ANDREW NEIL: David Cameron and George Osborne were the useful idiots who opened Britain’s door to China’s spies by cosying up to Beijing
The revelation that a Chinese spy has been operating with impunity at the heart of the British Establishment for years should surprise nobody.
For over a decade, that same Establishment has been offering Communist China seats at its top tables in government, politics, universities and business.
The aim was to curry favour with a rising superpower in the hope that it would lead to lucrative business contracts and investment.
Nobody should be shocked that the operatives of a totalitarian state took it as an opportunity to interfere, infiltrate, influence and, yes, spy.
The rot really set in after 2010, when David Cameron became Prime Minister and George Osborne became Chancellor.
These two kowtowed shamelessly to Beijing.
The prospect of big bucks for Britain blinded them to the fact that they were dealing with a ruthless dictatorship bent on spreading its tentacles across the globe while building the most intrusive surveillance state ever to enslave its own people.
As the Chinese state planned to intern and brainwash millions of its Uighur Muslim population, Cameron took Chinese president Xi Jinping for a pint at a British pub – while Osborne salivated at the prospect of the City of London becoming the main offshore centre for trading the renminbi, China’s increasingly important currency.
As the Chinese state planned to intern and brainwash millions of its Uighur Muslim population, David Cameron took Chinese president Xi Jinping for a pint at a British pub. Pictured above in 2015
The moolah mattered more to Cameron and Osborne than human rights — and the Chinese gaily strolled through every British door these two so cavalierly opened. He is pictured above with Christine Lee at the ceremony of the British GG2 leadership awards in 2015.
The moolah mattered more to Cameron and Osborne than human rights — and the Chinese gaily strolled through every British door these two so cavalierly opened.
As a result, the Chinese found themselves, sometimes much to their surprise, suddenly playing key roles in national infrastructure investments, including the roll-out of 5G (since rescinded), nuclear power and even our most prestigious universities.
How they must have laughed at that peculiar British mixture of naivety and cupidity of Beijing’s useful idiots.
Endorsed by the highest echelons of British government, it was no surprise that others got in on the act.
Then energy secretary in the Cameron coalition government and now Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey gave China a pivotal role in the development of Britain’s first new nuclear power station for a generation — Hinkley Point C in Somerset — with indications of a bigger role to come in future nuclear power stations should that go well.
Cameron’s successors, Theresa May and Boris Johnson, thought it a jolly good idea to put Huawei, a tech giant umbilically linked to the Chinese state, at the heart of Britain’s investment in 5G, until the Americans pointed out the dangers to our security and intelligence that would follow.
Perhaps no part of the British establishment has abased itself more before China than our great universities, from Cambridge down.
In return for research funding and a regular intake of high-paying Chinese students, they have allowed the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to get a grip on our campuses.
The moolah mattered more to Cameron and Osborne (pictured) than human rights — and the Chinese gaily strolled through every British door these two so cavalierly opened
The Chinese Students and Scholars Association, a CCP front organisation, keeps tabs on Chinese students in the UK and mobilises them when required to attack and shut down critics of China, of which there are now precious few in our supposedly freethinking seats of learning.
The Chinese student association infiltrating our campuses is part of a sinister operation known as the ‘United Front Work Department’, based in an anonymous building next to the CCP headquarters in Beijing.
According to MI5, this is the organisation that Christine Lee, now outed as a Chinese spy, worked for.
United Front is separate from China’s various spy agencies and operates with the endorsement of President Xi to influence foreign governments and public opinion.
Despite this peculiar pedigree, Lee was allowed to saunter through the upper echelons of British society unhindered, dispensing largesse and gathering information for her masters back in Beijing.
Nobody benefited more from her ‘generosity’ than Labour MP and former Corbynite shadow minister Barry Gardiner.
She bankrolled his office to the tune of around £600,000. He never seemed to wonder why all of this money was coming his way. It surely wasn’t because of his ability to talk the hind legs off a donkey.
No matter. Gardiner accepted the dosh — and gave her son a job in his parliamentary office.
It wasn’t just Left-wing MPs who were taken in. Prime Minister Theresa May gave Lee an award for services to Britain’s Chinese communities in 2019.
