Security Forward Risk and Intelligence Forum’s January meeting was held at Z/Yen. There was a good turnout reflecting the diversity of our connections with attendees from major corporations such as EDF and PwC, from government in the form of defence intelligence and two former GCHQ employees, and from sector experts. The meeting started with a presentation from our ‘Speaker in Residence’, Lt Col Crispin Black, who gave a presentation entitled “Sources of Change - Sources of Instability: the Next Decade.” Crispin argued that Europeans and Americans take basic civil order too much for granted. Civil order is a rarer and more fragile state than we realise, even in some parts of Europe. He pointed out that even countries with civil order still bear traces of previous conflict, such as the English Civil War being reflected in religious affiliation and voting even today, or that in the USA people still differentiate between the Civil War and the Confederate War.
Crispin identified a number of factors likely to contribute to civil unrest in the UK, unless rectified. It was a long list including a breakdown in trust in the judicial system and the police; the inability of the current electoral system to offer real choice on some key issues; the rise of the super rich; or the iron grip of a cross-party political elite comprised largely of men and women with little experience outside the political bubble. As always, Crispin’s presentation was challenging and much enjoyed by all present.
After our usual round-robin to identify ‘in tray’ issues and concerns, our second speaker was Dominic Armstrong, President of Aegis Advisory. Dominic was one of the four founder Directors of Aegis in 2002 and has built a leading strategic advisory and business intelligence consulting firm specialising in interpreting and guiding international deal-making. He gave an outstanding presentation entitled “Geopolitics and International Relations”. As we operate under The Chatham House Rule he was able to talk openly and candidly about the shifting components of power. He masterfully surveyed and made relevant the choke points in world trade, the importance of Sunni and Shia tensions, Syria, demographics, tribalism, nuclear deterrence, corruption and terrorism. The question and answer session was considered to be of great value by those present.
Although few could stay for dinner, the conversation possibly even improved as we dined just round the corner from the Bank of England. Naturally, we had a theme drink, in this case port. Crispin’s presentation had stressed the importance of the Gordon Riots, linking civil unrest with finance. The Gordon Riots led to City militias and the Bank of England having an armed guard at its door up until the 1970s. But was the guard guarding the gold, or the Bank of England’s private label port supplies? Sadly, unable to get the private label, we settled for Cockburn’s.