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The sanctity of the Commons

Nick Robinson | 17:23 UK time, Friday, 28 November 2008

The arrest of Damian Green and the forced search of his parliamentary office have caused anger and concern on all sides of politics. From Tony Benn to David Davis and Nick Clegg, there is fury at the police's violation of the sanctity of the Commons and the challenge to the duty of an opposition member to hold the government to account.

Lenthall asserts the privileges of the Commons before Charles I, 1642 © Palace of Westminster CollectionI am grateful to a colleague for pointing me to the defiant words of Speaker Lenthall to Charles I in 1642.

They were uttered when the king tried to have five MPs arrested in the Commons. On his knees before the sovereign, the Speaker explained why he would not co-operate, explaining that his duty was to the House and not to the king.

May it please your majesty, I have neither eyes to see nor tongue to speak in this place but as this house is pleased to direct me whose servant I am here; and humbly beg your majesty's pardon that I cannot give any other answer than this

P.S.: My earlier post seems to have generated anger from those who were appalled at the arrest of Damian Green.

Having covered the cash-for-honours case (rather more vigorously than the government was comfortable with), I was merely trying to answer the two questions which were asked then and are being asked now: why did the police feel the need to arrest Damian Green and to raid his house?

Incidentally, I thought that comparing Green with Churchill might just have hinted that I saw the gravity of the situation.


Page 1 of 11

  • Comment number 1.

    Much better, now go and ask the current speaker why he doesn't show the same defiance.

  • Comment number 2.

    I think that you should just be honest and admit that your earlier post was (at best) pathetic and completely missed the point that this is a serious constitutional issue. Everyone can have a bad day but better to admit it than try to justify the earlier post in any way.

  • Comment number 3.


    A bit more like it. Now when are you going to tell us which Minister knew what when? More importantly, did the Speaker authorise this sinister raid? If yes, what do you see as the implications for him, the Commons, the Government and the Police? Then you can start to recover some of your lost reputation.

  • Comment number 4.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 5.


    are you a glutton for punishment?
    I for one didn't miss the point of the Churchill reference - some posters need it spelled out less obliquely.

    That these events are outrageous is clear and thanks for the quote from Speaker Lenthall.
    Would thank Speaker Martin was aware of this piece of history.

    When Tony Benn and David Davis are in agreement you know that somewhere someone is having a really bad day.

  • Comment number 6.

    This post unlike the last one hits at the true crux of the matter which is the sovereignty of parliament.

    The anger that many posted, was no doubt influenced by what seemed to be a contempt for parliament and its rights.

    Many will draw inference that this happened on the day before Sir Ian Blair stood down as Head of the Met.

    Surely no on can doubt that whilst we stand at a cross roads economically we face a similar cross roads politically.

    We have had arguments over 42 days; the issue of increased police surveillance; storage of emails and phone records allied to a national identity card scheme that to many seems not only a huge invasion of human rights but also a scheme that we cannot afford and will not work.

    Policitcally as well as economically the next 18 months and the election of the next Prime Minister will see Britain move decisively one way or another.

    Much has been made of comparisons with erosion of liberties in the past in other countries and some people are standing up to be counted against what they perceive is a similar process in Britain today.

    We are approaching a key step in our countries development for generations to come. It is critical that our rights and freedoms are defended during this time and yesterday was a particularly bad day in that fight.

  • Comment number 7.

    I have to say I am getting increasingly concerned about the nature of our present Government. We had the attempt at 90 days detention without trial, then the attempt at 42 days. We have ID cards. We have proposals to monitor every email and mobile phone call. We have had attempts to restrict trial by jury. They want to keep all our DNA on a central database. Anti-terror legislation used against Icelandic Banks and other cases where no terrorism is suspected. Now we have this blatant attempt to intimidate civil servants and members of the Opposition.

    Quite frankly, I do not believe Brown and Smith for one single moment, when they claim they were not forewarned of this police action.

    It all adds up to a very disturbing picture. I do not trust our Government at all.

  • Comment number 8.

