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Range of possibilities

Nick Robinson | 18:34 UK time, Friday, 19 January 2007

Tony Blair has given Ruth Turner his full backing. He could do no other, really - to do otherwise would have been to admit that there was some wrongdoing.

Of course we have to say that although it is serious that she's been arrested, she has not been charged. Remember that the chief fundraiser for Tony Blair, Lord Levy, was arrested some months ago, and he has never been charged. Charges are possible but they may never happen.

One possibility is that the police are using arrest as a way of obtaining documentary evidence that they've not been able to secure so far. Another is that they are trying to unnerve Ms Turner. A further possibility - we simply don't know - is that they are arresting her and they intend at some later stage to charge her.

But - in other words - there is a great range of possibilities for her and Tony Blair - from very very serious indeed, to much, much, much less serious.

Just before Christmas, my feeling was that there were more interviews to be done - including Ruth Turner, amongst others - and that a file would then be sent to the Crown Prosecution Service. The CPS would then have to decide whether there was enough evidence to press ahead with charges, and perhaps a court case.

What wasn't expected was for it to take this long, for there to be another arrest, and for the police to then say that they needed yet more time. Remember that originally, it was said that this would all be sorted by last autumn.


...and how convenient that Mr Brown should be in India at the time that all this takes place - literally as well as figuratively distancing himself. I wonder if he was tipped off, since he was supposed to be in London hosting a reception to celebrate the anniversary of the Act of Union.

  • 2.
  • At 07:13 PM on 19 Jan 2007,
  • Derek Bremner wrote:

With the BBc's Investigative clout, would you be able to tell the enquiring public if Ms Turner, Lord Levi and the other arrested persons in this investigation were treated as all other persons would be when arrested? Particularly interested if they were fingerprinted and their DNA samples taken and added to a National Database, despite not yet being convicted of any crime.

  • 3.
  • At 07:24 PM on 19 Jan 2007,
  • David Binton wrote:

For Tony Blair this must feel like the screws turning and getting tighter as this all progresses. Oblivion by a thousand turns of the screw?

  • 4.
  • At 07:24 PM on 19 Jan 2007,
  • Harvey wrote:

"Tony Blair has given Ruth Turner his full backing. He could do no other, really"

Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong wrong.

By stating that, despite her being arrested and still on bail on suspicion of perverting the course of justice, the Prime Minister has full confidence in Ms Turner, he is effectively telling the police that they are wrong in their suspicions.

Now it's quite possible that the PM's confidence might be fully justified, but it's not his place to pronounce on the outcome of a police investigation while it is still in progress. Far from issuing a statement which refutes the police suspicions, the PM should have suspended Ms Turner from her post until such time as she is exonerated. Anyone else in a similar position who had been arrested on suspicion of such a serious offence reated to his/her employment would have been suspended as a matter of course. And I think you know that's true Nick.

  • 5.
  • At 07:41 PM on 19 Jan 2007,
  • E Davis wrote:

The whole of this 'news'(?) item simply confirms what I have always known - these so-called political correspondents know no more than the rest of us do. They think that just by standing outside No.10 it gives their reports substance.
It is a well-known fact that the BBC News & Current Affairs section is the Broadcasting House branch of the Conservative Party. I realized that as long ago as 1964.
For proof one only needs to listen to J Humphreys and co. on Today

Nick, you are right that there are a range of possibilities. However one of the reasons no charges have been brought as yet is, I suspect, that they need the Attorney General to gove the say so.

However now that perverting the course of justice has been raised they could I suppose charge for that with out going to him. Interesting times ahead and bit like Watergate in that it may the the cover up that gets them.

What is also interesting is the dawn arrest. That can't have been very nice at all for Ruth Turner. Of course the investigation now also looks as if it has some way to go yet.

would the police delay in the interests of the country? i.e. if damaging charges are to be pressed, better that its during or after the prime ministers hand-over period?

  • 8.
  • At 07:55 PM on 19 Jan 2007,
  • Ken from Gloucester wrote:

Dear Nick,

Oh dear, are you being briefed by the same person as Adam on Sky ??

The best form of defence is to attack but why should you help them??

This would have been sorted by last Autumn but everybody involved has used the time honoured phrase NO COMMENT NO COMMENT NO COMMENT, when interviewed. Why??

  • 9.
  • At 08:19 PM on 19 Jan 2007,
  • Jess The Dog wrote:

1. The cops arrest people at 0630 in the morning because that is when they are most likely to be in at that time, and close to getting up anyway.

2. If Turner has been arrested, she must be suspected of a criminal offence.

3. This may be about witholding evidence or perverting the course of justice, rather than the more esoteric "cash for peerages". Less scope for Goldsmith to veto a prosecution (although his crass BAE decision means that any dropped prosecution will be viewed very suspiciously by the media and public).

4. Watch for the next arrest.

5. If Turner (or anyone else) ends up facing charges and offers a defence, Bliar may be called as a witness. Ha ha.....

  • 10.
  • At 08:28 PM on 19 Jan 2007,
  • Ubi wrote:

True that, originally, it was said that this would all be sorted by last autumn.

True also that the investigating officer declared that the inquiry would go where the evidence took them.

This suggests that the extended timescale and unexpected arrest have become necessary as a result of the direction of the evidence uncovered.

Ms Turner was arrested in connection with suspected perversion of the course of justice, not directly in connection with cash for honours...

  • 11.
  • At 08:39 PM on 19 Jan 2007,
  • Peter Davies wrote:

This story gets ever more intriguing. It may be an old tale of a cover up causing more damage than any alleged original felony.

How appropriate it would be if the Blair/Brown government was brought down by attempted spin.

  • 12.
  • At 08:44 PM on 19 Jan 2007,
  • bill1946 wrote:

Whether Tony Blair gives his endorsement to his aide or not is immaterial. The real issue is: what has happened to our democracy when a Prime Minister who is responsible for the worst foreign policy disaster since the Crimean War in the XIXth Century, and is now waiting to be interviewed by the police, can choose his date of departure? We live in the Third World with Platinum credit cards. Jade Goody is what we have become.

