Damned if you do…

DO-NOTHING Dave has been quick to make as much political capital out of Damien Green’s arrest as possible.

He is reported as saying: “[The police] have got questions to answer, frankly, I think government ministers have got questions to answer as well. If they didn’t know, why weren’t they told?”

So, what exactly is the allegation, Dave? That ministers knew and colluded with the police? Or that they knew nothing about it? In Dave’s book, either scenario points to wrong-doing.

Talk about clutching at straws…

UPDATE at 1.24 pm: It’s a relief to see, among the vitriol and paranoia of the various libertarians, cybertories and other assorted moonhowlers, the occasional thoughtful and intelligent comment. Check out this one from Ani.

UPDATE at 5.46 pm: And yet another excellent comment. My goodness, this has been a good day…

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32 Comments

Filed under David Cameron, Government, Media, Politics

32 responses to “Damned if you do…

  1. John

    Either way it is wrong Tom.

    If the government were involved in this, then that’s shameful and there needs to be both the resignation of the speaker and new laws to prevent this happening again.

    If the government weren’t involved in this, then the police acted arrested a democratically elected MP and took private documents from him off their own back, with no checks and balances. That’s equally shameful and worrying. Something that we all expect to happen in Zimbabwe, not here.

    What people want, and are expecting, is that if an MP is to be investigated, the police should not be able to do it off their own back, they want government involvment, and a clear transparent process in place for the government to follow in those circumstances. Something that can be both documented and scrutinised at a later date. That way MP’s are not immune, but it prevents government abuses at the same time.

    Sound fair?

    In this case the people have had none of that, just denials from one side and silence from the other, and they are rightly up in arms about it.

  2. I agree that the police have questions to answer – why did they tip off the Tory leader about the impending arrest of one of his MPs?

  3. Not at all.

    If the government did not know, that points to a police state.

    If the government did know, that points to a dictatorship.

    Either scenario, to a logical mind at least, points to wrong-doing..

  4. Chris' Wills

    Well I’m not Mr Cameron, but the request for information is surely justified.

    The idea is to ascertain the facts, or are those nasty things NuLiebor wishes to avoid?

    The police wouldn’t act without receiving a complaint in the first place, said complaint would have come from the home office, n’est pas?

    Who runs the home office?

    Either the goverment knew about what the police were upto in these cases and turned a blind eye to the abuse or it didn’t know.
    In neither case are they serving the people.

    I’m not saying that a minster should intervene directly; but they should know what the police are upto and when the police overstep their bounds (9 policemen raid an old mans home at 11pm; or strip search and hold in unsanitary conditions a journalist charged with reporting the truth) then the minister, via parliament, should rein them in.
    That is a ministers’ job, amongst other things.

    I’m am suprised at your stalwart defence of such a blatant attack on the rights of parliament.
    Let alone the use of the same law to attack journalists.

    You are a member of one of the tribes, MPs, and weren’t you once a journalist of sorts?

    The law is being used to suppress free speach, investigative journalism and the duty of MPs (of all parties) to hold the goverment to account.

    I realise that you believe that the dear leader and his associates can do no wrong, but one would have thought you’ld at least try to defend your own rights if not those of the public.

    Yes whistleblowing is formalised within whitehall, but who would be silly enough to think that it will be properly adjudicated or not tarnish your promotion/job opportunities.
    Even if it is properly ajudicated the sins of goverments should be aired in public not brushed under the carpet.

    The actions of the police should be controlled by the law. They are subjects of the Queen and not above the law, nor are goverment ministers.

    Did you read the link I posted, a 50 year old lady stripped searched. She wasn’t charged with being a mule, do know what a strip search consists of?
    Will the police investigate, only if the victim sues and the CPS concurs.
    Why did they do it; to humiliate, confuse and abase the poor lady so she’ld confess to whatever they wanted.
    Is that the kind of country you and yours to live in?

