Risk, Threat and Security: The Case of the United Kingdom

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Between May 2006 and January 2008 a series of private seminars met to discuss security issues in the UK. These seminars resulted in an article in the Royal United Services Institute's RUSI Journal called 'Risk, Threat and Security: The Case of the United Kingdom'. The article expressed concerns that the politicisation of defence policy and a national ‘lack of confidence’ made the UK vulnerable to security threats. They suggested therefore the partial removal of defence policy from democratic control.


The article's main authors were Gwyn Prins of LSE and the Conservative politican and millionaire Robert Salisbury. Other participators in the seminars were Sir Mark Allen, formerly of MI6; Vice Admiral Sir Jeremy Blackham; Chris Donnelly, of the Defence Academy; Field Marshal the Lord Inge, who served on the Butler Inquiry; the author and Eurosceptic Thomas Kremer; Lord Leach, another right-wing Tory; Baroness Park of Monmouth, former MI6 controller; Douglas Slater, a former Clerk of the House of Lords; General Sir Rupert Smith; and Professor Hew Strachan, Chichele Professor of the History of War at All Souls College. [1]


The article argued that ‘Defence and security must be restored as the first duty of government’ and that ‘institutional changes’ were needed to ‘take defence and security, as far as possible, back out of the arena of short-term party politics.’ Citing the example of the Monetary Policy Committee at the Bank of England, the authors argued that two special committees should be established one within Parliament and one within the Cabinet Office. The latter would include ‘service personnel and officials’ as full members, whilst the latter it was suggested should be made up of Lords and MPs as Privy Councillors – in other words they would act formally outside of any Ministerial responsibility.

In accessing the supposed security threats to the UK, the authors expressed a clear concern (shared by neoconservatives) that the country was ‘soft’ and lacked a cohesive identity which made it vulnerable to enemies within and without:

The United Kingdom presents itself as a target, as a fragmenting, post-Christian society, increasingly divided about interpretations of its history, about its national aims, its values and in its political identity. That fragmentation is worsened by the firm self-image of those elements within it who refuse to integrate. This is a problem worsened by the lack of leadership from the majority which in misplaced deference to ‘multiculturalism’ failed to lay down the line to immigrant communities, thus undercutting those within them trying to fight extremism. The country’s lack of self confidence is in stark contrast to the implacability of its Islamist terrorist enemy, within and without.


The deep guarantee of real strength is our knowledge of who we are. Our loss of cultural self-confidence weakens our ability to develop new means to provide for our security in the face of new risks. Our uncertainty incubates the embryonic threats these risks represent. We look like a soft touch. We are indeed a soft touch, from within and without.[2]


  1. Gwyn Prins & Robert Salisbury, 'Risk, Threat and Security: The Case of the United Kingdom (PDF)', RUSI Journal, Feb 2008, Vol. 153, No. 1
  2. Gwyn Prins & Robert Salisbury, 'Risk, Threat and Security: The Case of the United Kingdom (PDF)', RUSI Journal, Feb 2008, Vol. 153, No. 1