Here we go again! I've written here before that this whole inquiry seems to be Police Overkill, and certainly waking the lady in question at 6.30am and then releasing her later without charge seems to confirm this.

Why exactly are the police doing this? It's been nine months or so of public money and police time. And why? To nail at least one someone on a "criminal" charge which seems to rest on the party in question doing what has always been done.

Now I don't know if anything HAS been done or promised in this connection. It's just as likely that people were NOT offered peerages in exchange for cash/loans as it is that they were. No-one has been charged, as Nick says. But there are questions that should be posed. And since I write as an interested member of the public and not as a government/party insider/employee/lackey/croney/friend or relative, I'll ask them:

1. Is this REALLY an arrestable matter?
2. Is it a good use of police time and public money?
3. Does it really matter if someone did offer a peerage for cash, since this has always been understood to be the norm in ALL previous governments?
4. Do we really want our Prime Minister and/or government employees arrested, tried and convicted for this?

I find the whole thing so disturbing. Not because it might be true! I don't CARE if it's true. To me any juggling of moneys received by parties is an internal party matter which THEY should sort out. They shouldn't be clapped in irons for it! And as for offering peerages in exchange, well, at least the present PM did not advertise peerages for cash and then sell them as did the "great" Liberal PM Lloyd George.

As far as we know there have been no murders, international criminal espionage rings set up or other REAL crimes perpetrated in this loans for peerages business.

Where oh where is the good British bobbie's common sense?

  • 14.
  • At 09:13 PM on 19 Jan 2007,
  • Phil Meek wrote:


It appears that you post in here regularly, but I don't see any interaction with any of the comments that you have received. It would help increase your number of interwebby hits if you would enter into some form of interaction with some Selected Comments, Ta-Da!

I'm sure it would be easy to choose some to include in your "updates", and would have the effect of making your readers feel much more involved.

Just trying to help.

  • 15.
  • At 09:36 PM on 19 Jan 2007,
  • Michael Rigby wrote:

Calling on Ruth turner at 6.30 A.M was quite pathetic.
The Police are beginning to look like people who enjoy slow torture.
I am not a fan of Mr Blair,but this sort of shady business has been going on for years.
Are the police going to arrest everybody who has ever cut corners to raise electoral cash?
They would be hard pressed to find cells to hold them all with the current prison poulation.
It is time for the CPS to put up or shut up.
On the one hand Mr Blair is blocking serious fraud investigations,on the other he is being 'investigated' by the Police.The whole sorry saga is making everybody look ridiculous.

  • 16.
  • At 10:00 PM on 19 Jan 2007,
  • michael wrote:

hi nick

in a change of topc i want your view on next thursday in the commons where the fraud bill (without a jury bill continues. do you think the goverment could be defeat i know when watching the debate 11 labour mps rebelled at second reading and i know even more will rebel if the goverment don;t back down

it won't get past the lords we all know that

Blair has demonstrated time and time again that integrity is not his prime concern, either for himself or his government. That he should presume to assure his simple subjects of Ruth Turner's integrity shows, as ever, the fool or knave quality of the man.

  • 18.
  • At 11:07 PM on 19 Jan 2007,
  • MichaelT wrote:

BlairSupporter said: "4. Do we really want our Prime Minister and/or government employees arrested, tried and convicted for this?"

Errr, if they broke the law... YES! Are you trying to suggest government ministers or employees are above the law?

You must be a member of the Labour government as they seem to think that way too.

The sinister thing that really disturbs me is the way the spin machine is now being employed to try and smear the police and their intentions.

All this whinging about why was she picked up 6.30am.... Turner should just be glad she wasn't banged up in a cell untried for several months under our new laws to protect "Freedom". Or detained and given a criminal record, under the Serious Organised Crime act, for protesting outside parliament without a obtaining a permit first.

  • 19.
  • At 11:20 PM on 19 Jan 2007,
  • Petar wrote:

Ruth Turner seems like another of those spin doctors that Blair loves to surround himself will - from the same mould as the master of spin - Alaister Campbell. I recall Ruth turner and the other Labour student clique who controlled the Students Union at Salford University in the early 90's. They completely dominated the union not in the interests of the students as a whole but for their own political agenda. It is hypocritical looking back now that the Labour Students then all screamed & shouted how bad the tories were for students in freezing the grant and introducing a small loan - yet this New Labour govt abolished the grant and introduced the Tutition fees!!!

I guess spin can only go so far before it comes back round & hits you in the face.

The actions of the police earlier today were completely consistent and acceptable.

Of course they would want to visit Ruth Turner at a time when she wasn't expecting it, and of course the cash for loans scandal is worthy of investigation.

The way political parties are funded is regulated to protect us all. You should not be able to buy political influence or be rewarded by the state for personal favours done for a politician.

If either of those have happened it is imperative that we get to the bottom of this.

If it's been going on for years then all the more reason to put a stop to it now.

  • 21.
  • At 05:31 AM on 20 Jan 2007,
  • steve wrote:

A Prime Minister who allows attacks on the integrity of the police by government ministers has lost the right to govern. The arrest revolves around a charge of perverting the course of justice; I assume that means the covering up or destruction of evidence. To suggest the police did this for no reason is a shocking insight into Bliar’s own thought process, I am sure the police would rather have been given the evidence upon request. Bliar cannot be allowed to carry on humiliating the country for no good reason, not one person in Britain believes a single word he or his government say.

Hopefully Bliar’s legacy will to have marked the low point of a slump in standards of democratic government. This low point should serve as a lesson to the public of the risks inherent in our system of government, it requires of all involved a level of integrity and moral courage sadly lacking of late. Whoever takes over would do well to clear the air with a thorough investigation into all aspects of his tenure with the adoption of harsher rules on accountability and standards in public office.

