Sometimes, the timings of terrorist plots and contemporaneous political events appear to be more than just coincidental, even when they might not be. For example, when 9/11 happened, one of my first thoughts, like many other people, was, "F--k, this gives Cheney and Rumsfeld (et al.) everything that they wanted", and that thought became, rightly or wrongly, a reason to question the version of events presented by the US government, because the attacks coincided with the aims of the recently elected US government. London's July 7 bombings became in my mind 'the G8 bombings', for they appeared to be timed to coincide with the start of the UK-hosted G8 summit at Gleneagles in Scotland.
And now there's this alleged Bojinka-type plot to blow up multiple airliners over the Atlantic. It's a good crisis for John Reid (who seems to have again dropped the 'Dr'). This blogger has been suggesting for a while that John Reid was the one whom Tony Blair and the security and intel services wanted to be the next prime minister. The events of the past couple of days have not modified that opinion. But that would be to suggest that the timing of this high-profile, counter-terrorist operation was, to some extent, manoeuvred by MI5, in part to promote John Reid as a capable leader in troubled times, which might be symptomatic of paranoid conspiracitis.
The newspapers have given Reidy glowing reviews for his performance. The Times, for example, wrote:
Mr Reid has evinced a presidential air in his public appearances. Although Gordon Brown is the overwhelming candidate to succeed Mr Blair, Mr Reid is the only other real contender, and his performance this week has strengthened his position. While few believe that he would defeat Mr Brown, he may well have made it harder for the Chancellor, when he takes over, to dispense with Mr Reid’s services.
Personally, I think Brown hasn't a hope in hell of succeeding Blair, and he should look for a job outside of politics. Air crashes happen to US, not British, politicians but I wouldn't want to share a flight to Scotland with the chancellor for a while. When powerful elements within the permanent government strongly favour one candidate, and oppose another, for the leadership of a political party in parliament and, from there, of the elected government, only the naive, the brave or the foolish would stand in their way.
PS According to the US's Cox News Service,
WASHINGTON - When Vice President Cheney went out of his way Wednesday to blast Democrats as weak on terrorism, he knew something that few Americans knew: Another stark reminder of the dangers of terrorism was about to hit the headlines. The White House confirmed Thursday that senior administration officials have been aware since at least last weekend that British authorities were moving toward arrests in an alleged terrorism plot. [Seattle Post-Intelligencer]
'Since at least last weekend'. What a coincidence - TB jets off to Barbados, and John Reid gets the platform to appear prime-ministerly, with at least several days notice to prepare.
I reckon it's quite possible that, if TB hadn't delayed his holiday to work on the UN resolution on Lebanon, Thursday's operation would have happened earlier in the week or last weekend. Which means that, by Thursday, the plot would have been slightly more advanced than they had anticipated.
UPDATE [2006.08.15]: Recent reports have suggested that the British authorities wanted to wait longer until the plot was more advanced before moving, that it was the Americans who dictated the timing. Whatever the truth of it is, it occurs to me that John Reid would be the Bush administration's choice to succeed Tony Blair. The wee one has powerful friends indeed.