    So what are the "important similarities" your last blog mentioned, other than being arrested in a police raid ? They end there as far as I can see.

    All a bit lightweight I'm afraid Nick.... you could show a bit more understanding towards the arrest of people with "inside" information as you may be one of them yourself soon.

  • Comment number 9.

    Read the words of the spokesman very carefully. All they say is they had no prior knowledge of the arrest.

    Well, they wouldn't would they. But did they insitgate the investigation? Did they know of its progress? Did they know an arrest would be made?

    No answer to these. Just another nail in the coffin of this country and the freedoms we once had.

    The sooner this rotten lot are cast out the better.

  • Comment number 10.

    So, Gordon the Golem knew nothing - the Tories are the "do nothings", but the government is the "know nothings".
    The lights are going out across the kingdom, they will not be lit again until this discredited pseudo-fascist regime is kicked out. The drift towards a police state cannot now be denied.
    As ever, the great Dr Hunter S Thompson has the answer:

    "Goddammit. Yeah, I have. First, there's a huge difference between being arrested and being guilty. Second, see, the law changes and I don't. How I stand vis-à-vis the law at any given moment depends on the law. The law can change from state to state, from nation to nation, from city to city. I guess I have to go by a higher law. How's that? Yeah, I consider myself a road man for the lords of karma."

  • Comment number 11.

    I -- of course -- acknowledge that the police should arrest suspects in futherence of their investigations.

    However, I should think that all right-thinking Englishmen would be proud to have been arrested on so nebulous a charge as: "Conspiring to commit misconduct in a public office".

    If Mr Green has any sense he'll have ordered up the T-shirts already; and you, Nick, ought to be first in line. After all, all journalism worthy of the name is guilty of that charge, isn't it?

  • Comment number 12.

    It is a measure of the hypocrisy and total lack of principle of our mainstream politicians that both the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats feel "anger and concern" when one of their own suffer at the hands of Labour's 'People's Police' , but have nothing to say when members of the BNP regularly undergo harrassment, arrest, obstruction and blatantly politically-inspired prosecutions.

  • Comment number 13.

    Given the events in Mumbai, I would perhaps have thought that the anti-terrorist police would have other things to think about other than arresting an MP member of the shadow cabinet.

    Today is also the last day of Iain Blair apparently, and the start of a parliamentary break. This investigation was apparently started by a home office civil servant, and ministers apparently know nothing about any of this !

  • Comment number 14.

    Well done Nick for acknowledging the outrage of the contributors to your blog.

    Now could we please be told who made the claims that Damian Green leaked confidential Government documents?

  • Comment number 15.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 16.

    I'm not so sure that this does undermine democracy. What I think it does however do is underline the independence of the police from the politicans, which would appear to me to be rather important in a democracy. It is surprising that the politicians are so up-in-arms about this arrest so early on in the investigation - after all, on the face of it, the police had reasonable grounds to suspect someone of an offence, and made an arrest, just as they would any other member of the public. Do politicans think that they are in some way above the law?

  • Comment number 17.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 18.

    Thank you, Nick, for recognizing publicly and quickly what I think is a genuine non-partisan anger at the events of the last 24 hours.

  • Comment number 19.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 20.

    Mr Robinson,

    "..I am grateful to a colleague for pointing me to the defiant words of Speaker Lenthall to Charles I in 1642..."

    Are you really saying that you needed someone to tell you about those words - some of the most famous in our parliamentary history, and ones which are (or were, given modern educational practice) taught to every child in the land?

    And you work as a senior POLITICAL comentator for the BBC? Do you need reminding about what Charles I said just before this response? Something about the birds flying...?

  • Comment number 21.

    If we ignore all the nonsense being spouted bt Ms Smith and Mr Brown - let's get to someone who did know

    Why did the SPeaker allow such actions to take place?

    Either I misunderstand the role of the Speaker or this Speaker does? Or, is it that he too doesn't want anymore investigations into HIS expenses?

    Nick, please let us have an interview with the Speaker and get some sort of justification.

    My view is he should resign out of embarrassment immediately.