If you need further evidence imagine Radio 4 listeners last night hearing a vigorous defence of Ruth Turners integrity, after all Turner was released without charge! Who was this voice of reason? Tessa Jowell ha ha ha ......proving not only that the government believe their own spin and deception, but they think we do as well. It is this arrogant, disrespectful treatment of the public that has done for this government.

The politically correct, nanny state, victim culture NuLabour imposed on us for 10 years can be finally dumped, after a more comprehensive failure than anyone feared.

  • 22.
  • At 07:33 AM on 20 Jan 2007,
  • Oliver Roberts wrote:

The Police are correct to investigate New Labour funding by all possible means. People around powerful people behave arrogantly, spin their way out of trouble and live in their own world. Blunkett comes to mind. By wrongly critizing police tactics these folk are protecting their own and showing themselves up for what they are. Corrupt!

  • 23.
  • At 07:42 AM on 20 Jan 2007,
  • jase wrote:

Labour only have them selves to blame for the early surprise arrest after trying to bury the news last time. The ploice clearly didn't want the Labour spin machine to kick in and deflect any bad press from them or hide it somehow.

  • 24.
  • At 07:42 AM on 20 Jan 2007,
  • Ian wrote:

When all this is over, and if no charges are made will that pathetic SNP MP be arrested in the early morning for wasting police time?????

  • 25.
  • At 08:05 AM on 20 Jan 2007,
  • chud wrote:

Lady Thatcher chucks brick through Jewellery shop window in Knightsbridge as Police look on.

Having a Peerage is like having a free get out of jail card in Monopoly...well at least a Peer is unarrestable by the civil authorities...but so far as I can tell that is about all in terms of benefits, other than wearing an odd uniform and attending the House of Lords occasionally.
Like many people I cannot see the illegality of paying a huge sum of money to a political party for a peerage (I always fancied the brick jibe) so could someone in the legal profession kindly outline the case for the prosecution?

  • 26.
  • At 08:06 AM on 20 Jan 2007,
  • Bryan27 wrote:

Have the BBC learned nothing from the way they mishandled the WMD affair? We now have a Prime Minister whose immediate staff are under serious criminal investigation, which may well lead to a jury trial. Through heavy media briefing, the PM & his cronies seek to undermine the police & keep the suspects in office. As with the Ipswich murders, this is a time for all media to respect the rule of law, support the police investigation, & not collude in the Labour Party's attempt to prejudice it. The BBC should be showing a lead, & not simply present this as a game between Officer Yates & the people who set their licence fee.

  • 27.
  • At 08:20 AM on 20 Jan 2007,
  • Alan wrote:

Dear Nick, 'Arrested at Dawn' 4 officers arrest her at 6.30a.m. Why are they so surprised?. They have created this Police state - as far as I am concerned its a little bit of their own medicine!.Of course it could all be a big mistake arising from a council worker going through her re-cycling bin!

  • 28.
  • At 08:25 AM on 20 Jan 2007,
  • PhilDog wrote:

The police should really get this sorted out once and for all. If senior aides are slowing up the investigation, don't arrest them, charge them. If there is nothing to be found, drop it.

The comedic element to this is the assessment of character from Tessa Jowell. I would have thought of all people she should say nothing about how trustworthy individuals were.

Is David Blunkett coming back? or is it just a former Home Secretary making comment about an on-going investigation? Mmmmm

  • 29.
  • At 08:30 AM on 20 Jan 2007,
  • chud wrote:

Privilege of Peerage.

Further to my letter about Lady Thatcher and the jewellers window brick chucking scenario...Correction!! ...It seems that a peer can be arrested, though that right has seldom been used. Here are the facts on their priviledges...

Peers wear ceremonial robes, whose designs are based on their rank.
The Privilege of Peerage is the body of privileges that belongs to peers, their wives and their unremarried widows. While the Privilege of Peerage was once extensive, only three privileges survived into the 20th century:

1.The right to be tried by fellow peers in the Lord High Steward's Court and in the House of Lords, abolished 1948;
2.The right to personally access the Sovereign, but this privilege has long been obsolete;
3.The right to be exempt from civil arrest. This privilege has been used only twice since 1945.

Peers enjoy several rights that do not formally form a part of the Privilege of the Peerage. For instance:

1.Peers and their families have positions in the order of precedence.
2.Peers wear special coronets at coronations of Sovereigns; depictions of these coronets also appear atop peers' armorial achievements.
3.Peers have distinctive robes for use at coronations and in the House of Lords (if a member of the latter).

So apart from a funny hat and fancy dress...and the remote possibility of not being arrested for ..well ...anything...theres not really that much return. Does this letter win the 5 quid? Ah well ....

  • 30.
  • At 08:34 AM on 20 Jan 2007,
  • Richard O'shea wrote:

I can't imagine the police spending this length of time pursuing the matter unless they believed there was something to pursue. All this squirming by the Labour party, and the other two parties, the endless and essentially legal arguments as to why they are innocent; for me, demonstrates the difficulty modern politics has with morality.

To state that this was not against the law, as I'm sure they will continue to do, is to miss the greater point that the behaviour of politicians should be beyond reproach. I don't buy into the "we are Human too, just as flawed etc etc" argument, I don't expect politicians to be ordinary people, I expect them to be extraordinary people. Sadly they all appear to be decidedly ordinary.