    You really should have a look at what you and your party have allowed (aided and abetted with no forethought) to come about, luckilly it has reached your london club so perhaps you’ll think about how the hoi polloi feel.

  5. Andrew F

    Is this whole thing not just another example of how awful our spin operation is these days? A member of the Tory shadow cabinet gets nicked by the anti-terror police, and after about 4 seconds, it’s a scandal for Labour?!

    Bring. Back. Campbell.

  6. ani

    Tom. I found this (part) article on Mick Fealty from a link by Sadie, and it resonates strongly with me.
    Apart from leaks, in recent months there have been too many losses of memory sticks, discs and documents reported in the press, and a concerted campaign to undermine the Government has certainly been at the back of my suspicious mind.
    Perhaps it will not only be the police and the Government who ‘have questions to answer’ after this investigation.

    “This argument has a flipside though.

    If, for instance, Mr Green had someone in the Home Office who seemed to be less motivated by a desire to expose corruption, and more by a determination to run an anti-government campaign from within a government department, it would be a different matter – particularly if Mr Green knew this to be the case.

    If, for instance, this person was leaking other material to other senior Conservative spokesmen, for example – or worse still, if this person had some sort of record of Conservative activism – then it really would be a problem.

    It is possible, after all, to buy the ‘lone gunman’ theory.

    One person, outraged by government mendacity, and ensuring that a trusted parliamentarian can challenge it. That pretty much covers Clive Ponting, and he was only saved from jail by a sympathetic jury.

    But if it started to look like a concerted campaign involving a number of opposition spokesmen to infiltrate and undermine a government department, then we are no longer in Lee Harvey Oswald territory, and looking at a conspiracy.

    Acting according to one’s conscience is one thing. Using the privileged access to information that you have as a civil servant to do political damage to a government that you personally oppose on a number of different issues – that would be quite another.

    It would create a precedent that would enable any government to start cross-examining civil servants about their political beliefs – and would certainly backfire on the Conservatives if/when they get into government.

    That would be a dirty tricks campaign.

    Now, rumours abound about a leak at Treasury as well. If this were to start to look less like one outraged pen-pusher confiding in a principled MP and more like a concerted Tory ‘Trojan Horse’ strategy, it could be very damaging to Project Cameron.”

  7. James

    I cannot see how any senior civil servant would authorize this fiasco without their political masters supporting them after the event, which suggests that ministers were well aware of the possibility of the actual outcome.

  8. I agree with the first four comments.

    How much more evidence do you need, Tom?

    Thanks to your blog you have had an army of unpaid advisors warning you of the police state being implemented all around us.

    You always talk about “do-nothing Dave” but what are YOU doing while Rome burns, apart from closing your eyes and sticking your fingers in your ears?

  9. Stewart – there is a difference between evidence and supposition. If you have evidence, produce it: memos, minutes, records of phone calls, witnesses… what have you got?
    And you know something else? It’s not good enough to call someone a liar just because you disagree with them. I would have thought you’d take the injunction not to bear false witness a bit more seriously, Stewart.

  10. Jay

    I simply don’t understand how there can be doubt that Government Ministers knew about the impending arrest when the complaint on which the police acted came from the Cabinet Office. I’ve also read that, under the legislation which was used to arrest Mr Green, authorisation is required from a senior police officer and the Home Secretary has to be informed that such authorisation has been given.

    If the Government feels the need to defend itself I imagine that it will point out that Government Ministers have no power to interfere in the due process of law and, therefore, couldn’t stop the arrest or perhaps it will emerge that a civil servant erred in failing to inform his Minister.

    The whole episode is very, very odd.

  11. Tom, you can find evidence everywhere of police state implementation.

    You’ve heard it all before, e.g.

    Anti-terror laws used to catch people putting their bins out early or spying on parents taking their children to school, Walter Wolfgang, etc.

    The use of differences in people (colour, creed, religion, sex, ‘sexuality’, level of disablement, age) to invent thought crimes and ‘hate’ crimes to get them into the ‘System’.

