Monday, 1 December 2008

Fools rush in

There's a lot of good comment about the whole Green affair, particularly here, but for me the most trenchant was made by Tom Freeman.

I’d like to comment at some length on the propriety of the arrest of Damian Green, based on my detailed knowledge of the information the police acted on, what they found during their searches, the questions they asked him, the answers he gave, and the precise nature of his relationship with the civil servant in question. Alas, I have no such detailed knowledge

Nobody knows enough about this to say anything very sensible. It may be that the police have good evidence that Green was soliciting and rewarding leaks; in which case isn't it good that they were able to investigate a potentially very serious breach of the law? Or it may be that they had no such evidence; in which case this exactly as disgraceful as any other unwarranted* arrest/search. Ignorant of this fairly fundamental point, the media and MPs have settled instead for trivia, to wit:

1) Why hasn't the Home Secretary apologised?
For what? Personally ordering her jackbooted thugs to make Green's daughter cry? I suspect she didn't give that order. There's a difference between "sorry for" and "sorry that"; until we know that Jacqui Smith actually told the police a) to arrest Green or b) to be a bit mean to him when they did, then what need is their for her to apologise. Here's the gold standard of "heavy-handed" arrests - the Forest Gate raid that not only ended with counter-terrorism police questioning two innocent men for well over nine hours, but also involved one them being shot. No Home Secretary apologised for that - the police did. Because, you know, they're the ones who did it.

2) How could this happen to one of us?
The sense of oxen being gored is palpable. Check out Dennis MacShane's temperate use of language:

"MPs, yes they are protected under privilege when they speak in the House of Commons, but there is a broader constitutional privilege that says they can meet anyone, talk about anything, discuss their political passions, they can hold files, and the police, the agents of the state, do not storm in there and start breaking in or going into offices and taking away confidential files that all our constituents think will be treated confidentially."

I'd like to see some evidence of this "broader constitutional privilege". To read MacShane, you'd think MPs could have a stack of dead hookers in their office and remain beyond legal reproach. Here's a crazy notion: if, as an MP, you break the law you don't get to run inside your office and shut the door while the police come to a screeching halt outside the Palace of Westminster. This isn't the Dukes of Hazzard, for Christ's sake.

3) The pigs totally called him a paedo
Oh, sweet Jesus. Yes, the verb "grooming" does have one meaning relating to child abuse. Context, however is all. Despite all my calls to dog-grooming businesses, for example, I am still to find one that will even begin to help me realise my long-standing borzoi/shitsu threesome fantasy. Similarly, while you might be alarmed to hear a policeman ask if you've been involved in grooming, the immediate use of the phrase "26-year-old" should offer a glimmer of insight that you're not in fact being fitted up as politic's answer to Gary Glitter.

There's a point where righteous outrage begins to look a little like desparate shit-flinging; distraction rather than defence. When your position rests on the fundamental principles of democracy, why stoop to this petty, meaningless crap?

*I kill me.

1 comment:

Tom said...

On your third point, you will be pleased to see that Iain Dale is particularly incensed by this one, only slightly undermining his own outrage by going on to declare that "Leaking is like prostitution".