Some more arrests for our government controlled state?

If the government now wishes to get tough on leakers, there is plenty for it to do. It might also help to start targetting the people with access to privileged information about important issues who leaked it in the first place.

The government should open enquiries into two very important sets of leaks that moved markets and made it more difficult to handle the Credit crisis. These were much more serious than a few immigration figures. It also happens to be an offence to pass on price sensitive inside information, and to divulge it before it has been properly declared to the Stock Exchange.

The first are the leaks to Robert Peston concerning the private talks between the banks, the government and the regulators over the adequacy of their capital, when the authorities perversely decided to increase their capital requirements in the midst of a serious lack of confidence. These leaks pushed down bank share prices, and made it much more difficult for banks to raise extra capital from the markets at a time when the government was threatening nationalisation if they didn’t immediately raise more money.

The second were the copious leaks of the budget proposals before the misnamed Pre Budget report this week. Chancellors used to have to resign if any tax proposal from a budget got out before it was announced in the Commons. How times have changed with this regime of the spinners.

The trouble is I don’t expect any strong aciton on these matters any time soon. It just goes to show how this government has no sense of justice and fairness. It wants to blame an Opposition spokesman rather than investigating where the leaks came from within its own organsiation and taking approrpriate internal disciplinary action.

What of course the government will discover is that in a democracy it is not unreasonable for information other than secrets important to our security to become part of the public debate. They may also discover that some of the most active leakers are Ministers themselves, who seem unable to keep to the rule that they should announce things first to the Commons. It is quite wrong to use anti terrorism legislation for any of this.

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26 Comments

  1. not an economist
    Posted November 28, 2008 at 9:21 am | Permalink

    John,

    "It wants to blame an Opposition spokesman rather than investigating where the leaks came from within its own organsiation and taking approrpriate internal disciplinary action. "

    I may have misunderstood you but is this referring to the Damien Green incident? If so I thought an officer was being disciplined – suspended last week I think.

  2. Stuart Fairney
    Posted November 28, 2008 at 9:31 am | Permalink

    I understand anti-terror police were involved in the arrest. Quite amazing. You see where this leads? Criticise the government ~ you must be a terrorist.

    Under such a regime, wouldn't Winston Churchill have been arrested in the 1930's for leaking figures about the RAF's inadequacy because the government of the day weren't properly funding it?

  3. Paul Williams
    Posted November 28, 2008 at 9:47 am | Permalink

    If the arrest of an MP by anti-terror Police, for the 'crime' of trying to tell the public the truth, is not the actions of a Police State then I would like to know what is.

    Disgraceful

  4. not an economist
    Posted November 28, 2008 at 10:58 am | Permalink

    John,

    The Daily Telegraph suggests that there will now be pressure on Damien Green from within the Tory Pary itself to resign 'cos his arrest will be embarrassing. Is this true do you know? Are the Tories really going to roll over on this one?

    I am very careful not to overly criticise the Tory leadership on this site as I would never want to put you in an awkward postiion (i.e., your blog showing critical comments of the leadership). But this Telegraph suggestion that the Tory leadership may respond in this way seems incredible to me. Please say its not true …

    On a general point: How is it the govt can claim it had no prior knowledge of this arrest when the Mayor of London was fully briefed? At the very least surely the Home Secretary knew? And are we really to believe she would not have popped along the road to tell Gordon – or at least text him?

    Reply: I expect the Tory leadership to support Damian, as I do.

    • Ex Civil Servant
      Posted November 28, 2008 at 5:46 pm | Permalink

      It is absolutely inconceivable that the Home Office would not have been aware of Damien Green's impending request. The Met would have had to notify them prior to contacting the Mayor of London, the Speaker, the Sergeant at Arms and the Leader of the Opposition, as any one of these could on receipt of the call contacted the Home Office/Home Secretary.

      Given the extremely politically sensitive acts of arresting an Opposition spokesman and searching his office in the House of Commons, the Home Office would have need to been aware of an briefed on the arrest, so that Ministers could respond to questions. Given the 'news management' that still occurs on a daily basis by Whitehall departments, a senior civil servant may even have suggested that any such arrest occurred after Parliament had risen.

      The events seem even more incredible in light of a Judge throwing out the case against Sally Murrer (see link) on the grounds that it infringed her human rights – what about Mr Green's? Given this was a high profile case that the Home Office and Ministry of Justice were monitoring, as it involved the police officer who recorded prison conversations between a Labour MP and one of his constituents, Damien's arrest seems even more sensitive!

      • Not an Economist
        Posted December 1, 2008 at 9:01 am | Permalink

        Thanks for that. What you say does make me wonder if this is more a case of gross incompetence on the part of the govt ministers "involved" (or not as the case may be!). Labour is increasingly giving the impression that they haven't got a clue how to manage their departments/run a govt (from a technical point of view – i.e., ignoring the adequacy of their actual policies).