  • 31.
  • At 08:48 AM on 20 Jan 2007,
  • phil newton wrote:

"Theatre " was used by Blunkett to describe the arrest.
Bur he is part of that theatre/show biz circus its all become where politician`s private lives are paraded
before us-the "audience"-hanging on and waiting for the next chapter.
Insted of democracy starting at local devolvement/involvement/participation followed by sending a represenatrive [imbued,primarily, with these local needs] to parliament we`re watching a soap, from the `top down` where these actors strut, and in Blairs case now possibly getting sympathy because the very nature of the camersa plays to the gallery.
Rather than the electorate having had the real chance to study the meat of the situation beneathe the surface they are totally occupied by the imponderables of their daily survival.
Consequently,with this virtual reality diet of celebrity,nobility,honours,war,intrugue,sex,sportin and musical heroism,its no wonder all the parties are the same as the lowest common denominator of bland,diluted, low turnout `politics` is the result.
Phil Newton

  • 32.
  • At 09:08 AM on 20 Jan 2007,
  • Matthew Howes wrote:

The mock outrage at Ruth Turner's 6:30am arrest is a typical Blairite diversionary tactic. The alternative would have been to arrest her at work ie Number 10. Is that their preference?

  • 33.
  • At 09:12 AM on 20 Jan 2007,
  • Rich wrote:

Actually its quite nice to see the powers that be bleating at their treatment by the police when they're busily setting up the framework of a police state.

  • 34.
  • At 09:18 AM on 20 Jan 2007,
  • Nick Wallace wrote:

Firstly, I'd like to say that the manner of this arrest is totally out of order. Hauling this woman off from her home at at 6:30 in the morning seems totally unnecessary. What were the police thinking? We're talking about a suspect in a corruption enquiry, not a violent lunatic.

Furthermore, as a Labour Party member, I despair at the knock-on effect this enquiry is could have on Party funding. All mainstream political parties, us and the Tories in particular, have major problems these days procuring funds. This continuing fiasco can only make the situation worse for us, who are just as disgusted at the thought of cash being exchanged for honours as the general public. How many wealthy groups or individuals have decided against donating or lending funds to the Labour Party since this story began, for fear of adding fuel to the fire?

I firmly believe that neither the Party leadership nor their aides would be stupid enough to resort to anything so simplistic as "cash for honours" to bring in money. Moral matters aside, it seems downright stupid - surely somebody would find out sooner or later? The risks and potential political costs seem too high. It's not in the Party's interests to raise money in such an underhanded way.

It's also worth bearing in mind that Ms Turner was quickly released without charge, as were all the other arrested suspects. I'll be stumped if anybody is charged as a result of this investigation, and actual convictions seem totally inconceivable to me.

  • 35.
  • At 09:22 AM on 20 Jan 2007,
  • Jess The Dog wrote:

To Blairsupporter:

"1. Is this REALLY an arrestable matter?"

All arrests are now arrestable, thanks to this government. Attempting to pervert the course of justice carries a possible life sentence. This is not trivial.

  • 36.
  • At 09:38 AM on 20 Jan 2007,
  • Mr. Grumpy of Ringwood wrote:

Has it not occurred to anybody that, by arresting her at 6.30 a.m. the police could be fairly sure she would be there.
I doubt if she works a 9 - 5 job and is probably at 10 Downing Street very early.
Would Tony Blair like her to arrested while she is at her desk close to his?

  • 37.
  • At 09:46 AM on 20 Jan 2007,
  • Brian Kelly wrote:

Is it a coincidence that Lord Puttnam was touring the TV studios defending Ruth Turner's innocence in a rather unusual angered/flustered manner saying the Police had arrested her early this morning in a THEATRICAL! manner.....the one time special advisor to .........
.. Blunkett who was also publicly reported as describing her arrest as THEATRICAL!.....Now if I was a cynic, I could believe they had been briefed... but men of their integrity? not possible is it!...I mean ,didn't Blair have "full confidence" in Blunkett!
They thought that Lord Puttnam as Deputy Chairman of Channel4( & reportedly one of the forerunner names to replace Grade at the Beeb?) would have enough on his plate with the present issues of the "Big Brother" debacle...but understand he thought it inappropriate to comment on the programme now or hitherto...It's reported he will make his thoughts known at Mondays Board Meeting .
Meanwhile an embarrassed Gordon Brown PM(oops sorry ..designate PM) took time, albeit I suspect very irritated , responded to questions whilst in India about this programme... so he won't be best pleased with Channel4 or the Dep' Chairman.

The alleged sleaze & illegalities of "Purer than Pure" New Labour are being investigated , it's for real, a world away from the fairy tales of WMDs in Iraq!'s going to take time they say and PM Blair may have absconded..oops!!read, resigned, from office. But " knacker of the yard" is like the CMPs and they always get their man or woman... or both!
NB: I wonder if Des Smith,reportedly one of the first to be arrested in the same manner, feels sorry for no10s aide...i seem to remember he voiced an opinion at the time that the PM et al should all have the same treatment...!!

Dear BlairSupporter, the police are investigating the possible law breaking by members of the elected governement.
I will just repeat that for you in another way.
Our police are finding out if the law of this land has been broken by the very people we have elected to govern us.
If you are not concerned by the implications of this. I would suggest you would feel at home living in some banana republic. Where respect for the law is the least of the junta's worries.

  • 39.
  • At 09:49 AM on 20 Jan 2007,
  • Gwyn Evans wrote:

Is there any reason to suspect that this isn't normal police procedure?

The slant of some stories seem to suggest that there's something staged about this arrest, but the impression that I get is that this is normal police behaviour, especially when considering the increased powers of arrest introduced by the Serious and Organised Crime Act 2005.

There's a a certain irony, surely...

  • 40.
  • At 09:49 AM on 20 Jan 2007,
  • Al Muir wrote:

I do not remember the leaders of Labour questioning the police tactics when other politicians of other parties have been arrested for various misdemenours. And Putnams rather ludricous comments remind me of people who said there was no way Shipman could have done the things he did. He was a nice local GP whom every one trusted. Ok, different scale here. But surely we are concerned with seeking the truth and bringing to justice any wrong doing. Blair and his crew should applaud the effort of the police in seeking to get to the bottom of all this. Not castigate their methods.

  • 41.
  • At 09:57 AM on 20 Jan 2007,
  • Bob Kelso wrote:

Who cares how long the police take. As long as they get it right. Those who want a quick enquiry clearly dont want a proper investigation. Wonder why?