  • Comment number 22.

    posters and readers will do well to read this account of the Sally Murer (Khan bugging etc) which, disgracefully has not been covered by our national media.
    Note the charge 'misconduct in a public office' appears to have recently become the cover-all probabaly because it carries the threat of a life sentence. perhaps somebody will tell us when this law was passed and when the sentence was set.

    Good to see you re-evaluating your approach to this case, Nick. Many of us do appreciate the levels of vindictiveness which will be applied to the searching journalist and no doubt you too might be offered the aspirin and penknife, but after an hour of net scrutiny and a conversation with a Sunday editor, there are many people of varying persuasions who have quickly grasped what is transpiring before our eyes. Keep on it!

  • Comment number 23.

    The behaviour of Mr Martin, who is supposed to be apolitical in these matters is a disgrace!

    He should resign.

    Begone foul spot!

  • Comment number 24.

    How the Government can say that they had not been made aware of this when Boris, Cameron and Speaker Martin had been told.

    I was listening to Radio 2 earlier; a lady caller likened this arrest to something that would happen in Zimbabwe or in East Germany!

    Lets think about this for a moment, we have an un elected leader (even by his own party) ID cards on the way no matter the cost or implications, No vote on the EU constitution (despite the promise of a manifesto), Some dubious reporting from our flagship media company and now an MP getting arrested for doing his job just because it's not good for the Government.

  • Comment number 25.

    You still provide no analysis on this very serious matter. Even the reporting of it on the 6 o'clock news was a tame 2 minute effort without your input. Please have something ready by the 10 o'clock news and redeem yourself! You are better than this!

  • Comment number 26.

    At last.....Well done Nick Robinson, I knew you would HAVE to update, It was inevitable, since your last post so badly misjudged peoples reaction to this outrage. The problem is that you sat squarely on the fence. Sometimes you have to call it as you see it EVEN IF you work for the BBC. To hint in such vague terms is the reason you have had so many angry comments.
    To suggest Fury is the RIGHT on the money..

  • Comment number 27.

    It can't be far away time for "the good men who stand by and do nothing" to do something. If the Countryside Alliance can get a million marching through London it can't be beyond the ability of us to take time out and protest.

    This disgraced government continually talks the talk but seems to think that is all that is needed.

    Gordon and his cronies out!!

    Can anyone smell the whif of Mandelson

  • Comment number 28.

    OK Nick. You've redeemed yourself somewhat. Now start asking the questions we all want you to ask!

  • Comment number 29.

    Nick - I still think you need to do a bit more backtracking. There are major questions to be answered here. It's your job to ask them. Why did the MPS use counter terrorism officers, when the operation was not terrorism related? Why have you not commented on the fact that this arrest coincides with Sir Ian Blair's last few days in office? Do you not think that the most politicised Commissioner in history was trying to make a point and get back at the Tories?

  • Comment number 30.

    For what its worth, Nick, I don't think you (or the BBC in general for that matter) is showing any bias on this one.

    And given I'm on the David Davis right of the Tory party, I suppose that must mean something!

    Very disturbing events, though.

    PS why on earth is Charlie saying the Tories are grandstanding? Being arrested is 'grandstanding' now?

  • Comment number 31.

    At 5:47pm on 28 Nov 2008, spirite_uk wrote:
    Much better, now go and ask the current speaker why he doesn't show the same defiance.

    Totally agree. It is irrelevant whether Gordon Brown knew of the impending arrest or not, the principles of democracy from 1642 still apply, otherwise this country becomes more like Burma or Zimbabwe where the ruling party will not tolerate any dissent or criticism.

  • Comment number 32.

    The speaker should either resign or he should be subject to a confidence vote.

    28/11/08 - the day democracy died in the UK

  • Comment number 33.

    Ben is wrong and the rest are proving to the people that politicians are corrupt.

    This sad closing of ranks in the face of independant research is naught but defence of ill earned privalage,

    If an MP incites or encourages a leak then a crime has been comitted,

    We do not know yet.

