over the last four days there has been column inch after column inch devoted to the fact that in the United States there is often high-profile commentary followed, as in the most current case, by detailed scrutiny, with the potential risk of inviting ridicule.
In Britain the accusation is the opposite. It is that we don’t say enough. We don’t comment often enough. We don’t speculate enough. In other words, we don’t sufficiently raise the profile - and therefore the concern - about terrorism.
The same commentator that I heard on Wednesday night suggested that regular appearances by a minister would be helpful. But helpful to whom?
I could have appeared a dozen times last week on radio and television but I turned down the offers. I turned them down because I didn’t have anything relevant and additional to say, not because I don’t know what is taking place.
I spent last Wednesday going through the facts, not the speculation, with the security and intelligence services, the Metropolitan Police and my own officials.
At any one time there is a lot of painstaking and patient work being undertaken by them to tackle this threat and last week, as always, I was kept fully up to date with developments.
Of course, it is not possible for me to comment on last week’s arrests and the action which has followed. These are operational matters. But I can say that I am full of admiration for the work of the police and the Security Service in dealing with these situations. I issued an appropriate statement and I refused to comment further. Why?
**Because had I done so without having anything additional to add, I would have merely added to the speculation, to the hype, to the desire for something to say for its own sake. In other words, to feed the news frenzy in a slack news period.
Is that really the job of a senior cabinet minister in charge of counter-terrorism? To feed the media? To increase concern? To have something to say, whatever it is, in order to satisfy the insatiable desire to hear somebody saying something?
Of course not. This is arrant nonsense. I’ve never been known as a shrinking violet and I’m the first person to say something when I’ve got something to say. But it is important to be able to distinguish if there is a meaningful contribution that helps to secure us from terrorism. And to understand if there isn’t. **
And there are very good reasons why we shouldn’t reveal certain information to the public. Firstly, we do not want to undermine in any way our sources of information, or share information which could place investigations in jeopardy. Second, we do not want to do or say anything which would prejudice any trial.
So I make no apology for not having appeared last week, over and over again.