It was in Labour’s interest for Green not to be arrested

PICTURE the scene: the Home Secretary is furious that Damien Green keeps asking difficult questions about immigration. How to respond? Well, have him arrested, of course.

Now, obviously there are difficulties here. First, she doesn’t have any authority to order the police to arrest someone. Second, even if she did, it would have no effect either on Green or any other MP who wanted to bash the government; if anything it would just make them more determined, and the Home Secretary realises this.

Third, what about the media outcry? At a time when Labour have managed to narrow the gap between themselves and the Tories, is now the right time deliberately to create a media storm in which the government will inevitably be seen as the bad guys and which will have the effect of making a martyr out of Damien?

But such arguments have no effect on her, so she orders her secret police into action…

Meanwhile, back in the real world, there is outrage at the above sequence of events – you know, the events that never happened, and couldn’t have happened, for all the reasons listed above.

Everyone who made comments in the previous thread, warning of the arrival of their beloved and much-heralded police state, were already convinced that such a state arrived in May 1997.

Due process will have to take its course, much as the government’s critics hate such an idea. If it turns out that the police have over-reached themselves, that will become apparent and there will be consequences. Parliament will have its say on the question of whether or not the police should have had access to Damien’s House of Commons office.

Due to the exciteable nature of the media, there’s no doubt this affair has caused Labour some serious political damage. This prospect would have been obvious to the Home Secretary had she been told of Green’s imminent arrest. She would have known that such damage to the government and her party could be avoided by interfering in police operations and insisting that no arrest takes place. But would such a politically partisan  motive have been justification enough for this action?

No.

But that’s not a view shared by most of those commenting on this site, by Iain Dale or by the Conservative Party. The real threat to political freedoms in this country doesn’t come from a government unwilling to influence the outcome of a police investigation. It comes from a party which thinks ministers should try to persuade the police who to arrest – and who not to arrest – as part of their investigations.

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30 Comments

Filed under Conservative Party, Government, Labour, Media, Parliament, Politics, Uncategorized

30 responses to “It was in Labour’s interest for Green not to be arrested

  1. >It comes from a party which thinks ministers should try to persuade the police who to arrest – and who not to arrest – as part of their investigations.

    I haven’t seen any party that thinks that on any of the blogs. Do you have a citation? Rather people suspect that, and are worried.

    The big issues here surely are two:

    1 – Why was it possible for a search to be done inside the office of a Member of Parliament for leaked information?

    2 – How did the police – not to say the House Authorities – ever come to the conclusion that that was either possible or acceptable?

    Most people seem agreed on those questions, even if some of us have learnt the hard way to approach anything said by Mr Brown and his Ministers with a hermeneutic of suspicion.

    OK. Three.

    3 – How was the climate created where 1 and 2 arose? On that point, I am probably with most of your commenters.

  2. “I haven’t seen any party that thinks that on any of the blogs. Do you have a citation?”

    Matt – Why criticise a government for an arrest made by the police unless you believe the government should have stepped in to prevent the arrest?

  3. Surely the issue here is the fact that the Mayor of London and Speaker of the House were aware of events, but no senior member of Government appears to have been.

    One would assume that the arrest of a high profile shadow front bencher is something which really ought to have at least been passed on to senior cabinet members.

    So, either the chain of communication is not extending all the way to the top, or someone is fibbing.

  4. John

    Overall, I suppose it can be argued that there are two issues here:

    1) If the government was involved, then that’s awful, although I don’t object to them having that kind of influence over the police.

    My main issue with this if true, is that the government are barstewards for such an underhand tactic, and that MP’s are not sufficiently protected against such behaviour. Something I believe should be quickly remedied by the statute book, and the speaker losing his job for allowing an MP’s westminister office to be ransacked by the police.

    2) If the police acted alone, and the government really had nothing to do with this, then the police have too much power and discretion, and should be reigned in by government by the balls.

    What would help determine which of the above was true, would be the identity of the person who first made the complaint. As we all know, the police will not get off their backsides unless there is a complaint, and even then the action taken is dependant on the importance of the complainant mixed with the seriousness of the offence (in terms of publicity)

    Therefore, who called the police to start with?

    As an aside, I would also like the identity of the person in the police that thought that this complaint warranted a police investigation.

  5. Chris' Wills

    Tom – criticising the goverment (Home Office at least) for the actions of the police is perfectly justified by the fact that the police report to the home office.

    The laws and powers of the police are granted them by the goverment of the day.

    The KPIs for the police are set by the goverment.

    The salaries of the police are agreed with the goverment.

    If the police act offcially act on our behalf (the subjects of her majesty) but in truth who is their true master.

    The methdologies and tools (tasers so you can stun people who offend you by singing off key songs perhaps or matbe those who don’t kowtow to the dear leader) are approved and supplied by the goverment.

    The buck should stop first at the home office minister, even if the holder of that position has a limited grasp of reality.

