"Every Prime Minister needs a Willie
", © Margaret ThatcherGuardian
: A British FBI has got no chance against London's very own KGB
The ministerial craze to accumulate ever more power to the centre is obsessive, illiberal and pointless. Thatcher's home secretary, Willie Whitelaw, told a story of how his police and security chiefs would troop into his office for an annual chat. They always said the same thing. They needed more power, more weapons, more phone taps, more surveillance, more powers of detention, more general curbs on the freedom of British subjects in the name of national security. Whitelaw would roar with laughter and shout: "Well done, chaps." The chaps would smile and reply: "It's always worth a try, chief." Whitelaw would order a round of drinks and send them packing.
That stopped under Blair. Whitelaw was a man in charge. Home secretaries have since become cringing servants of the headline culture. What security wants, security gets. You can scan the memoirs of Blair's home secretaries and find not one who stood up for civil liberty against the securocrats ...