  • 42.
  • At 10:19 AM on 20 Jan 2007,
  • Andrew Constantine wrote:

If the police suspect Ruth Turner of possibly perverting the course of justice (by hiding or destroying evidence), it would be a standard and sensible precaution for the police to make a dawn raid to arrest her.

Such dawn raids are made so as to forestall any attempt or temptation for a suspect to do anything silly with evidence. Such dawn raids are relatively common: the Britannia Building Society underwent one last summer where H M Revenue & Customs were concerned about a particular tax transaction.

  • 43.
  • At 10:36 AM on 20 Jan 2007,
  • Jangl3r wrote:

The ironic thing is that Tony Blair, David Blunkett and others are now finding themselves on the receiving end of the police state that they have set up 'for our own good'.

The only reason for a pre-dawn raid is to frighten and menace those affected. If anyone other than the police had woken up a household at that time, they would themselves be guilty of threatening behaviour. If the police want to ensure that the public turns against this prosecution, they are going the right way about it.

  • 44.
  • At 10:45 AM on 20 Jan 2007,
  • Tony Coles wrote:

I am surprised that public figures are prepared to shout about the charecter of someone being questioned for a serious offence.

Surely they should keep slent and not set up a defense that a fair trail cannnot be held. They should be supporting the police!

One of her public defenders is an admitted adulterer who used his travel expenses for his mistress and another whose husband is charged with an offence in Italy.

What a scrubby lot 'Whiter than white'??????

  • 45.
  • At 11:05 AM on 20 Jan 2007,
  • Ed wrote:

Nick, it's very 'entertaining' listening to the great and the good commenting in the media on the supposed unjust and shabby treatment afforded to Miss Turner. It was particularly galling to hear Blunkett, who as Home Secretary must have been responsible for a few early morning 'wake ups', moaning and groaning. It's as if such actions are beneath members of the 'elite' political classes.

Well, hello (hello, hello) folks! A knock on the door at 6.30 am is how it happens in reality, when the police are involved in an investigation.

I think it's time to flush these Nu Labour sycophants out of the political salons and into the real world. Forcing them to experience how awful things are for the rest of us coping with poor public services and failed transport systems, might encourage them to do something about it.

  • 46.
  • At 11:26 AM on 20 Jan 2007,
  • Mike Richards wrote:

It just gets better; this morning we had Disgraced Former Home Secretary (DFHS) David Blunkett sounding more than usually hysterical over the arrest.

The nation's favourite demagogue who sent tanks to Heathrow to boost support for a war against Iraq and who declaring people guilty of terrorism before the inconvenience of a trial, thinks the police have behaved in a theatrical manner. I suppose being inspiration for a musical makes him something of an expert on the subject.

Did I miss the meeting where Blunkett was declared a valued elder statesman of the nation rather than a nasty, opportunistic bully?

  • 47.
  • At 11:29 AM on 20 Jan 2007,
  • Elizabeth O'Hare wrote:

Ms Turner is being subjected to the due process of law. Unpleasant but necessary, as rarely do people take themselves of to police station to volunteer their guilt.

I find it sad that the PM and various government ministers and or new labour cronies feel need brief against the police. If this is what is happening in public l wonder what pressure is being applied behind the scenes.

I think it might be prudent to see what happens before rushing to judgement. Lets at least pretend that this government believe in rule of law.

  • 48.
  • At 12:04 PM on 20 Jan 2007,
  • Peter Kenyon wrote:

Dear Nick

As you yourself admit there is lots of scope for speculation about the consequences for individuals interviewed whether under caution, or as potential witnesses, the government or politics more generally.

What is incontrovertible IMHO is that the 'cash for honours' affair is being (ab)used by all three mainstream political parties as a pretext for increased state-funding of political parties.

The Liberal Democrats Vince Cable was at it again following Ruth Turner's arrest and release without charge yesterday.

I hope when the next newspeg offers itself, as it will before the end of the month with the next Hayden Phillips report on party funding, there will be more penetrating reporting about the circumstances leading up to that Inquiry. For example, why did none of the parties in Parliament make time available for discussion of the Electoral Commission (EC) report on political party funding published barely 15 months before the 'cash for honours' affair hit the headlines?

I suspect it was because the EC report called for more effort by all political parties to encourage membership and small donations, rather than looking to the taxpayer for handouts.

The public deserves to know a lot more about the goings on of career politicians before the politicians vote themselves more of our money keep themselves in a career politicans.

  • 49.
  • At 12:49 PM on 20 Jan 2007,
  • Tom Ainsworth wrote:

Presumably she was arrested at 6.30 because any later and she would have had to have been arrested at her place of work, i.e. Downing St.

  • 50.
  • At 01:00 PM on 20 Jan 2007,
  • Ted wrote:

Why is the BBC falling for the Labour organised spin regarding when Ms Turner was arrested? The story there is surely that there is an organised Labour attack attempting to undermine the police investigation. Why don't you ask Jowell/Blunkett et al why they are rushing to the microphones, who organised it and what they are trying to achieve?

  • 51.
  • At 01:44 PM on 20 Jan 2007,
  • PD wrote:

The deeper the cover-up, the longer the investigation. We should be glad of the police thoroughness, not critical. Maybe those from the political classes who are so critical want this done and dusted before it reaches their front door?

  • 52.
  • At 01:59 PM on 20 Jan 2007,
  • R Sawyer wrote:

Labour's "rebuttal unit" in full flow following the "questioning" of Blair's gatekeeper says it all.