    • APL
      Posted November 28, 2008 at 6:13 pm | Permalink

      Not an economist: "But this Telegraph suggestion that the Tory leadership may respond in this way seems incredible to me."

      The Tory party is spineless, never stands up for conservative principles and for this reason is a completely impotent force in British politics.

      Heath, Major were nothing less than the blue tinged wing of the Labour movement.

      • jean baker
        Posted November 29, 2008 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

        It because the Opposition is increasingly showing it's 'mettle' that Damien was victimized. Usual two day gap between 'Opposition' success and public reprisal.

        Like all corrupt regimes, the instigators always get others to do their 'dirty work' hence Brown's increasing 'imbecilic smirks'.

        British 'journalism' is the laughing stock of the world.

  5. Acorn
    Posted November 28, 2008 at 11:05 am | Permalink

    If you give the state these powers – Terrorism Act; RIPA Act and numerous others, it will abuse them for its own convenience and advantage. Add to those Acts, a large portion of spite and envy at the operating level and you get today's result.

    All the way from using a section from a terrorism act on an Icelandic bank to, putting your bin out on the wrong day.

    Joe Stalin would be proud of ZaNuLabour today.

  6. Brian Tomkinson
    Posted November 28, 2008 at 11:15 am | Permalink

    This country seems to get more like Mugabe’s Zimbabwe every day.

  7. Stewart Knight
    Posted November 28, 2008 at 11:36 am | Permalink

    t also happens to be an offence to pass on price sensitive inside information, and to divulge it before it has been properly declared

    And you might also apply this to the leak of a gold dump that resulted in huge losses and a near catastrophic drop in value of that commodity.

    Cameron should announce he is compiling a dossier to hand to the police of all leakers, even from years past, and demand they act.

    • Stuart Fairney
      Posted November 29, 2008 at 8:29 am | Permalink

      What a great idea! I would be rather amused to see Robert Peston and Nick Robinson dragged away to the cells (which incidentally, if this thing plays out to the nightmare conclusion is exactly what will happen ~ the revolution always eats its children).

      I'm guessing the BBC wouldn't be quite so sanguine about that

  8. rugfish
    Posted November 28, 2008 at 11:53 am | Permalink

    The Damien Green Affair makes a good title for a politically intriguing novel and someone should begin to write it immediately.

    Meanwhile, the BBC should check its archives as I eagerly await the re-run's of "House of Cards" and "Yes Minister" series, and another run of The 39 steps which are all eminently more entertaining than "Stalin's Rise to Power" which we've been watching since 1997 and are sick of it.

    There's no doubt many will think "The Damien Green Affair" should have a happy ending too. It shouldn't hold back on showing any near knuckle truths and it should investigate and question all areas of government with an aim to spill the beans on any of those who's job it is to thwart and kill democracy. It should also not let up in its aim to help regain power to the people by ensuring government is transparent and not secret.

    Many may also think anti-terror laws are a tool to turn this country into a totalitarian bureaucratic autocracy with blame unable to be apportioned to anyone, least of all the ministers responsible and that it verges on being a police state. But as Francis Urquhart might have said; I couldn't possibly comment except to say that such a book would make good reading and Mr Green should continue in his role as the hero in this affair.

  9. David Eyles
    Posted November 28, 2008 at 11:54 am | Permalink

    To my mind, there are two aspects to Damian Green's arrest. The first is that he has, in the broadest possible sense, found himself in the same boat as the rest of us in the real world, where we have 3,604 new criminal offences to avoid as we go about our daily lives and work. It is now almost impossible to go about your job without committing an offence of some sort.

    The second aspect is the most terrifying. There is now no doubt at all that judicial, or police, intimidation is being used against the opposition in doing their legitimate job of holding the government to account.

    As I write, over on ConservativeHome, Tim Montgomery is trying to keep the lid upon bloggers' readiness to liken this action to Zimbabwe's current travails. We should not, he says, trivialise true evil. And to a point, I agree with him.

    BUT having worked for a couple of years in a (rather shaky) West African democracy in the 1980s, I have seen first hand just how quickly it is possible to descend this very slippery slope. In reading modern history, it is possible to trace similar patterns in a chain of events which begun with a fight in a beer cellar and ended with a holocaust.

    Whilst I have every confidence that the British people have an inate sense of fairness and common sense which will bring about an end to this despicable government and that consequently British democracy will survive and prosper, we must not trivialise the importance of this arrest of a senior opposition spokesman.

    In my opinion, this event is more important than the current banking crisis and the forthcoming recession. Over the next 18 months before the General Election, opposition MPs now have a duty to expose every government iniquity they can lay their hands on and then ensure that this government's contempt for our cherished liberty is laid bare before the electorate.