    Millions of people are on the DNA database, including 100,000 innocent children:

    “It will fuel concerns that police are targeting for arrest youngsters who have done nothing wrong, simply to get their hands on their DNA.”

    Why else would they do it? Meanwhile thousands of genuine young criminals are making life a misery every day and the police are “too busy” to even turn up.

    Too busy arresting innocent people.

    It’s a double whammy for law-abiding people: it produces a climate of fear of the criminals AND the police.

    That’s why easy targets are favoured, like Chris’ Wills was saying, to thoroughly instil fear into the people; to try and dehumanise us and make us feel worthless and therefore open to every abuse of the state.

    This is just a tiny part of the process.

    Maybe Mr Green will turn out to be a major villain, but until then, I am assuming he is just another victim of state intrusion and a serious enough concern to the ‘authorities’ that he has to be scared off through this humiliation.

  12. “You’ve heard it all before”

    True. So true…

  13. Chris' Wills

    Tom wrote “Stewart – there is a difference between evidence and supposition. If you have evidence, produce it: memos, minutes, records of phone calls, witnesses… what have you got?”

    As you well know, it is against the law for any of us to have that information.
    If I did (I don’t by the way) and published it I’ld be subject to the same catch all law.

    You would be required to give up my e-mail address, my ISP would be required to give up our contact details and the police might then have a quiet word with me.

    Intimidation works and I don’t fancy being strip searched.

    Being a nobody only my family would care, if I was allowed to contact anyone to let them know. My MP seems to think that the law is wonderful so no help from that direction.

  14. “If I did (I don’t by the way)…”

    Proving my point.

  15. John

    That is an interesting point by Ani I agree. However, I don’t really see what reflection it has on the main points of contention?

    Say there is a mole in the civil service. Someone who is spending all day hunting for incriminating documents to hand to the Tories rather than doing their job. I agree that is shameful, and that person should be weeded out and prosecuted if there is indeed a law that covers this. After all, regardless of your political leanings, every man and his dog should agree that the civil cervice needs to be politically independant, and focused on their job rather than politics. Particuarly as they are then taking it upon themselves to decide what’s in the public interest. If they get that wrong and divulge sensitive information not in the public interest than we could have a very serious situation indeed.

    So, if that’s what someone in the Cabinet Office was complaining about, then that’s fair enough, and I fully support that.

    HOWEVER, that still doesn’t touch on the bones of contention. That is, that the police went after a serving MP in search of the mole. They couldn’t and wouldn’t do it to a journalist in an attempt to get his source, yet they went after an MP. If this wasn’t bad enough, they confiscated documents from the MP (something they couldn’t do to a Lawyer or Doctor), and went into his private office in Westminister with the permission of the speaker, (who should promptly resign for giving it).

    This raises the same two points people are rightly complaining about.

    1) Was the government involved in getting the police to do this? If they were, then there should have been a process that was followed. Something documented that would provide for a method of accountability. If not, and the government was involved, then the rules need changing. I can think of many situations where a government would need the powers to investigate an MP, and as such have absolutely no problem with them having these powers. However, there needs to be a documented process that allows a system of accountability and review so that this power is only used when appropriate, and only to the extent that it is necessary (imposing limits on the search for example.

    2) If the government wasn’t involved, then the police felt totally free to go after a serving MP in this manner totally off their own backs. Why? How? The police should be well beyond their remit in doing this, and if they aren’t that should be quickly remedied by the statute book if necessary. They need to be reigned in by the balls for this. An MP’s actions should be subject to parliamentary scrutiny, not police scrutiny. If the police are allowed in the corradors of power, then that is a very dangerous precident to set, and smacks of the activities of a country like Zimbabwe, not Britain.

  16. Chris' Wills

    “Proving my point.”

    I hope you aren’t suggesting that I break the law? That’s illegal don’t you know?

    Not really proving your point, unless your point is that circumstantial evidence doesn’t count.

    The only way to get the evidence is what Mr Cameron is doing, asking for the facts.

