Damian Green’s arrest is an affront to British liberty
But then came the ejection of Walter Wolfgang from a Labour Party conference, simply for heckling the Home Secretary. And then came the limits on democratic protest, especially outside the Palace of Westminster. And then came the freezing of the financial assets of Iceland, a sovereign and friendly nation. And now we witness the profoundly concerning arrest of Damian Green, a Conservative MP, who, it is reported, has been subject to interrogation and his parliamentary and constituency offices raided and searched by nine counter-terrorism officers (yes, nine. As if they have no real Islamists to worry about).
The Police State has arrived: a totalitarian regime in which even our elected representatives are subject to arbitrary invasions of privacy and random acts of intimidation. It beggars belief that police can enter Parliament and search a members’ offices. Presumably the Serjeant at Arms, having responsibility for security in the House, and the Speaker granted their permission. One wonders if such permission would have been granted to search the offices of a member of the Government. Moreover, one wonders of such permission has ever been granted to search the offices of those members of Sinn Féin whose hands really are bloodied with acts of terrorism.
The charge against Damian Green is one of ‘aiding and abetting misconduct in public office’. It is alleged that he received information from a Home Office whistle-blower on the parlous state of affairs within the department, especially pertaining to immigration.
This is a politically-motivated arrest, and it beggars belief that neither the Prime Minister nor the Home Secretary knew of it in advance. Is not whistle-blowing on government incompetence manifestly in the public interest? Since when has being in receipt of leaked information been an act of terrorism?
Or is it simply that being in receipt of information which may damage this Labour Government is a de facto act of terrorism?
It is axiomatic that there is freedom of speech in Parliament. The proceedings of parliament cannot be questioned in a court of law or any other body outside of parliament itself.
Perhaps it is time for David Cameron to grab the Mace in the House of Commons, and remind Labour of the limits of its power and where that power truly resides. Parliament is sovereign because Parliament belongs to the people. Parliamentarians are thereby granted privileges and additional liberties which, it has been found by experience, are necessary for holding the Executive to account.
Hundreds of MPs receive leaked information; it is intrinsic to the art of politics. Indeed, the recipients are various media journalist far more frequently than MPs. Are they all now going to insist on some sort of immunity before receiving their brown envelopes?
As this story unfolds, Cranmer simply wonders at the contrast between the treatment of Mr Green and the treatment of MPs and peers who were involved in the ‘Cash for Honours’ affair. They were merely questioned, and frequently in the comfort of their own homes and offices; Damian Green has been arrested, carted off to police station, incarcerated in a cell, and interrogated for nine hours.
One ought to be grateful Mr Green was not visited by Europol armed with a European Arrest Warrant.
One ought to be grateful Mr Green does not stand accused of interfering in or undermining the effective functioning of the EU.
But do not sigh too much with relief, for those days are coming.