    But such staunch defence does make one wonder as to the morality of those who demand privalefed protection against the rule we the people, simple and honsest, abide by.

  • Comment number 34.


    At this moment in time you're probably the biggest victim of attempted bullying in the UK, Bar none.

    Desperate attempts to force you to sing from the same hymn sheet as the reactionary right wing on here is sickening. Just rise above it as usual.

    As for this strange affair it is hard to understand what's happening, mainly because no one blogging on here is privvy to any facts about the case whatsoever.

    A few things we may all agree on (well possibly)

    1 A civil servant leaking any information considered (rightly or wrongly) to be confidential is likely to face sanction.

    2 If anyone is encouraging said leaks, then this opens them up to possible investigation (not necessarily prosecution) if encouraging/aiding law breaking.

    3 MPs etc should not be above the Law any more than the local "chav".

    4 Do we not expect the Police to investigate allegations, as made by a senior Civil Servant in this case to "Go where the investigation leads" to quote Yates of the Yard.

    AS yet we know little else.

    There will be cries of Stalin/Mugabe etc. But remember, they are exactly the sort of despot that also expects yo be above the Law.

  • Comment number 35.

    I wondered if the reaction of 90%+ of the comments to your original blog would mean you'd have to rethink and add another. I was hoping you'd post a proper analysis of the demise of our liberties rather than a justification of your original post.

  • Comment number 36.

    The simple question is this:

    What is the point of a representative assembly if it cannot hold the administration to account? If its members cannot criticise or investigate without facing arrest and having their possessions confiscated, then it is worse than useless. It conceals the use of naked power behind a facade of democracy.

  • Comment number 37.





  • Comment number 38.

    I think you and the BBC should rethink your whole attitude to how you interpret the news. I think it would be much better if you in fact reported the events rather than putting your own sadly inadequate and badly biased interpretation on it. To even suggest similarities in these two cases was a gross misjudgement. One case involved government corruption at the highest level, whereas the other case involves the rights of not only a member of parliament but of a freeborn British citizen to criticise government. This is a right that this nation tore itself apart in civil war to retain and this dreadful government must not be allowed to undermine this right. Perhaps when they get around to removing this self same right from yourself and the rest of the third estate you may notice what they are doing.

  • Comment number 39.


    I was merely trying to answer the two questions which were asked then and are being asked now: why did the police feel the need to arrest Damian Green and to raid his house?

    More than likely the police were coerced into doing it by NuLab*, who were trying to silence the moles so that they could continue to hide the truth from us: that thanks to their gambling, profligacy and dreadful policies, our country--- both economically and socially, is ruined.

    *Standby for some huge pay rises/lucrative contracts for those high up in the police. O yes. Wait and see.

  • Comment number 40.

    #1 spirite_uk &
    #3 doctorJonathanS

    Bang on the money.

    #2 cherie4glitterball

    True, but any movement toward investigative journalism should be welcomed rather than smothered at birth.

  • Comment number 41.

    I will not be satisfied until we get full answers from the government on ALL questions asked, including what they DID know about the entire investigation.

    As the complaining body who would have brought the Police in they must have known something. These evasive answers only increase the suspicion that they knew more than they'd like to admit.

    The invasion of the Parliamentary offices is a very serious action. And nine counter-terrorism officers? Nine? With terrorist attacks in India and British citizens the targets, have they really nothing better to do? Are British citizens not their first priority, or is it only when they've been accused of ruffling the gov's feathers?

  • Comment number 42.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 43.

    It would be interesting to know who the magistrate was who signed the search warrant allowing the police to search the MP's office in the Houses of Parliament, and whether this was the first time this has ever been done.
    Did the magistrate stop and think before he signed the warrant?

  • Comment number 44.

    This is looking more and more like a fishing trip to gather evidence. If that is the case it will raise serious issues about the position of Speaker if the governments assertion that they didn't know a thing is correct.

    I am a little concerned about the actual words used by Gordon Brown which could be taken two ways.

  • Comment number 45.




  • Comment number 46.

