The bad news just got worse for Theresa May: her deputy Damian Green, already the subject of complaints that her press supporters have tried valiantly to bat away, has now been caught in what is surely a career-ending corner. We already knew that his was the first name on That Spreadsheet. Now we know he’s under fire for having porn on a workplace computer and trying to spin his way out of it.
The kind of offence that would be punishable by summary dismissal in many workplaces around the country is, in the looking glass world of Parliament, merely a starting point for arguing the toss about the legitimacy of the messenger bringing Green and his party this less than totally welcome news. And the deputy PM’s response has been amateurish.
The Murdoch Sunday Times claims an exclusive (the Sun also leads on the story), telling “Police: we found porn on deputy PM’s computers”, and adding, as if anything needed to be added, “May’s closest ally shaken by new revelations”. The source that the ST quotes is former Metropolitan Police assistant commissioner Bob Quick, who was part of a raid on Green’s Parliamentary office in 2008. So what say the Minister?
Sadly, Green’s response, and that of his clueless SpAd Dylan Sharpe (employing the former PR for the Sun, whose idiocy and accident-prone nature was well known is one of those more serious errors of judgment), has verged on the farcical. Sharpe emailed Green with a prepared statement. But he also made another of those errors of judgment.
So we know he told Green “Remember not to screenshot this email, but save the jpeg file like we talked about. They’re supposed to believe theses [sic] are your actual words. Jesus. To think I left my job doing PR for an enormously popular tabloid”. Christ on a bike, that is bad. I mean, he could have been a lumberjack or something. But Green soon made it worse, by failing to separate that jpeg file.
We can therefore see Sharpe’s paw prints all over the statement, which has already been discredited - by the ST’s political editor Tim Shipman, no less. In a case of “Three Tweets and you’re out”, he told “It was an office computer … The Sunday Times is not relying on the testimony of Bob Quick. Our reporters have also spoken to another police source who saw the porn … We have multiple sources and would not have run it unless we had”.
Shipman’s name does not appear on the by-line, but given the nature of the story, it would have been inconceivable that he had not been aware of what was going into that article. It also shows that Dylan Sharpe, rather than ringing round a few people and finding out how well-sourced the allegations were, just shot from the hip and thereby dropped his minister in the mire. Tory MPs are already calling for Green to step down.
As to whether he will resign, it inevitably takes time for the realisation to sink in with the target of the attack, and the Prime Minister. Only after that will Green Do The Decent Thing and volunteer to be left alone in the proverbial study with the loaded revolver and bottle of reassuringly expensive malt whisky. But Do The Decent Thing he will.
Dylan Sharpe can start looking for another job. Because his boss is now a dead man walking - helped on his way by a terminally useless SpAd. No surprise there, then.