  • 53.
  • At 02:25 PM on 20 Jan 2007,
  • Bill wrote:

Lord Puttnam said it was unfair for Ruth Turner to be 'smeared' this way, and then he went on to smear the police themselves. How very New Labour. I am not sure how arresting someone in the course of a legitimate criminal investigation can be called smearing. He also said it was 'theatrical' to arrest her at home in the early morning at home (with no press or tv cameras present and even the neighbours still in bed). Should they have pitched up at No 10 and collared her there with the press and tv permanently camped at the front door? Blair and his bully boys can dish it out, but when they are in the firing line they don't like it up 'em.
Puttnam undermining the police was perhaps the most unedifying sight of the day.

  • 54.
  • At 04:02 PM on 20 Jan 2007,
  • Robert wrote:

I think that this is an important matter but in the end suspect that we are into grey areas and even if there is a trial it is likely to end with an effective not proven verdict.
The police do seem to have resources available (four policemen) for this that are not available to even look at other investigations. Would not one cadet policeman been able to effect this arrest?
The basic problem is how do political parties fund themselves. It is a bad thing for them to rely on a few rich donors as they are forced to do at the moment and so I have reluctantly colcluded that much of their funding should come from tax. So that parties can raise extra resources they should be able to fundrase but the maximum anyone can donate should be within many peoples reach - say £100 per year - the Conservative idea of £50 000 I think just shows how out of touch with ordinary people they are.

  • 55.
  • At 04:07 PM on 20 Jan 2007,
  • James Rowland wrote:

The Police are not about to arrest someone close to Tony Blair without good reason since the officer responsible for doing so could then forget about future promotion if the arrest was baseless. New Labour has given the police more power and have created 1000 new criminal offences and you can now be arrested for things no one would dream of 20 years ago. However When one of their own is arrested for an old offence howeevr they squeal, protest and attack the police. Proof that they think they are above the law and all these powers they gave police were not meant to apply to them.

  • 56.
  • At 04:38 PM on 20 Jan 2007,
  • Ralph wrote:

You would think that they would have realised by now that it's the cover up that gets you not the charge itself as Clinton, Nixon, and Libby will tell you.

Nick, why do you think Newsnight last night led on a non story about a rude Email not this one?

  • 57.
  • At 04:42 PM on 20 Jan 2007,
  • Jon wrote:

What is most troubling is the way that senior figures in the Labour party are openly criticising an ongoing police investigation. It appears as if they wish to influence the outcome by putting pressure on the officers who are merely carrying out their duties in a professional matter.

I get the impression that they don't want this investigation for fear of what it might uncover.

  • 58.
  • At 05:57 PM on 20 Jan 2007,
  • ChrisJK wrote:

It should be remembered that only a police officer's "suspicion" is needed for an arrest. There does not need to be any direct evidence or allegation against the person being arrested. The legal term is "reasonable suspicion" - but all human investigations produce their own self-justifying momentum and especially so when much time and effort has already been invested without the anticipated result.

As all suspected offences are now arrestable then the police will use that power - particulary when the arrest conveniently gives them the automatic right of search for any "documentary evidence". After waiting a few minutes at 6:30am, with no response, then the police are apparently within their rights to break the door down.

The Government are reaping what they have sown - but not on the issue of the alleged "honours for sale". They have enabled a Police State mentality by their persistent reducion of thresholds of evidence, the criminalization of most of the population by a plethora of new laws, and arrest/conviction "performance targets". All these undermine the moral judgement of law officers who have to salve their consciences by believing they are "just following the letter of the Law".

To feel persecuted by the State is the ultimate breakdown in a democratic society.

  • 59.
  • At 06:08 PM on 20 Jan 2007,
  • Willstead Ash wrote:

>>4. Do we really want our Prime Minister and/or government employees arrested, tried and convicted for this?

Any citizen should face justice for breaking the law. How strange to suggest otherwise!

  • 60.
  • At 06:17 PM on 20 Jan 2007,
  • S Richards wrote:

Why arrest someone at 0630? because you a) find them in heir house
b) On arrest you can search and remove their property

As this person works 18 hours days, just when would the police be able to get to her? I can just see the headlines, "Police make arrest a No.10" - think - which was nicer? home or a wildly public place?.

As for 'Blairsupporter' comments!
Do we want members of the Government arrested/loced up over this? YES, if they broke the law! Just think, a Government brings out a new law to clean up party funding - fact - then the very next day, starts to riggle around the news law - fact.

Do we want to be Governed by greedy moronic people who do not have the best interests of the UK as their number one priority? I do not think so.

  • 61.
  • At 07:01 PM on 20 Jan 2007,
  • mark girvan wrote:

I am really amazed that a woman who apparantly willingly cooperated with previous interviews with the police needed 4 officers to arrest her at 6.30 in the morning. Were the police anticipating that she would put up a fight- you wouldn't get a police response like that if someone had assaulted you in the street (they would be too busy!!!)

  • 62.
  • At 07:49 PM on 20 Jan 2007,
  • Glop wrote:

If the police arrest someone and then release them without charge, can't that person sue for wrongful arrest? Or is this one of the rights that our wonderful Labour government has taken away from us? All these arrests and no charges seem to be a strange way of getting to the facts.

  • 63.
  • At 08:13 PM on 20 Jan 2007,
  • J Mears wrote:

We know Michael Howard was Questioned but how many others in the Cosrevative Party have?

  • 64.
  • At 09:04 PM on 20 Jan 2007,
  • Ed Trelinski wrote:

I'm absolutely appalled that some people seem willing to accept that political parties should be able to offer cash for peerages and other dubious money raising schemes.The quasi-argument that "it's been going on for years" is worthless.

The reason the public don't trust politicians and political parties is precisely because disgraceful scams like these have been allowed to continue for years. Yes, the Tories did it and the Liberals back in the 1920s, but why should it be allowed to continue?

I believe it's vitally important this investigation is seen through to a full and proper conclusion. Maybe then British politicians will be forced to act and get rid of ridiculous relics such as the nomination of peers and the Attorney-General. Only by developing a more open system of government and party finance will we stand any chance of restoring peoples' trust in government.

