David Cameron, interviewed by the BBC early this morning, gave a strong statement of concern that a front bench opposition spokesman was arrested yesterday and asked the perfectly reasonable question why it was necessary for nine counter-terrorism police officers to search his house and others to search his office in Parliament. Cameron said “If they wanted to talk to Damien Green… why didn’t they pick up the telephone.”
The BBC reports: ” Police say Mr Green was held on suspicion of “conspiring to commit misconduct in a public office” and “aiding and abetting, counselling or procuring misconduct in a public office”. He was released on bail until a date in February….. The MP has denied any wrongdoing and said “opposition politicians have a duty to hold the government to account” and that he would “continue to do so”.
Cameron made the point that government ministers did not know anything bout the arrest – despite the fact that both he and the Speaker had been told shortly before – and that in itself raised further questions and that if they did not know “what do they think about the fact that an opposition politician has been arrested for making public information in the public interest and which may be uncomfortable for the government.”
We hear that leaking has been almost a tradition of government in this country – and, it would appear, political journos are waiting to see if the famed “Treasury Mole” is soon to be outed – so what was exceptional in this situation..?
Has this happened before?
No. It is unprecedented for an MP to be arrested and his office searched by police in connection with a leak inquiry. The law Mr Green is suspected of breaking is an obscure, little-used piece of legislation.
The story unfolds….
UPDATE: 13.30 Friday 28th November
From the comments section… “But I don’t believe that this was a breach of the official secrets act, or that doesn’t seem to be what the police are saying…….Furthermore, is Jacqui Smith not in operational control of Counter Terrorism?
I am struggling to believe that none of the Attorney General, the Home Secretary or the Justice Secretary knew about this knew about the intention to arrest a senior MP and search his offices (a la King Charles)?….. The speaker and the serjeant at arms knew about it… and are we to believe that Gorbals Mick did not think to ring the PM with the juicy goss?”
See also: Reactionary Snob:
“Hmmm. I don’t believe this, I can’t believe this. The Police are either completely fucking stupid (admittedly not outwith the realms of possibility) but more likely they were either a) instructed to do this (unlikely) or b) made sure that their arses were gold-plated before they arrested an MP (i.e. getting direct authorisation to proceed from within Westminster). Dim as the Met can be there is no way on Earth they would have sent 6 armed anti-terror police into an elected representative’s house (and offices) without covering themselves from the inevitable shitstorm.”
UPDATE: 2.30 pm 28th November
1. Douglas Carswell MP – “Speaker sanctioned Police Raid.”
Carswell writes: ” Guido Fawkes is brilliant today – pointing out that no action was taken when public officials conspired to give the BBC’s Robert Peston sensitive information – allegedly.
2. Guido Fawkes: Arrest Osborne next – he seems to be in receipt of secret Treasury information?
3. I am doing a Podcast on this Farago with Carl Gardner, Head of Legal tomorrow morning.
Should be fun.
UPDATE: 6.45 pm 28th November
1. Joshua Rozenburg in The Telegraph suggests that the arrest of Damien Green MP was not as perplexing as it would seem. A worthy (and interesting) article explaining the law – but doesn’t address the real issue of *Why* the PM, Home Secretary, other senior government ministers were not told in advanve whereas The Speaker, David Cameron and Boris Johnson were told in advance
Rozenburg suggests that Green was arrested after Parliament was prorogued and to make it easier for the Police to search his office when he wasn’t there. Surely the Police did not withold information about the imminent arrest from the PM, the Home Secretary and other Labour officials in case ‘the information leaked out’? That would be ridiculous.
Charles I attempts to arrest five Members of Parliament, 6 January 1642
The story continues…..
Senior Tory, Damien Green MP, angered by his arrest
The BBC reports that a senior Conservative MP has reacted angrily to his arrest by police investigating the alleged leaking of Home Office information. “Police say Mr Green was held on Thursday on suspicion of “conspiring to commit misconduct in a public office”. He was questioned, but has not been charged and was bailed until February.
Speaking outside the House of Commons, Mr Green said: “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.”
The full story has yet to break but David Cameron has called a press conference for 8.00. Guido Fawkes and other political commentators are also pointing to the issue of the ‘famed Treasury mole’.
Guido Fawkes has a rather poignant graphic comparing Brown to Mugabe: “Guido can’t remember anything like this happening in his lifetime. This was not a national security issue. Counter terrorist police arresting opposition politicians?”
Carl Gardner, author of The Head of Legal Blog, has a fairly detailed analysis
“I don’t for one moment think the government knew of, ordered or connived in the arrest – if they did, it would be a British mini-Watergate – and part of the reason I take that view is that this is extremely unhelpful to them politically. The apparent involvement of counter-terrorist police seems massively over the top and the whole affair throws the David Davis approach to civil liberties into sharp relief…..”… more from Head of Legal
More information will inevitably come through today. If the government was not aware of counter terrorism police activity (or any other unit of the Police Service) – as they maintain; arresting a senior frontbench opposition spokesman, searching his office in Parliament – surely they should have been?
We shall see what transpires as news comes out.