    Why did the Home Office have a list of MPs who opposed the 42 day limit? Given what happened yesterday they could be next on the list.

  • Comment number 47.

    Eatonrifle , you forget a critcal point, Parliament is the highest court in the land, anyone elected to Parliament has the protection of that Court, and anyone seeking to assist that Court also receives protection.

    So it isn't Damian Green who is in the wrong, but the Executive and the Police for showing contempt for the highest court in the land.

  • Comment number 48.


    You seem surprised that the majority of posters disagree with the line you take, saying you are a Government lackey.

    This is the response to every single post you make on this blog.

    The conspiracy theorist in me would say that it is in the main (with some exceptions) a concerted campaign to 'astroturf' the blogosphere with the CCHQ line operated by a few sockpuppets.

    You won't be adopting the right line for them unless you never criticise Cameron, admit that Brown is a disaster, Stalinist and similar to Mugabe, and take your editorial line from Richard Littlejohn and his friends at the Mail, the majority of posters will continue to suggest you are biased. It's the Guido element.

    I would suggest you don't even bother trying it.

  • Comment number 49.

    Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

  • Comment number 50.

    Labour fill me with disgust
    Every time they abuse our trust;
    They tax all our cash
    And burn it to ash,
    No wonder the country's gone bust...

    And now they're trying to create
    The Nu Labour Party Police State,
    Kim Jong Il would be pleased
    At the freedoms they've seized...
    Control is the Labour trait.

  • Comment number 51.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 52.

    Cassius in praise of Nick Robinson (for once!)

    and issuing a challenge to all:

    "If Nick Robinson and others are correct, that the outrage at these events goes beyond mere politics, then all of those involved have an important and immediate task which goes beyond their party or political loyalties and to the heart of "Britishness" - to borrow a phrase from Gordon Brown."

  • Comment number 53.

    The job of MP's from opposition parties is to question the government and ensure they are running the Country in the correct manner.

    Time and time again this government has proven they cannot be trusted with the power they have been given. It seems they now cannot even be bothered to discuss their failings; they simply have people arrested for speaking about them.

    This sort of thing happens in 3rd World dictatorships, are we not supposed to have a democracy?

    It is the job of the press to find out EXACTLY what BROWN and SMITH had to do with this discraceful situation, I for one suspect they has full knowledge and quite possibly involvement.

  • Comment number 54.

    Blimey that was quick, completely missed the earlier reaction

    Finally we see the result of all Labour's years of eroding our civil liberties, having an MP arrested for revealing information that is in the public interest - all governments want to keep things quiet, but this, this is truly frightening

    I really hope this is the death knell for labour - what is it? the fourth this week?

  • Comment number 55.

    I'm prepared (just) to believe Brown didn't know about this.
    I'm not prepared to accept that he hasn't been part of a group that has created the environment where this would hapen.

    We are losing our traditional liberties under cover of being scared - scared of terrorism (which kills fewer people a year than die on the roads in a week), global warming (feels like it doesn't it?) and whatever they think of next to corrall us into obedience and greater control.

    Anyone watch the great speech by "V" in the film/comic "V for Vendetta" where he accuses the British public of being at fault for letting their fear get the better of them and allowing a dictator to rise? I kept it on record because truly I believe it could be written for now.

  • Comment number 56.

    Hardley a surprise, after all when the police can kill an innocent Brazilian with impunity, arresting an MP is small beer. We should be very worried and the police ashamed.

    Would these fools have held Mr Green for 42 days given half a chance.

    What chance for the rest of us?

  • Comment number 57.


    You, like Damien Green, have been in receipt of leaked material. Perhaps you should be telling the police what cabinet members leaked what to you when.

    You could always post their names here, rather than try and divert attention away with silly comparisons to Ruth Turner's arrest.

  • Comment number 58.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 59.

    So ..... do we expect similar arrests about the leaking of the details of the PBR especially the higher tax band for those earning over £150k and the reduction in VAT which everyone seemed to know about before our cardboard chancellor stood up? Either it's an offense for everyone or no-one. Or is it only when it embarrasses the Government is it an offense?