    To pretend that the police would send 9 policepeople to arrest one man, an elderly MP at that, without approval from someone very senior is absurd.

    They also raided personnel data, whatever happened to constituent/MP confidentiality?

    They blocked his e-mail, how and by what authority have they done this?

    I feel really happy knowing that my MP considers this trivial :o(

  6. I’m sorry if your own MP considers this to be trivial, because it’s certainly not.

    But you seem to believe that to consider it a serious matter, you have to believe the lie that this was a political arrest ordered by a Labour politician. It wasn’t, but that doesn’t make it any less a serious matter.

  7. James

    I’ll post this again on the newer thread.

    Both media and politicians thrive on leaks, and therefore they have a vested interest in presenting the culture of leaks as “whistleblowing” and therefore in the public interest.

    In fact the Civil Service Code has an official whistleblowing policy which gives all civil servants proper channels to record their unhappiness if they believe they are being asked to do something illegal or immoral, or to suppress information which the public ought to know. Their allegations will then be independently investigated rather than spilt over front pages. What these civil servants have allegedly done is not whistleblowing, it’s leaking. Free speech don’t come into it.

    The simple truth is that if the police are alerted to actions which de facto constitute a criminal offence, they should investigate. To suggest otherwise is ludicrous. It is not the hallmark of a police state that laws are enforced zealously, or even sometimes over-enthusiastically. The police are often criticised for NOT applying the same rules to politicians as to the rest of us, so they can’t win.

    It is no defence that this offence is not normally investigated. If MPs are unhappy with the law, they shouldn’t have passed it, and they should pass a new one.

  8. madasafish

    Tom

    Politicians have discretion to recommend to the police to carefully consider their actions.

    Now the CPS or lawyers would undoubtedly been involved as to what crime Green might be charged with.

    So there is lots and lots of time for a reasonable review to be made.

    Given the results of this review: 9 police – PC and files seized, Mr Green is obviously considered likely to be guilty of a SERIOUS crime… .

    Remind me how many MPs were arrested over a few £millions – Cash for Questions?

    After careful consideration: NO MPs..

    Still I suppose Mr Green has done something much worse: published embarrassing information.

    If you are in a hole, stop digging.

    This subject is likely to come back and bite you.

  9. Mad – “Remind me how many MPs were arrested over a few £millions – Cash for Questions?”

    Isn’t it just possible that your mad, foaming, mindless hatred of the Labour Party has blinded you to the fact that (a) the Loans for Peerages “scandal” was launched by an SNP MP trying to justify sending out a press release; and (b) there was no case to answer?

  10. madasafish

    Tom
    Isn’t it just possible that your mad, foaming, mindless hatred of the Conservative Party has blinded you to the fact that (a) the Green arrest was instigated by a Cabinet Office complaint and (b) there may be no case to answer and (c) you are obviously happy that Parliament is invaded and it’s centuries’ old tradition of freedom from police intrusion was broken?

  11. No. Because I don’t hate the Tory Party – I just oppose it. I agree there may be no case to answer, but how do either of us know that until there’s been a full police investigation?Presumably you believe there’s no case to answer because the person arrested is a Tory MP and we currently have a Labour government?

    As to being “happy” that Parliament was invaded, can you find my quote on that so that I can apologise and link to it? Cheers.

  12. Andy

    “First, she doesn’t have any authority to order the police to arrest someone” .. Tom, what you mean is that she has no CONSITUTIONAL authortity. But if you belive that stops her or other paranoid government ministers from pressuring the fuzz into doing their bidding, and using your terrorist legislation to facilitate it then you are truly naive.

    As an aside, why was it in your 18 years of opposition Labour voted always to oppose the annual prevention of terrorism act. How times change eh?

  13. I assume that’s based on your personal paranoia rather than any evidence? (And by evidence, I don’t mean conspiracy theories or supposition.)

  14. Chris' Wills

    Glad to hear it, I must have misread your blog post.

    Not so, I just find it strange that such an act wasn’t notified to the home office minister, if only as a matter of courtesy.
    Arresting an MP is not a trivial matter (actually, arresting anyone is serious, however MPs are representatives of the people so I consider it more erious when they are arrested especially if the arrest is for something like revealing information the goverment finds embarassing), nor is raiding an office, nor is removing computers which are likely to hold correspondence with constituents, nor is reading someones e-mail.

    To do these things normally requires a court order, does such an order exist or is it a case of misusing other powers?

    You know this for a fact or are you just trusting the words of Brown?

  15. Jim Baxter

    As a couple of commenters seem to be implying, it’s not necessary for a minister to attempt to order the police to investigate someone; the process of bringing influence to bear can be far subtler than that, leaving little or no trail.

  16. Johnny Norfolk

    It has the sneaky labour goverments finger prints all over it. You sacked the last DG of the BBC because of the truth he had told about Blair, and the BBC has been afraid of you ever since. You are now trying to intimidate people for passing information that we should know about.

    If you think you can pull the wool over our eyes think again.