  • 65.
  • At 10:18 PM on 20 Jan 2007,
  • David wrote:


Surely you weren't complaining about the Police taking their time, when you wrote

"What wasn't expected was for it to take this long, for there to be another arrest, and for the police to then say that they needed yet more time. Remember that originally, it was said that this would all be sorted by last autumn."

They can take as much time as they see fit in order to make the best case possible. They would do the same for any other fraud case.

Also, may I ask for your opinion on why it is that up until now New Labour (from top to bottom) Have used the 'It would be wrong to comment on an ongoing Police investigation..' line when questioned about the Loans for Peerages business, but since Ruth Turner's arrest they have been queuing up at the TV studios to, er.... comment on an ongoing Police investigation about Loans for Peerages?

  • 66.
  • At 11:18 PM on 20 Jan 2007,
  • David wrote:

Nick - surely the mantra so often quoted by politicians in support of (e.g.) identity cards etc is appropriate here, both for those at No 10 and for Ministers who feel moved to comment on police procedures:
'If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear'.

  • 67.
  • At 01:31 AM on 21 Jan 2007,
  • Cynosarges wrote:

Why not hit the entire Cabinet with one of John Reid's "Super-ASBOS", banning them from parliament. Remember, under New-Labour law, you only need suspicion, not proof, you don't need a court or a jury, and hoisting this undemocratic, authoratarian administration by its own petard would be truly poetic justice.

Jackboots at 6:30am! This is Britain, NOT IRAN !!! The police tactics are unforgivable and should be condemned. If the lady needed to be arrested, then DON"T BANG ON HER DOOR IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT. I'm sure this terrified her and her neighbours as well!

  • 69.
  • At 02:14 PM on 21 Jan 2007,
  • Paul O'Brien wrote:

Gone are the days when honours meant something. I seem to recall scepticism over honours during the Tory government rule of the 1980s and 90s.
It's human nature to reward your friends or those you favour. Politicians are not above human nature, far from it!
Most people are wise enough these days to realise that honours are worthless.

  • 70.
  • At 03:27 PM on 21 Jan 2007,
  • Christopher Mackay wrote:

The decision to arrest Ms Turner having been made, perhaps No 10 and friends should be grateful that she was not visited whilst at work!
If No 10 was serious about having the matter resolved and quickly, they have the option of trusting the independent enquiry and ensuring that what is asked for is given with no obfuscation or spin, and no further comment. By allowing themselves the liberty to behave in such a way they are showing themselves as beleiving they are above the law and, crucially, undermining the democratic support from society for a police force that is unbiased and incorruptible.
Dragging out the enquiry and failing to get to the truth of the matter is nothing but detrimental to good governance and trust by the people in their elected representatives.

  • 71.
  • At 04:04 PM on 21 Jan 2007,
  • El-CID wrote:

Regarding mention by the News of The World to the effect the Police have a 'mole' in No.10 - we should not forget the Protection Officers assigned to some of the occupants of Downing Street, are Policeman first and foremost. I suppose they will have certain confidentiality restrictions imposed upon them, BUT won't they still have a duty to report to their superiors anything they might know or hear about criminal offences occurring.

I wonder if Tony Blair may now be regretting the fact that he and his colleagues have done so much to corrode the 'presumption of innocence', once a pillar of British law?JD.

  • 73.
  • At 07:33 PM on 21 Jan 2007,
  • malcolm wrote:

Very suprised that a story as high profile as this is given such low priority on the BBC website. Also very suprised that Andrew Marr virtually ignored the subject today on his programme. This sort of thing gives even more ammunition to those who think the BBC is institutionally biased in its political coverage.

  • 74.
  • At 11:28 PM on 21 Jan 2007,
  • Anthony Palmer wrote:

But - in other words - there is a great range of possibilities for her and Tony Blair - from very very serious indeed, to much, much, much less serious.

Come off the fence, Mr Robinson -- you're supposed to offer analysis, not platitudes. Ruth Turner is a 'key' Blair aide. Her arrest suggests matters are becoming 'very very serious indeed' for both her and her master.

  • 75.
  • At 10:24 AM on 22 Jan 2007,
  • Tony jaynes wrote:

We all know, if a peerage was offered for cash, it would have been done verbally with no records. So what are the police wasting our money for. After week one the police should have been honest and said theres no possibility of finding any evidence to bring before a court. However political pressure from SNP/Conservatives/LibDem and media pressure from the BBC and others precluded this, otherwise there would have been shouts of whitewash. So now it's 'cover my backside' there's no evidence so it must be a cover-up. Other than that it could be that someone, somewhere, in the Met has a vested interest in prolonging this case.

Finally, if this young lady was a Muslim the police would not have dared knock her up out of bed at 0630.

  • 76.
  • At 12:24 PM on 22 Jan 2007,
  • Stephen wrote:

At one time the public could walk up and down Downing St and exercise their freedoms. The need for security and the awful stench from No 10 has certainly put paid to this.

If there is a case to answer in respect of Lord Levy, Ms Turner or anyone else within the Labour Party, then by definition, the man at the top was involved. For those who are happy to look the other way when individuals are seeking to buy power or influence it just goes to show that you can fool some of the people all of the time. On the other hand, I don't see why I need to accept their own low standards. In the meantime, let the Police do their job, and hopefully there will be the chance for the evidence to be put before the Courts. Only then can we be certain of what has, or has not, happened.

  • 77.
  • At 12:26 PM on 22 Jan 2007,
  • Chris Wills wrote:

It's interesting to read the comments from some of your correspondants.
Some seem to put their own agenda before the facts. For example the police arrested RT at 0630 at home because (a) they knew she would be up then - most working people are, (b) it allows them to search her house as she was arrested at her house and (c) the alternative presumably would be to arrest her at 10 Downing Street which would have been a pr nightmare for Blair.
One of your correspondants seems to think the BBC is a Tory biased organisation. I have been a Tory supporter since 1974 and I can't recall the number of times I have written, and recently emailed the BBC complaining about their bias towards Labour. If a Labour supporter is thinking the BBC are Tory supporters it suggests to me a lack of self confidence in Labour and signals that the end of their time is near. Brown will probably do a John Major but hopefully not with the election win.

