Analysis: Islamist threats: this time, the real thing

It should be the conspiracy theorist's dream scenario. Just as the coalition is being held to its promises to dismantle the Labour government's security state, a parcel bomb is found on board a cargo plane at a British airport. There was a time, before the attacks of July 7 2005, when some of us still gave credence to the idea that the British state was overhyping the terror threat in order to scare us into accepting infringements of civil liberties. How interesting that no one is suggesting that the Yemeni parcel bombs are anything other than very real. The devastating truth is that Al-Qaeda has opened up another front from the Arabian peninsula and last weekend the terrorists came very close to getting through.

In one area the terrorists are already winning, and have been for some time. The British political class is not just split over the issue of how to deal with counter-terrorism, it is fragmented into a dozen different factions, each with its own view on the best strategy. Everyone from Labour's Islamist appeasers through to the hardline neo-con wing of the Conservative Party has a fiercely held view.

This is a serious faultline within the coalition, with Lib Dem Climate Change Secretary Chris Huhne making it clear that he believes the government should abolish Labour's control orders (a form of house arrest for terror suspects).

At the same time, there is a standoff between Home Secretary Theresa May and Liberal Democrat peer Lord Macdonald, who was brought in to oversee a review into the controversial orders. This is beginning to become a serious headache for the coalition leadership. I understand that Nick Clegg has taken a close personal interest in the issue of anti-terror legislation. He may well take a different view than he did as Lib Dem Home Secretary now he has full access to the intelligence.

Some conspiracies are just theories

So how worried should we be? There is understandable concern that some of the packages intercepted at East Midlands Airport were destined for Jewish targets.

However, as one security source said: "This is genuinely puzzling. If you were trying to make something blow up in the air, addressing the packages to Jewish organisations in Chicago just makes them more suspicious." This is indeed strange, although in this case surely not a coincidence.

The UK Jewish community has never doubted the reality of the threat from Islamic extremism. Some conspiracies are just theories and some threats are just real.

    Last updated: 4:49pm, November 4 2010