Saturday, 29 November 2008

Damian Green and missing the point

. Alex Wilcox has and excellent post on this; meanwhile over on Peter Black's blog Matthew H makes similar points. No doubt I will be now accused of 'swallowing Labour propaganda whole' but I feel our response to the Damien Green affair has been one-sided; not particularly balanced and thus has fallen into the trap of being populist tub-thumping which will invariably be drowned out by David Cameron's much larger drums.

Reading Nick Clegg's article in the Daily Telegraph it is slightly shocking that he says;

"Even if these [anti-terror] laws were not invoked this time"

when it is quite clear they weren't. As Alex points out it's actually laws brought in by the last Conservative government that are being used; the Official Secrets Act being revised in 1989 to remove the 'public interest defence' and the Police and Criminal Evidence Act being enacted in 1984. It is this act which lays down the legislative framework for the powers of the police. So, we can now wonder out loud why David Cameron hasn't felt it fit to bang his drums over this yet; is it a massive coincidence? Why let facts spoil a bit of easy point scoring off an opposition? You can criticise Labour for failing to revise it legitimately but you can't blame them for it's existence in the first place.

So, when Clegg says;

"The sight of police rifling through boxes of Mr Green's correspondence, through disc after disc of computerised information, will erode public confidence in the role MPs play in their communities"

it is worth considering where they get the power to do that from. Clegg is more on-beam when he says that;

"Surrounding all this is a whiff of hypocrisy about New Labour departments in Whitehall clamping down on leaks to opposition politicians when ministers have elevated judicious leaking to the press to an art form.

MPs have long got used to the depressing predictability of Sunday newspapers carrying intricate details of the latest government master plan before ministers have bothered to tell Parliament.

And who can forget the way Labour politicians ruthlessly used leaks from Whitehall to damage the hapless Major administration before the 1997 general election? And guess who was the master at using those leaks most aggressively? Gordon Brown."

However, the same stench emanates from the opposition benches too and we are doing ourselves no favours by ignoring it and hoping that Conservatives will leap ship and see us as being 'on their side really'. Matthew H sums it up rather neatly;

"I agree with you that it is undemocratic to start arresting MPs for doing their jobs. But the issue here is the Official Secrets Act and the culture of secrecy in British government. It really isn't helpful to try and turn this into a debate about anti-terrorism legislation."

I happen to agree; turning this into a debate about something that is not immediately relevant is not helping our case; it certainly isn't helpful with the likes of Guido screaming 'Stalinism'. Anti-terror legislation is only relevant to the point where it has given the police their 'head' and the confidence to act in this way but it is not the immediate issue.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What tyranny is it when our rulers, our MPs, cry foul when they are held to not be above the very laws they themselves would enact on the populace of this land?

No one should be above the law no matter what their rank or profession.

Only when the law is permitted to take its course with our rulers, aye all the way to Barlinnie if needs be, will our lawmakers be given pause for thought before enacting unjust statutes upon this fair land and its noble people.