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Thursday 16 April 2009

Mr Green’s Gate

The media’s attention moves on today to the news that Tory MP Damien Green will not be facing charges over information leaked to him by civil servant Christopher Galley. So that brings the matter to an end, does it?

No, of course it doesn’t.

Not least because Green himself, and his party, do not want the matter to be brought to an end. They want the story to have its shelf life prolonged. This suits their line that, under the present government, there has supposedly been an erosion of civil liberties. Further, Green himself has put the blame for the police becoming involved at the government’s door.

Have civil liberties been eroded during the past twelve years? I’m personally concerned that catching a police officer in the shot may allow the forces of law and order to arrest me for deploying a digital camera with intent, but it hasn’t yet happened – and this is the problem for the Tories and organisations such as Liberty. For the vast majority of citizens, there has been no tangible change. No, I don’t agree with increasing the time that suspects can be held without trial – it’s pointless trimming in the direction of the legendarily foul mouthed editor of the Daily Mail – but this also does not impinge on most lives.

Neither do I consider there to be any value in the Identity Card scheme – this is, plainly, a waste of time and money. But here too, most ordinary folk are not affected.

So it is difficult for any political party – I say “any” as the Lib Dems are also deeply sceptical of the government’s direction here – to keep this story at the top of the news agenda. This brings me to the second of Green’s assertions: the inference that the government are behind his arrest. Think I’m misrepresenting him? Here is Green in his own words, quoted by the BBC:

"That [his action] has led to the first arrest of an opposition politician for doing his job since Britain became a democracy ... I cannot think of a better symbol of an out-of-touch, authoritarian, failing government that has been in power much too long."

His arrest a symbol of this government? What other conclusion can be drawn, other than that he is pinning the arrest on that government? So, fair enough, let’s see him stand that one up with some solid facts. Having done that, I for one would have no problem with Pa Broon and Jacqui Smith facing the consequences of their actions.

However, the flip side should also hold true: if Green cannot stand up his story, then he should say so, and like Pa Broon, be expected to say sorry. We may be in for a long wait.

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