    Of course that presupposes that the Dear Leader (or his ministerial minions at the home office) doesn’t lie or invoke security issues to prevent issuance of the facts.

  17. Chris' Wills

    John, “….They couldn’t and wouldn’t do it to a journalist in an attempt to get his source….”

    They tried to silence/intimidate a reporter using the self same law.

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

  18. Chris' Wills

    Just in case anyone is interested, the link is to the offence used by the police to arrest the MP http://www.cps.gov.uk/legal/l_to_o/misconduct_in_public_office/

    The guidance says:
    “Like perverting the course of justice, misconduct in public office covers a wide range of conduct. It should always be remembered that it is a very serious, indictable only offence carrying a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. A charge of misconduct in public office should be reserved for cases of serious misconduct or deliberate failure to perform a duty which is likely to injure the public interest.”

    Hmm, life imprisonment.

    But you have to injure the public interest.

    What public interest was harmed?
    Oh, of course, he embarassed the goverment. Tut tut lock him up and throw away the key.

    Is it even appropriate for the civil servant who leaked the embarassing document?

    Unless they’re claiming that he paid for the leaked document, then I suppose he may be guilty of something like leading a civil servant to commit the supposed misconduct.

  19. I see where you’re going with this, Chris – it’s a Tory MP who’s been arrested, therefore he must be an innocent victim of the regime. Stands to reason. Better, in your opinion, to pre-judge the whole thing rather than let the police investigate. Because if they did investigate, that would be, like, them doing their jobs and stuff, and that’s the first sign of a police state, right?

  20. John

    The point is Tom, the police shouldn’t be investigating MP’s in this manner. It should be well outside their remit, and it is for every western democracy. The only countries that allow this sort of thing are countries like Zimbabwe.

    If there is something for Damian Green to answer then parliament should be able to investigate, or the government should be able to direct the police to investigate through a open, transparent and accountable process that still keeps the police out of westminister offices and away from that MP’s constituency files.

    The ethos of the Westminister is that it is essentially an embassy. The best quote highlighting this is hundreds of years old and something I studied in my A Levels many years ago.

    Charles Ist stormed into Parliament and demanded that the speaker turn over 5 MP’s he wished to arrest. The speaker replied with, “I have neither eyes to see, nor tongue to speak in this place, but as this house is pleased to direct me, whose servant I am.”

    Yet the current speaker rolled out the red carpet. He should resign in ignominy.

    No, rather than allowing the police to “do their jobs and stuff”, they should be forced to abandon this investigation in it’s entirity.

    If they are indeed investigating a leak in the Civil Service, let them tear that place apart, not MP’s offices.

  21. Chris' Wills

    No Tom,

    Oddly enough I’m not.

    I’m wondering why they chose this particular law?

    Surely there are more appropriate ones; say receiving stolen goods or suborning a civil servant (if they think he paid for the information).

    This one is so strong a law (almost as serious as a treason charge) it just seems over the top, it also seems inappropriate as even the guidance says that the public interest must be injured.

    I’m happy to let the police continue their investigations, hopefully it won’t drag on and on leaving the MP and civil servant involved and their loved ones in a state of limbo for years.

    I also hope and trust that the police will quickly return all the MPs correspondence and delete the copies they’ve made that aren’t pertinent to the case.

    I also hope there is a large and angry mob of MPs, from all parties, when parliament next sits to get to the bottom of this.

  22. wrinkled weasel

    Tom, you are being a smug git. Not only that, you are accusing us of writing in green ink.

    So, ok, we may be a little over the top, but I for one always believe the snafu/fubar explanation ahead of any conspiracy theories, but don’t you really accept that something is rotten in the state of Denmark?

    Nobody in their right mind thinks that the Damien Green affair is merely the Plod acting out of order. The question is, do you?

  23. wrinkled weasel

    Headline in the Torygraph: “Damien Green’s wife speaks”

    It’s amazing what women can do these days with a university education and some of Harriet Harman’s equal opportunities.

