinely described as suave but he
can also be prickly. In 2013, he complained to
the Press Complaints Commission regarding
critical articles in the ultra-liberal Guardian
newspaper. He repudiated The Guardians claim
that he personally was one of the final
arbiters of a new and more restrictive Royal
Charter on press regulation. The paper insisted
there was a clear public interest case for
investigating Geidts role in the Charter.
However, the PCC upheld the complaint and the
offending articles have been purged from the
papers website. One up to the Establishment.
I dare say that Geidt genuinely believes he is a
mere liaison chappie. Equally, I think he was
recruited by the Royal Household to provide the
monarchy with a worldly wise political adviser
capable of protecting it from an intrusive media,
and piloting it (with privileges intact) through
the constitutional whirlwind unleashed by
devolution. We have to bear that in mind come the election.
Geidt will reply that the cardinal rule of
Britains archaic, unwritten constitution is that
the monarch acts only on the advice of ministers.
However, the whole point of having an unwritten
constitution is that precedent can be junked
the moment the Establishment finds itself in an
existential crisis. The Crown is kept out of
politics so it can be invoked as a referee when
the Establishments interests are threatened,
especially by a popular democratic upsurge. That
is Sir Christopher Geidts real job.
Weve been here before. After the inconclusive
General Election in 2010, the SNP proposed to
Labour the formation of a progressive alliance
to keep the Tories from entering Downing Street.
With the LibDems, SNP and smaller parties of the
left, Labour could have commanded a working
majority on major votes of between 23 and 31.
Goodbye bedroom tax and NHS privatisation.
Instead, Labour made ineffectual overtures to the
LibDems alone. Sensing he had the upper hand,
Nick Clegg demanded Gordon Brown quit as PM.
Brown resigned office but before a replacement
government had be agreed. Convention requires the
existing PM hold the fort until someone emerges
who can command a parliamentary majority.
There was consternation at the palace in case the
Queen found herself having to pick a PM quickly
without political cover. Fortunately for the
Establishment, Sir Christopher Geidt was on the
case. According to Peter Riddell of the Institute
for Government: Geidt was very active. His role
was a kind of super-journalist: to find out what
is going on
to find out the political mood and
developments, and report this back to the Queen.
Geidt was able to report that Cameron and Clegg
wanted to tie the knot. The palace could safely
twiddle its thumbs in anticipation.Crisis averted.
Current polls predict a reasonably healthy
left-of-centre majority in the next House of
Commons provided there is a big bloc of SNP
members. The danger lies in the British
Establishment and the rabid London media working
to divide any prospective progressive alliance
before it gets started. If negotiations become
protracted, we will hear talk of constitutional
crisis and threats to the future of the Union.
Cameron, as sitting PM, will try to cling to
office. Subservient Labour backbenchers with an
eye on a peerage will bleat about the need for
national unity. There will be much talk of the
need to keep the Queen above the fray. All in
all, a situation tailor-made for the peculiar talents of Sir Christopher Geidt.
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