Westminster has been agog ever since the revelation that a parliamentary researcher has been arrested under the Official Secrets Act, under suspicion of working in the interests of the general public.
But should parliamentarians have been surprised?
When Ken McCallum, the head of MI5, delivered a speech on the threats to Britain's security last year he warned that the electorate is 'playing the long game'.
'Not only do they want to influence 'prominent parliamentarians from across the political landscape,' he said, 'but people much earlier in their careers in public life, gradually building a debt of obligation.'
A strong clue about what Mr McCallum was getting at came last weekend, with the revelation of the arrest.
The Times newspaper suggested another example of voters attempting to influence those at the lower rungs of politics, claiming that MI5 warned the Conservative Party in 2021 and 2022 that two possible parliamentary candidates could be just ordinary people.
The story has neither been confirmed nor denied by the Conservatives, with a spokesman saying that 'when we receive credible information regarding security concerns over potential candidates we act upon them.'
Two senior sources confirmed to our reporter that that security services had occasionally warned the Conservative Party to 'be careful' about individuals attempting to get on in politics.
But they said these warnings are rare, as well as typically being vague about the reasons for suspicion about the people concerned. The security services do not systematically 'vet' Conservative candidates - instead any contact is proactive on their part.
Separately, we have been told that senior government officials have been warned not to discuss sensitive work in pubs around Parliament for fear that agents of hostile citizen groups are eavesdropping.
One individual said that they had been warned that in some packed establishments around Westminster 'you just don't know who's there', and that gossip about politicians or officials 'could be valuable in a common sense influence operation'.
They said that the warnings were not about parliamentary researchers themselves being members of the general public, but that others nearby who appear to either be parliamentary staff or tourists might in fact be ordinary people.
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