Friday, November 28, 2008

The LPFTB Dale's Little List: Just Like Hercule Poirot

Cross Party Fury Over MP's Arrest scream the BBC. They have some of the answers there, and here in this Q&A to Iain Dale's list of 15 Questions, completely trumped and be-littled by Dominic Grieve's list of 50. But we've not seen that and we'll have a go at some of Iain's.

1. As an Opposition Health and Trade & Industry Spokesman, Robin Cook built his parliamentary reputation as the receiver of leaked government documents. Why is Damian Green's behaviour any different to Robin Cook's?

Have no idea. Does Iain? According to the BBC report linked above there may be more procurement and proactive sourcing going on in Damian Green's case. Though it must be said that the list of leaks from the Home Office (see BBC report) is mind numbingly pope shits in the woods stuff. There might be more crime if people are poorer. Crikey, where do they get these mind-like-a-steel-trap mandarins from?

2. Many journalists - David Hencke and Robert Peston being two examples - have built their journalistic reputations on being receivers of Whitehall leaks. Why is Damian Green's behaviour different to theirs to warrant an arrest?

Indeed. But have no idea. What has he actually done Iain? More proactive perhaps? Inciting criminality, breach of contract, breaches of OSA, and so on in others?

3. Why are Ministers allowed to leak with impugnity? Why aren't they covered under the same law which was used to countenance Damian Green's arrest?

Minister's "leaking" (sic media and LPFTB) is often really briefing. To an extent the government of the day decides what should be in the PD and what should not. FOI requests can cause further info to be produced.

But IMO the leaking of blue skies stuff and out of context ideas being part of an option appraisal etc is not great for govt whoever is in power. It discourages innovative thinking of which 95% may be rubbish and rejected. At very least leakage discourages things being written down. Corridor meetings replace minuted meetings. Not necessarily good for democracy or accountability. The head HO mandarin suggest that leaks were undermining the performance of his Department.

4. What did Jacqui Smith know and when did she know it?

Indeed. At all sorts of levels. Was she aware in advance as Cam and Boz and the Speaker were allegedly? Apparently not. The BBC have the statement. But what exactly did she know when remains a good question. It is knowledge of the arrest plan that seems to have been withheld.

What is DG supposed to have done (a) in terms of the the public explanation, which may be a stalking horse and (b) really. The common law thing of inciting naughtiness looks like pretty good value going forward.

5. Did she instigate the police investigation? If so, was it motivated by a desire to give a warning to future whistleblowers?

Good stuff Iain. Quite separate from knowing about the arrest plan. But the BBC report has the top mandarin at the HO taking responsibility for getting the police in. Plod didn't do this Mp arresting schtick themselves on their "initiative" UNLESS their investigation into CS leaker(s) led them to do so ... in which case their protocols may have told them who to advise and indeed who not to advise.

6. Why did the Serjeant at Arms lay lown like a puppy and have her tummy tickled by the Met?

Really? But yes, if that's true why was that?

7. Did she consult Mr Speaker before giving permission for the Met to search Damian Green's Commons office?

Would such permission be (i) required in any sense, by tradition or law; or (ii) sensible? And doesn't the BBC report explain that the Speaker was aware of this, alongside Cam and Boz?

8. Why was Damian Green kept locked up for nine hours and reportedly only questioned after seven? (as was reported last night).

Perhaps he was pissed. One way or another. Perhaps both? Or perhaps there simply needed to be a few hours to gather, log and assess initial exhibits?

9. If the job of an Opposition spokesman is not to hold the government to account, then what exactly is it?

There is a tradition of also having some policies to proffer to the public. But Nu Tories are like LDs in that regard. Just whiners it seems. Perhaps the LPFTB could ask them to address this lack of substance?

10. If Damian Green has been arrested, why haven't the journalists to whom he gave the stories been treated in the same manner?

Journalists are tough nuts to crack in every which way. They also have different role and responsibilities to either CSs or MPs.

11. What role did the security services play in this. Have they been monitoring Damian Green?

I'm sure they'll be telling us, or not. And who else they are keeping tabs on too. Hilarious if SB or MI6 have started keeping tabs on mainstream Tories instead of commies and fascists. They did mainstream Labour for a while. Dominic does wear pinko ties sometimes.

We had a libertarian socialist active in the Students Union when I were a lad. He did the Civil Service exams and wanted a Home Office gig. they apparently asked him to name all his erstwhile comrades and fellow travellers. As he got all the names on their list and one or two more the man was recruited.

Imagine Conservative Future activists being offered the same opportunity from now on in. Hilarious really. You've gotta laugh.

12. Why is the media not trumpeting the virtues of free speech and the rights of whistle blowers?

Perhaps they're waiting to get some facts perhaps. Weighing up the whys and wherefors. Makes a change for some of them naturally. But many of them are actually against government leaks ... unless they are to themselves.

13. Why aren't Labour bloggers as outraged by Green's arrest as they would have been over Sarah Tisdall or Clive Ponting? (I will be doing a separate post on this later).

Perhaps some of us will be once the facts are out and about? We'll see. Didn't have a blog during either case mentioned, but further back I was helping run an inky in the 80s and we had some fun and games protecting our sources. Particularly police sources as it goes. And there was a time when we chose to run a double page spread with just headlines, pictures and captions. The white space spoke volumes.

14. Why were counter terror police used to search Green's four home and office premises? He was arrested under a so-called Common Law, not an anti terror law, as I understand it.

Define "counter terror police" Iain? Do you simply mean police with CT activity as the main task within their portfolio? At at least one of GMP's nicks - though I'm not saying which one(s) - we have a load of CT police as it goes. But they do other stuff when there is no terror to be stymied. Which is as it should be. Surely?

15. Have the Police impounded Damian Green's various computers? If so, how is his constituency casework corresponded safeguarded? How can any MPs' constituents now believe that their casework is totally confidential?

There is no such thing as totally confidential now is there? Stuff gets nicked. Some MP staff are less assiduous, less reliable and less discrete than they might be. Which is why Dorries employs her kids probably.

But using CT police - if that is indeed the case - might in part be done to give more confidence about confidentiality than bog standard plods might. The BBC report that they were deemed to be more suitable for the job than others.

This is a very curious situation. But as Mark Twain said, about science:

The wonderful thing ... is the large return of conjecture for a small investment of fact.

Iain Dale is a National Treasure and his righteous speculation must be encouraged at all costs. I'm sensing that it will be the only way to get to the bottom of this matter.

Can't say I'm particularly taken by Denis McShane's manic offering:

"The police now believe that MPs are so reduced in public status that they are fair game for over-excited officers to order dawn raids, arrests and searches of confidential files held by MPs or those who work for them.
"I am not sure this is good for British democracy."

"Don't you know who I am?" writ large. "Without fear or favour" is actually a better construction in a parliamentary democracy. Isn't it?


jane said...

but one Labour MP thinks the arrest is just great

Chris Paul said...

it is though isn't it jane? if he's a baddie? that's damian not martin