The Russians have a saying: Little thieves are hanged, but great ones escape.
That can be re-jigged with respect to elections in leading western democracies: Little thieves are hanged, but great ones escape. And become legend.
Consider the way alleged Russian interference in UK politics is playing out. It’s becoming legendary. A pall. A dark and threatening inevitability.
On Wednesday, November 20, prime minister Boris Johnson declared: “There’s absolutely no evidence that I’ve ever seen of any Russian interference in UK democratic processes.”
But the fact that he had to even say such a thing shows how deep the Russian scare campaign has gone.
As Tony Barber wrote in the Financial Times, “Nothing serves the Kremlin’s goals better than an ill-defined, widespread and demoralising suspicion that Russia’s dark arts are fiendishly brilliant in design and executed in western democracies on an industrial scale.”
This is exactly why Mr Johnson’s government should publish the report on Russian interference that was compiled by parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee.
The Conservatives’ resistance is a mystery, other than annoyance that fingers are being pointed at wealth Russians’ donations to the party over the years.
It’s ok to bristle, but not to hold up government business. There is nothing illegal about the Russian donations, the Conservatives, say. If so, why not publish the parliamentary report and be done with it?
It would make the election campaign, election day, the count, and announcement of the result less grim.
To quote Mr Barber again: “…Moscow will surely be satisfied with almost any conceivable UK election result. A Conservative party triumph would lead to a swift Brexit, weakening the west’s political and economic unity. Victory for the opposition Labour party would bring to power Jeremy Corbyn as prime minister. Surrounded by advisers with communist or radical leftist backgrounds, he would be the premier most hostile to Nato and most uncritical of Russia in modern British history. Finally, a hung parliament would suit Russia perfectly well, because the UK’s political divisions over Brexit and their negative economic impact would persist.”
Truly, Russia need not interfere in this election campaign. Britain can confuse itself perfectly well on its own.