  24. Jim Baxter

    ‘Moonhowlers’ eh? I see. What a way to talk about your loyal fan-base.

    I kinda like it though. I think I’ll put it on my cv.

    I’d suggest that one thing that should certainly be of concern here is that a lot more people seem distrustful of our government’s motives than is healthy. That doesn’t mean that we who are distrustful are the unhealthy ones. We’re not all paranoiacs. Well, I am – my doctors are doing their best – but I doubt if everybody else is who is expressing their worries.

    Maybe there is a conspiracy of cybertories, or just Tories, who are trying to spread alarm and despondency for their own nefarious reasons. But some of us look at who is in charge and don’t like what we see, and not because of any party or policy allegiances.

  25. Don’t take it personally, Jim, I didn’t mean you…

  26. Chris' Wills

    A conspiracy of cybertories?
    Well if it is there are some strange converts, even the grauniad bloggers aren’t happy.
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/commentisfree+politics/damian-green

  27. Jim Baxter

    Thanks for that Tom. But I’m paranoid which means I take EVERYTHING personally. I blame this government. I’m going to write to my MP.

    Oh, wait a minute, that’s what I am doing…

  28. Rapunzel

    If there is a suspicion that wrong has been done, beyond what seems to be normal “whistleblowing”, then the police should investigate fully.

    If Damien Green is entirely innocent of any wrongdoing, then at the end of the investigation the police may have to be called to account.

    If Ministers have lied, or colluded with the police to arrest an innocent man, they must resign.

    If the Speaker has broken parliamentary rules then he should consider his position.

    There seem to be so many people who are sure they know exactly what has or has not happened, and exactly who is right or wrong. I’m not one of them. I need a few more answers first, but don’t think we’ll get them while a police investigation is underway.

    If it should be that Damien Green has overstepped the mark and that this investigation leads to a charge, presumably there will be a lot of people eating humble pie? Or maybe not.

  29. iain ker

    It’s amazing isn’t it.

    If your take is that the Great Helsman and Schoolteacher Jacqui’s dabs are all over this, then in TomHarrisLand you’re an ‘assorted moonhowler’.

    On the other hand, if you think (or pretend to think) that this is nothing more than a conscientious anti-terrorist police force merely going about their daily job free of all Nulabour interference then in TomHarrisLand you are a ‘thoughtful and intelligent’ commentator.

    I mean it’s not like Nulabour haven’t had ACPO in their backpocket for the last decade is it.

  30. ani

    It’s amazing isn’t it, and damned frustrating to boot, that some posters here are just refusing to sing from the (hysterical paranoid) Tory song sheet?

    Well boohoo to you, and I just thank heavens I don’t reside in a Toryworld with bitter snides like you, ik.
    After all – been there – done that – and almost anything is preferable to going back.

    And you know what? With the problems we have to address today, the decisions that need to be made, the changes that we will make in our lives for our families and our futures, where exactly do you think an opposition MP is on my scale of 1 – 10 in importance?

    There will be a time to make appropriate judgements about Green when you’ve some real information to work with, so in the meantime, take a chill pill and get over yourself.

    And what was that you were saying about client state?

  31. Rapunzel

    “On the other hand, if you think (or pretend to think) that this is nothing more than a conscientious anti-terrorist police force merely going about their daily job free of all Nulabour interference then in TomHarrisLand you are a ‘thoughtful and intelligent’ commentator.”

    I’m not pretending to think anything. I’m not thinking what Tory bloggers are jumping up and down telling me to think. I’m not thinking what Labour bloggers are telling me to think. I’m simply stating that I don’t know what the facts are. At the moment I can see both sides of the issue. When we know the facts, I’ll decide what to think. All by myself.

    And Tom didn’t say I was “thoughtful and intelligent.” He said it was an excellent comment.

  32. yozza

    Tom,I love reading the comments in your blog,I really do. You,my good man,are performing a genuine public service. Keep it up 🙂

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