Barry Gardiner and Christine Lee dining together during a boozy lunch at Westminster’s swanky Corinthia Hotel, only a short walk from Parliament in 2018. It is believed the third person may have been Ms Lee’s son Daniel Wilkes, 27, who was employed by ‘Beijing Barry’ until yesterday
A warning memo was sent to all MPs and Peers in Westminster today by the Speaker’s Parliamentary security team, and no politicians are suspected of any criminality.
It is strange that our intelligence services did not warn her against this as by then it’s thought Lee was under surveillance.
The intelligence services have been praised for outing Lee. In fact, they have presided over a massive intelligence failure. Lee is just a bit-player in the CCP’s huge and expanding influence and spying operations in the UK.
There are plenty more where she came from and only now are the intelligence services taking it with the seriousness it deserves.
Perhaps our spooks thought it a waste of time, since our most senior politicians were so busy cosying up to the Chinese. That attitude has now changed.
Only two months ago, the head of MI6 publicly warned that Chinese spies were conducting ‘large-scale espionage operations’ targeting UK government, industry and research.
The head of MI5 has highlighted China’s extensive efforts to influence ministers and politicians in Westminster. So perhaps the Chinese spooks won’t get it all their own way any more.
It’s important that they don’t. Since the start of this century authoritarian regimes have been on the march across the globe, with China in the forefront.
Remember, these were meant to be the decades, in the wake of the fall of the Berlin Wall and the advent of China into the global trading system, that would see the triumph of liberal democracy.
The rot really set in after 2010, when David Cameron became Prime Minister and George Osborne became Chancellor. These two kowtowed shamelessly to Beijing. Mr Cameron is pictured alongside Christine Lee at a British Chinese Project event at Downing Street event in 2016
Instead, authoritarians from Beijing to Moscow to Ankara have strengthened their grip and even called the global shots — while democracies have struggled to respond and have often found themselves on the back foot.
In a world increasingly dominated by ‘strongmen’, from Xi to Vladimir Putin, with Russian troops on the Ukraine border and Chinese naval manoeuvres off the coast of Taiwan, the democracies have found themselves with vacillating leaders, which only emboldens the authoritarians further.
There are some grounds for hope.
The outing of Lee is a small one, especially if it marks a more robust British approach to China.
The growing consensus in Washington DC – about the only thing the politicians in that divided city do agree on – is that it’s time to get tough with China.
But perhaps most important of all is to learn the lesson of the Cameron-Osborne years: do not renege on your democratic principles for the sake of quick bucks – no matter how many seem to be on offer – for you end up selling your soul.
Shroud-waving Remainers wrong – again!
The Home Office told us to expect roughly 3.5 million EU nationals based in the UK to win the right to ‘settled status’ post-Brexit, allowing them to live and work here indefinitely.
In the event, it was 5.2 million (and rising – because some applications are still being processed). So the government was a mere 1.7 million-plus – or 50 per cent – out.
Risibly inaccurate as that forecast was, as an underestimation it comes nowhere near the Blair government’s official forecast of only an extra 13,000 migrants a year, made when eight Eastern European countries joined the EU in 2004.
For an idea of just how far out that was, more than 2.2 million Romanians and Poles now enjoy settled status in the UK.
The Home Office told us to expect roughly 3.5 million EU nationals based in the UK to win the right to ‘settled status’ post-Brexit, allowing them to live and work here indefinitely
Two things follow from these absurdities.
First, official statistics on immigration are about as believable as Boris Johnson’s excuses for parties at Downing Street during the pandemic.
In particular, it’s clear the government had no idea how many EU nationals were living in Britain.
Second, the fact that at least 5.2 million of them sought settled status is a huge vote of confidence in this country.
I’m sure a large majority regretted the outcome of the Brexit referendum, in which they could not vote. Yet they opted to stay in the UK.
It means they had a lot more faith in Britain than the shroud-waving, diehard British Remainers. That faith has been vindicated.
Yes, Brexit has its problems, but despite the pandemic and the end of furlough, unemployment is back down to 4.2 per cent (versus a Eurozone average of 7.2 per cent), there are 1.2 million job vacancies and in November the economy exceeded the size it was before Covid struck (on a par with France).
Most forecasters expect the UK to be among the fastest-growing of the rich economies this year, as we were in 2021.
Yes, EU nationals made the right decision to stay. And I, for one, am delighted they did.