  • 78.
  • At 02:28 PM on 22 Jan 2007,
  • Jonty wrote:

The Police comment on the 6.30 am arrest of Ruth Turner - she starts work at 7.00 am and the alternative was to call at her place of work - Number 10.

  • 79.
  • At 08:21 PM on 22 Jan 2007,
  • Marek wrote:

It would increase the credibility of all BBC personnel if, from the start, it was agreed that they would never accept an honour.

As for Ruth Turner we have to ask if she has been treated differently or more severely than anyone else suspected of perverting the course of justice.

As I recall, Your feelings about future developments in this inquiry over the period since it began have been an exercise in under-estimation.

To date I would give you a "C" for insight and prediction regarding progress in this police investigation. In fact, I rather resent that I indirectly pay your salary.

However, you could redeem yourself by stating the obvious which is that a Prime Minister so grimly hanging onto office for his own benefit rather than that of the nation is degrading the political system that we were taught to respect.

After all, you are meant to be providing a public service.

Some self-serving police person is not doing the Police any good. Smacks of "payback time" after the government's attempt to consolidate police forces so that they would have the resources to fight organised crime. And look how upset they get when anyone criticises them - public officials are easy to question with or without arrest, so why go crashing in at 6:30 am, and why keep crying "political interference" if anyone makes mention of it.
This policeperson keeps quiet when it suits, and goes running to the media when it suits.

  • 81.
  • At 10:31 AM on 24 Jan 2007,
  • Robert K wrote:

"Tony Blair has given Ruth Turner his full backing. He could do no other, really - to do otherwise would have been to admit that there was some wrongdoing."

Sorry Nick, I think you've fallen for Downing St spin hook, line and sinker. How often does PMOS tell you that they won't provide a running commentary? How often does a government department say it won't comment on individual cases? How often are you told that there's a police investigation ongoing so, sorry, no comment.

What's striking about the Turner arrest is that Downing St chose to deviate from its normal obfuscation.

To those who say that there's no chance that the police would find something so why bother, well, people commit some stupid things to email that they'd never put in 'writing'.

And why the 'dawn raid'? If you suspect someone of perverting the course of justice, you don't give them time to sort through the evidence and get their stories straight!

  • 82.
  • At 09:39 PM on 24 Jan 2007,
  • ChrisJK wrote:

60. At 07:49 PM on 20 Jan 2007, Glop wrote:
If the police arrest someone and then release them without charge, can't that person sue for wrongful arrest?

This is my lay understanding - but open to any corrections.

The police can arrest anyone they choose with "reasonable suspicion" of any "criminal" offence (except for Section 44, TA 2000 which has no such threshold). It is only a "wrongful arrest" if the due process is not followed - and the Goverment are currently proposing to loosen that "technical" requirement.

If the police release the person for lack of any evidence of wrong-doing they will still retain their DNA sample and the details of the arrest will be available to the media. An innocent person's life can be disrupted for several months without any eventual charge. In addition "soft" intelligence will go on the police database about that person.

In theory there is a check & balance in that the Charge Officer at the police station has the power, I believe, to decide that the person should be released immediately if they are not convinced of the validity of the arresting officer's suspicion. I would doubt that most innocent persons at that point realise their right to make such a challenge.

You can subsequently complain to the Chief Constable or the Police Authority - or attempt to sue them on the grounds that the suspicions were not "reasonable".

However it is my belief that it takes a very strong person to pursue such a complaint. This is particularly so where the arrest was a deliberate attempt to intimidate an "innocent" person against whom there were no actual allegations or evidence. This is called a "fishing expedition" where it is hoped that the "automatic" search power, and questioning, will find something incriminatory against that person or other persons.

It is most unlikely that either the arrest DNA sample or other records will ever be destroyed no matter what the outcome of a complaint.

It should be remembered that someone is only arrested if the police officer has already effectively decided they are probably guilty. Where considerable police resources have been used in pursuing a fruitless lead, instigated by the police themselves, then the total lack of any corroborating evidence can be taken as providing the all-too-human self-justification that the accused person is "guilty but was too clever - this time". The subsequent public explanation is usually given as "insufficient evidence to proceed".

  • 83.
  • At 03:35 PM on 25 Jan 2007,
  • GH wrote:

Some of the posts question why four police officers were needed to arrest this woman. I would venture to suggest that just one officer made the arrest, the others were used to search her house for evidence relating to the offence. This is perfectly normal procedure. As for making the arrest at 6.30, I will just reiterate what other people have said - what would the NuLabour whingers prefer? An arrest at 6.30 at this woman's home, or at No. 10 in full sight of the world's media later on in the morning??? Get real Blunkett!

Earlier in this thread I asked this question?

"Do we really want our Prime Minister and/or government employees arrested, tried and convicted for this?"

Comments at 59 & 60 refer to this.

I suppose I should have used capital letters or emphasis for the word "this". I am not suggesting that anyone is above the law, only that sometimes the law is an ass, and sometimes we are seeking disproportionate punishment (due to our own ulterior motives.) I just wished to flag that up.

If the PM and others had been committing what most of us would consider a "serious" crime - murder, drug or people traficking, rape - to name but a few - then of course they should be tried.


With all the constant publicity it may well be that the Police are beginning to conclude that since the CPS might throw out the whole proposition of a case, because a fair trial would be all but impossible, they now have to present a case for discontinuing the inquiry. Thus the
leaks about "hidden internet systems". In other words, the Police are suggesting this:

"No 10 did it - but we haven't got the evidence, so it's not OUR fault that all this public money and police time has been wasted."

This site is worth a read.

"ITV is quoting an anonymous source this morning saying it is unlikely anyone will face charges over the affair."

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