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Anorak | Damian Green Round Up: The Martyr, The Clunking Fist And The End Of The Commons

Damian Green Round Up: The Martyr, The Clunking Fist And The End Of The Commons

by | 28th, November 2008

DAMIAN GREEN MP, the shadow immigration minister, has been arrested at his constituency home in East Kent. He was arrested for “aiding and abetting misconduct in public office”.

His “crime” is the obtaining of leaked Whitehall documents and for “aiding and abetting misconduct in public office”.

It is an act worthy of Robert Mugabe, or Stalin, a police state.

In February this year, Mr Green said:

“Ministers like to talk tough about cracking down on employers but it is clear that the system is failing in our most sensitive buildings. What makes this even worse is that ministers’ first instinct was to cover it up.”

It is understood that the inquiry is focusing on four Home Office documents allegedly obtained by the Conservatives. Last November, documents from the private office of Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary, were leaked to the opposition.

They showed that ministers had known for four months that thousands of illegal immigrants had been cleared to work as security guards but had not told Parliament. Other documents included information about an illegal immigrant working at House of Commons and a list of Labour MPs preparing to vote against the Government’s anti-terrorism measures.

An alleged “whistleblower”, thought to be a male Home Office official was arrested 10 days ago.

Iain Dale wonders who’s next:

If it is now a crime for a politician to do this sort of thing then just think how many other people should have been arrested – Robert Peston being a good recent example. What about government ministers who relished leaking information about the PBR?

Well, no. EU Ref explains:

But it is fair to make the point that the situation is different if on receipt of leaked confidential information, the MP sends it to the “proper authorities”. If he then uses the information so gained to “guide” questioning in the House – whether written or oral – and thereby puts that information into the public domain, then he is pretty much watertight, protected by Parliamentary privilege.

The place for opposition to hold the government to account is the House of Commons, not the pages of the press. If the media then publish the proceedings of the House, that is a matter for them and, generally, to be welcomed – that is democracy at work. MPs leaking confidential government information, passed to them illegally by civil servants, is not.

Says Green:

“I was astonished to have spent more than nine hours today under arrest for doing my job. I emphatically deny I have done anything wrong. I have many times made public information that the Government wanted to keep secret – information that the public has a right to know. In a democracy, opposition politicians have a duty to hold the Government to account. I was elected to the House of Commons precisely to do that and I certainly intend to continue doing so.”

Shadow chancellor George Osborne tells BBC1’s Question Time:

“MPs receive information from civil servants. To hide it from the public is wrong.”

Indeed. But isn’t that what the Commons is for, to shine light on hidden horrors? What is the purpose of the Commons?

A worried Iain Martin says, “The encroachment of the Executive and the police on the business of an MP going about his business, who was working to put legitimate information in the public domain, is seriously sinister.”

Who to blame?

This type of outrage is what happens when parliament gives away its powers to external authorities – the Executive and the EU – and comes to regard itself as unimportant. Institutions which show they care too little for their own rights, find that gradually others notice and start to operate on the assumption that incursions will not be resisted.

Antony Barnett takes up that point:

The police spent many months and a huge amount of money investigating the cash for peerages scandal. They interviewed the Prime Minister twice, something that had never happened before to a serving premier. The reason is obvious to everyone. Parliament and Downing Street was a crime scene. Peerages were indeed being sold for cash. I recall watching Blair saying (but I can’t find the link or the transcript) in a press conference that of course individuals who assisted political parties with large sums might be ennobled and there was nothing wrong with this – provided it didn’t take place in the same transaction. The cynicism was transparent.

So there is a very strong and recent experience in the upper levels of the police that politicians get away with breaking the law. Even more annoying, when the police fail to make a case against them stand up strongly enough for a court of law, they are then attacked by the same politicians for wasting public money.

Thus the arbitrary, corrupt and despotic behaviour of New Labour under Blair has now bred an arbitrary and despotic police command. We are reaping Blair’s failure to believe in democracy.

Not us, guv’nor, honest:

A Labour party spokesman opines:

“It is clear from government statements that ministers had no prior knowledge of this arrest. This is entirely a matter for the police.”

Fraser Nelson agrees:

I believe Gordon Brown when he says he had no prior knowledge of Green’s arrest, and also suspect he would have stopped the arrest if he could. He will be under no illusions as to how bad this will look, and that there will be those who’ll think (wrongly) that he somehow encouraged Green’s arrest. In fact, if you were a police chief who really hated Brown an wanted to make him look as Stalinist as possible, you couldn’t do better than send anti-terror police round to search the Commons office of an Opposition MP and then arrest him. As things stand, Green will come out of this with a martyr’s halo.

At Conservative Right, the natives are upbeat:

“Politically, Monday’s mess of a PBR was the end of the beginning for Brown’s ministry. Sanctioning the arrest of the Conservative member for Ashford should be the beginning of the end.”

And Tim Montgomerie:

The PBR had, I thought wrecked Labour’s chances at the next election and then the police shoot the Government in the foot with the extraordinary arrest of Damian Green.

As Anorak’s AGW puts it:

The penny may be dropping in certain circles at Westminster the introduction of the UK’s draconian Terrorism Laws may have a political edge unseen until yesterday. Some are realising what awesome powers have been handed over to the Boys and Girls in Blue and may not have been such a good idea.

And finally, Justin asks:

Does anybody think that if the substance of the information leaked to Green had been ‘everything’s rosey at the Home Office’ he’d have had nine policemen standing around him yesterday?

So who do you blame?



Posted: 28th, November 2008 | In: Key Posts, Politicians Comments (8) | TrackBack | Permalink