    Ask the questions, Nick, ask the questions ....

  • Comment number 60.

    Here's an idea! When many are worried sick about the economic mire that they now find themselves in, how about adding to that by having an Opposition MP arrested for highlighting a few uncomfortable facts about the Government's shortcomings?

    Yeah, 'cos that really helps.

    Honestly, which brain commando thought that one up?

    What also looks really great, always inspires confidence and always reassures people, are the stony-faced looks on the dials of Brown, Smith, Straw, etc, when quizzed about this today.

    Of course, no chance of a condemnation of the police for this quasi-fascist action, merely an already tired sounding "I respect the independence of the police" or "I didn't know, it HAS to have been someone else..." (maybe a failing American bank tipped the police off...)

    And all the time maintaining the look of an Easter Island statue that's just been told a huge flock of seagulls is on its way to the area.

    Has it really come to this? Is this what Gordon's "vision" is all about? Remember that? What he droned on about shortly after clumping his way up Downing Street to get the keys off Slippery Tony?

    Some vision.

  • Comment number 61.

    Can this country get any more depressing?

    Bust, run by clowns into the ground and now behaving like a police state.
    It's been coming though; the gradual prohiobition of opinion, however wrong headed, was always a dangerous precedent.
    The BNP, those with unpleasant opinions on race etc, should be allowed to speak because only through openness can the poverty of their ideas be exposed. Suppression only serves to glamorise and give encouragement to those seeking to subvert important liberties won by brave men almost 800 years ago.

    Now we get this; an MP raided by counter-terrorist police because they were most appropriate for the job. First it's Iceland who have their assets seized using terrorism legislation, now the police get to try out their stormtrooper tactics on an MP. Please Brown, just go. For all our good, just go now.

  • Comment number 62.

    re: 56, maggiex3

    What chance for the rest of us?

    There is hope: an X next to any other party than Labour.

    power_to_the_ppl predicts the next General Election will see a record number of postal ballots... ...and a record high of postal ballot fraud.

    Power is everything to Labour.

    They will see this country burn before they relinquish their grip.

    Brown will cling to No. 10 at any price.

  • Comment number 63.

    How dare the police try to enforce the law? Don't they know it's only civil servants and other lesser people who get prosecuted for leaking?

    After all, every politician does it, so it must be OK.

  • Comment number 64.

    I thought that it was against the law for Police to raid an MP's office in the House of Commons!

    Also if Gordon Brown did not know about the raid (which he must have done because it is in his territory) why has he not joined the outcry against the Police for raiding his members, even though in opposition, rights?

  • Comment number 65.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 66.

    How convenient for the government that the arrest coincided with the terrible events in Mumbai.

    How convenient that the next PMQs are not until 10th December.

    Even if Brown et al knew nothing of this (hard to believe) why are they not joining in the fury that exists on all sides? Parliament and therefore our democracy is under real threat and they don't care!

    We have to send this government packing ASAP.

  • Comment number 67.


    "This is the response to every single post you make on this blog."

  • Comment number 68.

    MP Norman Baker's office was 'burgled' and computer files and other notes were removed when he was investigating the death of Dr David Kelly.
    As far as I know, no-one was held accountable.

    As for Brown and Smith denying they were involved in Damien Green's arrest, there is nothing they can say that I would now believe.

    And you, Nick, - why so timid? ....
    ...You may not be a Tory,
    Civil Rights are for the few,
    But who will speak for journalists When 'they' come for you?
    ( cf Martin Niemoller 1946)

  • Comment number 69.

    How about asking the question:

    Why did COUNTER TERROR police feel the need to arrest Damian Green and to raid his house.

    Is there a terror issue here?

    Or are Anti Terror laws being used to harass the opposition and deter future whistle blowers.

    Get with the program Nick, 1642 is just so over.

  • Comment number 70.

    I'm glad to see this debate - if that's what it is. I consider myself to be a very staid law abiding citizen, but just from reports like this and the demeanour of the police I see on the streets I have no confidence of being treated fairly or reasonably if accused of some misdemeanour. It thus leases me to see politicians waking up to the fears of the population.

