Christopher Geidt: the suave, shrewd and mysterious royal insider

MPs have in the past asked in the Commons whether Geidt – now the Queen’s private secretary – was a member of MI6

This article was amended on 31 May 2013 to remove a number of inaccuracies regarding Sir Christopher Geidt in the article, which overstated his role as the Queen’s private secretary in relation to the royal charter for the press. We have also clarified aspects of his legal action against John Pilger and Central Television. We apologise for the errors.

When the Queen turned around to reveal herself as James Bond’s spymaster in a skit for the opening ceremony of the London Olympics, jaws dropped in living rooms around the country at the audacity and humour. But for those that know Sir Christopher Geidt, the Queen’s highly trusted private secretary who has been credited with her deft presentation in recent years, it was more a case of eyebrows raised.

Geidt, 51, now in his sixth year by the Queen’s side at Buckingham Palace, has a past that includes suggestions of involvement in and around the secret services. When he successfully sued for libel after being wrongly accused of being part of an SAS operaton training allies of the traitor …read more  

Royal official handling press charter won damages over reporter's SAS claim

Queen’s private secretary Sir Christopher Geidt won high court libel action against John Pilger and Central TV in 1991

This article was amended on 31 May 2013 to remove a number of inaccuracies regarding Sir Christopher Geidt in the article, which overstated his role as the Queen’s private secretary in relation to the royal charter for the press. We have also clarified aspects of his legal action against John Pilger and Central Television. We apologise for the errors.

The senior royal official tasked with handling a royal charter to regulate the press is a former military intelligence officer who successfully sued an investigative journalist who had sought to question his presence in Cambodia in the 1980s.

Sir Christopher Geidt, who is the Queen’s private secretary, won a high-court libel action against John Pilger and Central Television in 1991. Uncertainty around Geidt’s role in Cambodia sparked a debate at the time in parliament that included questions over his possible links to MI6 or the British military.

A court heard that Geidt and another former army officer, Anthony de Normann, had wrongly been accused by Pilger’s documentary of being SAS officers who trained the Khmer Rouge to lay mines.

Pilger, who had claimed he never …read more  

Lee Rigby will be long remembered. Not so every military casualty | Ian Jack

The Indian sailors recruited by Britain’s merchant navy died in their thousands during two world wars. Most of them weren’t even commemorated at all

Sometimes the public remember the dead – the “glorious dead”, as the war memorials describe them – and sometimes we forget them completely. Sometimes, in fact, we never knew who they were in the first place. The whole business is so arbitrary, depending not only on questions of where, when and how people died, but also on the question of what rank or race they were. To die in the service of Britain or the British empire doesn’t necessarily guarantee a public display of gratitude. A good way to understand this is to take a short walk from three stations on London’s Docklands Light Railway, as I did this week on a damp, oppressive afternoon that turned the city grey.

I began at the line’s end in Woolwich, where Lee Rigby, a 25-year-old soldier with the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, was stabbed and hacked to death on 22 May. Woolwich is an old military town that once had a famous arsenal and a royal dockyard and still has a barracks, and it never lets …read more  

Camp Bastion detainees challenge the notion of British justice in Afghanistan | Phil Shiner and Tessa Gregory

The British government’s claim that it is strengthening the rule of law is undermined by its treatment of Afghan civilians in custody

While working in Kabul on another legal case involving British troops, our interpreter introduced us to a man we shall call Ali. Ali, an illiterate farmer in his mid-50s, explained in a tired and shaking voice that since March 2012 his teenage son had been detained in a British military facility without charge or access to a lawyer. Ali described the agonising first two months when his son was held incommunicado – he had no idea where his son was and feared for his life. It was only when the International Committee of the Red Cross managed to get a message to him that he discovered his son was in British custody.

Ali is now able to speak to his son for an hour over the internet every fortnight but he has not been permitted to visit him in person. Ali’s son has not been told why he is being detained or what is going to happen to him. Neither Ali nor his wife have been able to sleep properly since their son was …read more  

It is absurd to pretend our armed forces fight only in just wars | Martin Kettle

The lessons of the first world war are not a settled question in modern Britain, nor is how to commemorate it

Last autumn David Cameron went to London’s Imperial War Museum and announced plans for “a truly national commemoration” of the centenary of the first world war. There would be, he revealed, four years of events and activity, all at a total cost of more than £50m, starting with the centenary of the outbreak of war in August 2014 and continuing until the centenary of the Armistice in November 2018.

The speech was strikingly personal. Cameron talked about his own family experience of war. He said how Robert Graves’s war memoir, Goodbye to All That, was “my favourite book”. And he spoke of the great impression – “one of the most powerful things I’ve ever seen” – made on him by a visit to the Turkish memorial at Gallipoli. That memorial’s inscription – which states “there is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us, where they lie, side by side, in this country of ours” – managed to capture “so much of what this is all about”, the prime minister said.

What, though, is …read more