Mr Cameron, you’re not on Her Majesty’s secret service, writes Matt Gaw

James Bond

James Bond - Credit: Archant

There’s a new contender to be James Bond and his name is Cameron. David Cameron

Prime Minister David Cameron

Prime Minister David Cameron - Credit: AP

Heated debate over the delicate balance of British suaveness and brutality that make up the not-too-complex persona of James Bond has become a cultural tradition.

Whether you love the pithy one-liners of Sean Connery, the arch saintliness of Roger Moore or Daniel Craig’s budgie-smugglers, the issue of who was, or who will be, the best Bond has received more attention than Blofeld’s cat.

Most recently James Bond author Anthony Horowitz caused outrage after suggesting Idris Elba was “too street” to play 007. His comments last week, for which he has since apologised, understandably sparked lengthy discussions about when Bond will be black – after all, any conversation about the world’s least secret spy is in some way a conversation about what constitutes an ideal man in the public consciousness.

But if Idris remains a front runner for the top job, unfortunately, there is another contender that appears to be showing off 007’s least attractive feature – his trademark attitude to the “bad guy”.

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Meet Cameron. David Cameron, the man who has revealed to the world that he has his very own licence to kill.

And no, I’m not talking here about the prime minister’s role as chief executioner for the NHS and welfare state, but what is a very real and very dangerous trigger finger.

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Based behind the steely gates of Downing Street rather than the fortified SIS building on the Embankment, it was Cameron who ultimately gave the go-ahead for an unprecedented air attack in Syria that killed two Britons fighting with Islamic State.

The deaths of Reyaad Khan and Ruhul Amin immediately raised serious questions about how the prime minister’s government arrived at its decision to fire a Hellfire missile from the UK Reaper drone outside the Isis stronghold of Raqqa.

The prime minister told MPs (presumably not over Martinis) that the strike was discussed during a meeting of the National Security Council (NSC) in spring and was legally justified as an act of self defence because the threat posed to life in the UK by Khan and Amin was “imminent”. It remains unclear exactly how the plots the two Britons were said to be involved with were considered “imminent” given that both the events had passed long before the missile found its mark.

Nevertheless, defence secretary Michael Fallon said that the Government “wouldn’t hesitate to take similar action again”.

And despite the fact that Cameron told the last parliament that he would seek the approval of MPs before extending airstrikes from Iraq to Syria, it soon emerged that the NSC meeting had led to a list of further targets being drawn up.

Indeed, the UK’s target hit list at first glance (and for that matter at second glance) appears to be worryingly close to the USA’s controversial “kill list” – or, as they prefer, “disposition matrix” (perhaps they think it sounds less bloody).

So what is the worry with having a 00-PM who, in my opinion, appears to be cutting out Parliament in his war against terror? Surely it would seem this is just a simplistic Bond-like offing of the bad guy, minus the fisticuffs, one-liners and bedroom antics? Well, no, or perhaps more accurately, we cannot possibly know. All that we can say is that the information released so far by Cameron does not make the air strike an appropriate use of power by the leader of a democratic country (even if it was signed off by a Government lawyer).

As Rights Watch UK put it: “Without a clear legal justification for this action these drone strikes amount to war by stealth, and the British public will never know whether what is being done in its name is lawful.”

The justification for the air strike, which as suggested above appears to play fast and loose with previous notions of “imminent”, has set a precedent for killing with no real transparency or accountability. Indeed it seems the only oversight in this decision has come from confidential internal Government legal advice, which of course, isn’t really oversight at all.

Sir Keir Starmer QC, a former director of public prosecutions and now a Labour MP, said it was important that more information is released.

“We are entitled to know the rules of engagement now being followed, in particular the threshold being applied for the use of lethal force,” he said. “Necessity and proportionality are broad words and the more extreme the use of force, the higher the threshold and the greater the need for accountability.”

Or to put it more bluntly, it seems that Cameron needs reminding he is not on Her Majesty’s secret service, but at our service.

See more from columnist Matt Gaw here

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