    It is government by fear and intimidation.

    You have passed laws that have allowed this to happen. I knew what was comming when that old man was frog marched from the Labour conference for shouting rubbish.

    Labour will do anything to stop the truth comming out. It is a outrage against the people.

  17. wrinkled weasel

    I can smell a NuLab “damage limitation” brief a mile away. The line is, “nobody in their right mind would have instigated this”. Unfortunately it won’t wash. None of the lies will wash any more.

    Matthew Parris nailed it today. It was all done with the tacit approval of the Government. Either that, or the Police in this country are out of control. Yer pays yer money.

  18. Chris' Wills

    Oh, he isn’t the only person the police have tried to do over in a similar way for seemingly similar reasons.

    The judge, being sensible, threw the case out; however the trauma suffered by the reporter, Sally Murrer; has resulted in the lady feeling so psychologically scarred by the episode that she now questions whether she will be able to work as a journalist again.

    After 19 months of harrassment of her and her family and associates (an initial 30h interrogation plus being strip-searched and kept in unhygienic conditions without toilet paper and little soap) I’m not suprised.

    Now where did the police learn these techniques and under what regime would they be considered appropriate?

    Link below, police overstepping the bounds of probity I think.

    http://www.pressgazette.co.uk/story.asp?sectioncode=1&storycode=42562&c=1

  19. Andy

    Not paranoid Tom, just cynical like most of us

  20. Chris' Wills

    Oh, to add to the Murrer case.

    This was known to the Home Office Minister, http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2008/sep/21/pressandpublishing.police

  21. Johnny Norfolk

    Tom

    The other thing that concerns me and should concern you. It is the actions of the Speaker. He has not defended members rights in any way.
    He has to go. Just imagine this had happened to a Labour MP in opposition in the same circumstances with a Tory Speaker.
    Tom you must transend party on things like this as it goes to the heart of our hard won democracy and you can stand on the sidelines and
    “do nothing”
    The lack of outrage from Labour MPs is very sad and dissapointing. You should all be ashamed. you have no fight in your bellies, you are just frightened of your bully leader.
    Just when will you all put country first.
    I think never is the answer to that one.
    Jeffrey Howe had more guts than all of you.
    He stood up to his leader.

  22. If Brown knew, we are now living in an authoritarian State

    If Brown didn’t know, we are nowliving in a Police State.

    Yes, it really is that simple.

    Which is it Tom? Time to read the copy of 1984 you were sent recently perhaps?

  23. I think I lost it, actually. And anyway, I’m sure that, however funny it is, it certainly won’t be as entertaining as some of these comments.

  24. Andrew F

    I wonder… how many of these Tories bemoaned the “police state” when it was being used to oppress the miners in the eighties? One Tory MP gets arrested for reasons unknown and the walls come crumbling down; but when a Tory PM directs the the cops into a sustained campaign of harassment against union members… well, that’s just dandy.

    1984 is the right year – for more than one reason.

  25. Andy

    Oddly enough Andrew F, those of us who are worried by this arrest were worried for the same reasons by Scargill’s strike; the attempt to bring down democracy …

    It’s not a difficult concept, even for someone and challenged as you

  26. Martin Cullip

    Your arguments that it would be silly for Jacqui Smith to take the line of having a Shadow Minister arrested are very well put Tom. It is definitely going to be a bad thing for Labour.

    However, your points only hold water if you assume that Jacqui Smith isn’t stupid. Ahem.

  27. Martin Cullip

    Andrew F: I was appalled at Thatcher’s use of the Police in 1984. It was wrong. I am also appalled at the use of the Police in this instance. No contradiction there.

    The difference is that this Government has been eroding our freedoms increasingly in the past 3 or 4 years and that is why this is so very worrying.

    If a Shadow Minister isn’t safe under Labour’s anti-terrorism laws, what chance anyone else?

    Christ on a bike, it shouldn’t be hard to understand. Counter-terrorism laws have been used on all and sundry. 28,000 people have been affected. Now MPs that oppose the Government are caught in the net along with people who want a nice school for their kids, schoolboys doing a Geography field trip, or friendly countries who like to fish.

    Terrorism laws were meant to be about catching terrorists, weren’t they? It seems that they can conveniently be used on, literally, anyone. A guy in my area was stopped and searched under Section 44 of the Terrorism Act a couple of weeks ago for taking pictures of a block of flats. He is an Estate Agent.

  28. Wel, let’s face it Martin – who’s going to complain if the police are targeting estate agents…?

  29. Martin Cullip

    Thought you might say something like that and it does raise a smile in one sense. However, surely the conversation should have gone something like this:

    Plod: What are you doing taking pictures of that building?
    EA: I’m an Estate Agent
    Plod: OK, fair enough sonny, carry on.

    Without the Terrorism Act, there would have been no other conversation. Post-Terrorism Act, the Police have wasted their time form-filling, the Estate Agent has been held up from doing his job, no-one has been protected.

    A complete waste of time and money.

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