Government arrest opposition MP

Yesterday, Conservative immigration spokesman Damian Green was arrested and detained for several hours for his part in leaking documents that were embarrassing to the government:

Police say Mr Green was held on suspicion of “conspiring to commit misconduct in a public office”. The MP denied any wrongdoing and said “opposition politicians have a duty to hold the government to account” and that he would “continue to do so”. He was questioned, but has not been charged and was bailed until February.

Mr Green’s arrest is believed to be connected to the arrest of a man suspected of being a Home Office whistleblower.

Speaking outside the House of Commons, Mr Green said: “I was astonished to have spent more than nine hours today under arrest for doing my job. 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”

Craig Murray is quite right when he says:

The arrest of Damian Green MP is a constitutional outrage that may finally motivate our supine parliament to stand up to this domineering executive.

The good citizenry of London and Cambridge will not be grabbing their pikes and muskets today; but they should. The arrest of Damian Green for doing his job of opposing the executive is a step too far in rolling back centuries of democratic achievement. The pretext is the excessive desire of this government to keep all public information secret, and prevent the taxpayer from finding out what has been done in their name and at their expense. This is the most secretive, as well as the most authoritarian, government of the modern era.

I can comment with more authority than most in saying that civil servants now have a duty to leak: the official narrative is now so often far from the truth across the whole field of government, that if civil servants do not leak there can be no informed democratic debate. To arrest an opposition MP for finding out what is really happening is a grim, grim move.

Civil liberties are now the most important issue facing this country: Are we going to continue to slide towards authoritarianism, or not?

This entry was posted in Britain, politics, society, war on civil liberties and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Government arrest opposition MP

  1. Graham says:

    Craig Murray is, of course, wrong.

    Green hasn’t been questioned about opposing the executive, he’s suspected of putting a civil servant up to leaking documents, which is actually a very serious crime – although probably not as serious as it would have been ten or twenty years ago (he’s unlikely to face charges under the Official Secrets Act, which back then would have been a possibility). There’s clearly some sort of limit to how far you can go to get HMG’s internal documents, and I hope both that he hasn’t overstepped that and that there’s no prosecution, but to suggest that he self-evidently is in the clear, when it looks quite possible that he’s colluded with someone to boost confidential documents from their work, is reaching more than a little. His widely (and uncritically) repeated statement that he was just doing his job in fact begs the question under investigation.

    Furthermore, if he thinks this is the most secretive British government of the modern era, then he’s got a pretty short memory. Until ten years ago, there was no Freedom of Information Act, and it was far harder to get answers to tricky questions. Twenty years ago the OSA hadn’t been narrowed down to cover only actually sensitive information – all government documents were regarded as confidential unless officially cleared otherwise, including in principle stuff down to cafeteria menus. I signed the pre-’89 Act as part of my work. It was very wideranging. If you want to know what a secrecy obsession really looks like, read the OSA 1911 and meditate on the fact that section 2 stayed in force for nearly eighty years. You may also care to check up the story of Sarah Tisdall.

    The public discussion of this is quite strange. Much is being made of the fact that “anti-terrorist police” searched his house and office – it was effectively the renamed Special Branch, which has dealt with government leak investigations for donkeys’ years. Murray’s not the only one with a phenomenally short memory.

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