  10. Bob M.
    Posted November 28, 2008 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

    Too right there whitey boy!!

  11. Kay Tie
    Posted November 28, 2008 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

    I was watching King Charles' men arrest MPs in the Devil's Whore last night on telly. No, hang on, that was last week. Last night it was Sky News and Gordon Brown, not King Charles. Silly me.

    Can anyone point me to the local New Model Army recruitment centre?

  12. DennisA
    Posted November 28, 2008 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

    We already have the Ministry of Justice, how long before the remaing partition of the Home Office becomes the Ministry of the Interior?

  13. John
    Posted November 28, 2008 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

    The Gestapo is alive and doing well under the idiot Brown. No wonder his ratings are going down again.

  14. Anon
    Posted November 28, 2008 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

    Are the Conservative leadership going to hold the Speaker to account.
    To allow the police to rifle though the contents of an MP's office is an absolute disgrace.
    How can any of Mr Green's constituents have confidence that their correspondence with their MP will not have been seized or copied in this overtly political act by the Met?

    Will the Conservatives urgently take action to highlight and try to reverse the ever more pervasive use of 'anti-terror' and 'surveillance' legislation in the UK. This raid using 'anti-terror' police implicates the Home Office in this action, given the integration of Home Office security/anti-terror officials and the Met's anti-terror operations.

  15. Cliff
    Posted November 28, 2008 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

    A strange thing happened overnight….I went to bed in England, you know that green and pleasant land where democracy governs and the people are free, and then, I woke up in Zimbabwe….Well I think it is Zimbabwe anyway…You know the place where opposition politicianc are arrested by the state for telling the truth!!

    A very sad day for Britain.

  16. figurewizard
    Posted November 28, 2008 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

    The action against Damien Green yesterday is undoubtedly a grave error by senior members of this government. It is inconceivable however that the police would choose to get involved in such a matter without clearance at a ministerial level at the very least; so why would such a desperate move be sanctioned? Is it possible that there is something very unpleasant lurking in the Downing Street undergrowth that, if it were to be revealed would cause terminal damage to Gordon Brown's carefully crafted new image as a safe pair of hands for the financial crisis we are all facing and was yesterday's arrest meant as a warning to any other potential whistle blowers? One wonders what this could be.

  17. james barr
    Posted November 28, 2008 at 6:30 pm | Permalink

    John,

    Labour are guilty of many things which I disagree with. But four stand out:

    1. Their trashing of the economy.
    2. Their relegation of parliament to that of a mere rubber stamp.
    3. Their debasing of the political process through the use of spin.
    4. Their politicising of the civil service.

  18. adam
    Posted November 28, 2008 at 7:08 pm | Permalink

    Election dodging

    Economy destroying

    Democracy abolishing

    Oppositon arresting

    Somebody else-a-blaming

    MUGABE Brown the worst PM in UK history and his Zanu Labour traitors.

    He better claim he knows nothing about it

  19. rugfish
    Posted November 28, 2008 at 7:56 pm | Permalink

    BBC has just interviewed Keith Vaz about the arrest of Damian Green.
    Heaven knows the relevance of Keith Vaz's opinion in this matter and despite the BBC putting itself out as a news broadcaster it has still not to my knowledge tackled a minister about it.

    Where is Jacqui Smith, Jack Straw et al or people from the Home Office ???

    He also dodged the question altogether by saying it's a police matter and to await the outcome of their "enquiries", and he then went skating off into "And the British government should offer its full support to India" ????

    The man is a nonsense and the BBC are just as daft for airing an interview with him.

    Are there any opposition politicians actually left in the country who are known to the BBC I wonder, and is it just me who sees this total biased broadcasting machine as requiring overhaul ???

    Also, the person who ordered the arrest of Damian Green under anti-terror laws should be SACKED unless there is evidence of suspicion or an act of terror and the government minister in charge of this disgrace to our democratic freedoms should have her knitting taken away and ordered to clear her desk.

    Reply:
    I wish to make it clear that our principal spokesman on these matters, Dominic Grieve, put out a detailed and hard hitting press release about this yeasterday and is available for interview should the BBC wish. Many other Conservative MPs including myself are working despite Parliament yet again being closed down, and are by our phones should the BBC wish to talk to us. We have plenty to say.

  20. jim@work
    Posted November 29, 2008 at 6:02 pm | Permalink

    Now HMG has control of a major lending bank, look for politically-motivated lending policies which aren't commercially motivated. I think we can all imagine where this is leading…..

  21. Michael Martin-Smith
    Posted December 1, 2008 at 1:41 am | Permalink

    If the leakers who infest our streets and byways
    outside or near pubs were pursued with the assiduity visited upon Damian Green, our neighbourhoods would be much cleaner and more salubrious!

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    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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