Against a backdrop of Russian cyber-conspiracies, Russ Swan takes a critical look at the UK vaccine effort and delivers a theory of his own…
It's been quite a time for Anglo-Russian relations recently. First came a series of revelations from the pharma sector and their friends in the intelligence services that Russia had launched repeated and sustained cyber-attacks on the leading research centres developing vaccinations against The Thing.
What if the coronavaccine success stories are simply an elaborate ruse to draw foreign agents into the open in their desperate attempts to steal the lead?
Almost immediately afterwards, following the Johnson administration's failed attempt to install its pet poodle as chair of the supposedly independent intelligence and security committee, the much-delayed report into Russian interference in Britain's democratic processes was finally published.
Meanwhile the news services were being pumped full of optimistic reports that we ('we' being the UK) have a vaccine that is practically ready for injection into a left arm near you. It's so good, in fact, that the government has bought enough to give everyone in the population one and a half syringes-worth. Oh, and another one and a half syringes of a totally different one from somewhere else, just in case.
It's understandable, given the way this particular virus has stopped the world in its tracks, that any glimmer of good news is seized upon. But really? Clinical trials are complex and lengthy affairs, and for good reason. We need to stamp on this bug as quickly as possible, but the large majority of even the most promising candidate drugs fail at a late stage.
You, being a laboratory professional, know that. The genius-level brains working on the problem at a dozen or more centres around the world know that. I'm just not sure that the university and Big Pharma PR folk who have been pumping this success story actually got the memo.
Could these things – the Russki cyber-attacks, the government's report into meddling in our democracy, and national premature ejaculation over a vaccine – be connected?
There's no doubt the data on the vaccine candidate would prove a juicy and tempting prize, and the Russians would have no qualms in going after it. Aerospace fans might think of the Tupolev Tu-144, a close facsimile of Concorde, or the Buran, a near copy of the Space Shuttle, for confirmation of that. A vaccine from Moscow would give Mr Putin something new to smirk about.
Would they also interfere in our democracy? Putin has interfered in his own country's version enough times to make this a rhetorical question. Does Russia benefit from disturbing the checks and balances that used to epitomise our parliamentary system? Does it benefit from the disruption to the EU from the UK's departure? Again, rhetorical. You'd almost think someone with a Russian name, something like, I don’t know, Boris, was behind it.
And then we have the oven-ready vaccine, all set to go. Opinions on this seem universally favourable, from the official spokespersons to the government and even participants in the human trials. We have to hope this not an example of whisper inflation –
How's the trial? Looking alright so far They say the trial is going well Vaccine trials are close to success The vaccine works We have a successful vaccine Britain is once again leading the world
But what if the truth were much more subtle? What if the coronavaccine success stories are simply an elaborate ruse to draw foreign agents into the open in their desperate attempts to steal the lead? A classic Cold War honey trap, bait-and-switch, Checkpoint Charlie prisoner exchange scenario?
This theory fits all the known evidence but fails in one crucial regard; it would require a level of sophisticated thinking that is, sadly, inconceivable with our present rulers. I'd like to believe the security services could have those smarts, but the buffoons in Downing Street? Don’t make me laugh.