This is how to conduct Effective Opposition ...
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to our introductory lecture on "How to conduct Effective Opposition".
You have all read the article included in the preparatory material, and we will now investigate why this particular act of Opposition is a particularly fine example of Effective Opposition.
With a few simple words Her Majesty's Most Loyal Opposition (HMMLO) has put the government on the spot where it must take a position, possibly spend money, and certainly do some work.
Just think of it. With an investment of no more than an hour's worth of research and three hours to put together a set of questions that can be shown to the press as pointing fingers at all the most serious vulnerabilities, Her Majesty's Government (HMG) is placed in an unenviable position where it basically has four options:
Option (1) is: agree that Britain's cyberspace is vulnerable and start doing something. Objectively speaking this is the most "honest" stance as cyberspace is *always* vulnerable to e.g. DDOS attacks, computer burglary, social engineering, terminal laziness and common garden variety abysmal stupidity on part of most organizations using networked computers. Not that the government will be able to do anything meaningful about it (and certainly not in the short run), but it can certainly be seen to be busy (the best way for which is to put together a budget and spend it). The advantage is that HMG is seen to be doing something (anything really). The disadvantages are: HMG will look berky since it had to be prodded into action by HMMLO, and in the very next session of Parliament HMMLO will be certain to lambast HMG for being (a) tardy (b) irresponsible wastrels and (c) ineffective (particularly if something untoward happens).
Option (2) is: agree that Britain's cyberspace may have certain vulnerabilities but say something to the effect that "HMG has the fullest confidence in [insert gov't branch viewed with particular hostility]'s efforts to keep Britain's cyberspace safe.". The advantages are: it costs little, it looks as if HMG has things under control (thus denying HMMLO an immediate political victory), and besides it's a nice opportunity to put that snotty little twit leading the gov't branch in question on the spot. The disadvantages are: the gov't branch in question may put in a revised budget proposal asking for much more funding and may warn of dire consequences if their demands aren't met (thus passing the buck to HMG again). Besides it might reflect unfavourably on HMG if a major cyber catastrophe occurs within weeks of HMMLO's warnings, in which case HMLO will gleefully proceed to crucify the responsible Minister and will make the case that it, and only it is fit to look after Britain's interests.
Option (3) is: deny that Britain's cyberspace is at immediately vulnerable. This tactic is best employed very near the elections. The advantages are: it's the least costly of all possible options. The disadvantage is: in case of HMG actually winning the elections, HMG might look negligent if (when) something untoward happens in cyberspace, in which case HMMLO will quietly say "Told you so", only it will say so to every newspaper, radio, and TV correspondent in sight (who will repeat the message, only MUCH LOUDER). This is a small price to pay, however if HMG does win. In case HMMLO wins the next elections, the then HMG will then be in a position to forcefully denounce the previous' government's "disasterous policies" and take its own pick of options 1-4, in which case the then HMMLO will at least have to wait a year or so before tabling the very same questions and aiming them at the then HMG.
Option (4) is: form a committee to study the matter and shelve the whole thing for a year. This is also an inexpensive option and works best if "experts" be found to publicly disagree on the threat (unlikely), the cause (more than likely), and possible remedies (almost certainly the case). The advantages are: low cost, a ready supply of excuses in case anything does go wrong, and "jobs for the boys". Best used if there is an "International Angle". Could be a nice source of junkets in Brussels (if the EU or NATO are to be involved). Disadvantages: this course of action can't very well be monopolised, and come the elections the junkets will be on the other shoe (as it were). The disadvantages are slim, except for the practical fact that it is becoming increasingly difficult to find room for yet another committee. Something which a slight but regrettably necessary budget increase might help alleviate.
There you have it ladies and gentlemen: HMMLO has basically placed HMG in a no-win position, except for option 4 which is therefore widely adopted by governments of all ages.
Ladies and Gentlemen, this concludes our introductory lecture on "How to conduct Effective Opposition". Required background reading for this lecture:
Appleby, H. (1980) Yes Minister, series 1, BBC. and
Appleby, H. (1986) Yes Prime Minister,series 1, BBC.