    When I was a kid a policeman was someone you asked to see you across a busy road. Now the kids avoid the police to avoid getting into trouble.

  • Comment number 71.


    "This is the response to every single post you make on this blog"

    Come on, that won't wash and you know it.

    Many of us who are not Tories (I was Labour, now vote LD in the hope of a hung Parliament and PR) have been profoundly disturbed by the recent tendancy of Nick's blogs to be overly (and sometimes overtly) sympathetic to Labour and Gordon Brown in particular, regardless of the circumstances and the topic.

    Yes there are a few rabid pro-Tory / anti-Labour people who hog this forum occasionally; a few dyed-in-the wool Labourites, some of whom seem to have a direct line to Labour HQ; and some people who contribute mainly to read their own cleverness on the internet. But I suspect most of us are ordinary Joes, probably retired people like me who still believe in democracy and all that stuff, think we have some experience and expertise, and welcome the chance to have our say that the BBC provides.

    When Nick makes balanced posts the response is always more or less equally balanced. It's just there haven't been that many of them lately...

  • Comment number 72.

    If it is true that the government had no prior knowledge of this heavy handed police action then it raises another question as to who is running the country?

    The State's most senior civil servant appears to have taken it into his head to make the initial complaint without reference to the government, and then in turn, the police having dragged out a singularly obscure offence upon which to act, charged in with a posse of anti terrorist officers who should have better things to do.

    So it appears that we are all at the mercy of a faceless bureaucrat answerable to no-one and a police force happy to be creative with obscure laws to justify their actions.

    Which strikes me as a long way from democracy and a dangerous development.

  • Comment number 73.

    34. Eatonrifle wrote:


    At this moment in time you're probably the biggest victim of attempted bullying in the UK, Bar none

    Well that remains to be seen doesnt it, events will tell us over the next week or so if being arrested and detained by COUNTER TERRORIST officers for 9 hours and having his family home and constituency home and offices searched by 9 COUNTER TERRORIST officers, plus having his computers files and mobile phone confiscated can be justified or not.

    If it was then youre right and Im wrong and I will write you a 100 word appolgy here on Nicks blog.

    DO you fancy a wager?

  • Comment number 74.


    You'll have me crying next. The Green affair is totally different and totally unrelated in any way - it is very low to attempt to link it but I expect little else from BNP sympathizers.

    The BNP is a reason true democrats have to hold their nose, close the eyes and think twice very seriously before repeating the second part of the old quote (misworded I'm sure but the sentiment is what counts).

    "I reserve the right to disagree with what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it."

  • Comment number 75.

    Anti money laundering legislation is routinely used to protect the tax base; anti-terrorist legislation to seize Icelandic assets and to enforce council's litter policy; an MP is arrested by special branch officers. This is precisely why there was so much disquiet about 42 day detention and why David Davis was right to take the stance that he did.
    Controversial decisions like this are not taken on a whim. If ministers did not know why did they not and they owe parliament a full explanation.
    The irony is that this is a government that has consistently leaked stories to the press in contempt of parliamentary procedure. Indeed I thought the advance announcement on VAT was a deliberate leak.

  • Comment number 76.


    listened to Geoff Hoon on Radio 4 this evening. There was a perfectly proper inquiry by the police into leaks from the Home Office. Confidence, integrity of government, vital trust between civil servants and ministers, civil servants sign up to Official Secrets Act, yeah like they could work without signing it.

    By questioning this we are impugning the integrity of the independent police. Hoon is just so wrong, this is the man who has made his career from taking this country into Iraq. I believe he was Defence Minister when we attacked a sovereign state.

    If there is a leak from a ministry, damaging to the national security then it must be investigated, yeah but who decides the national security. This is so undemocratic, an MP must be free. The police are operationally independent, strong support for those who are to protect us. The timing of all this is a disgrace. However, we must not disturb Gordon because he is probably too busy watching some TV programme and getting ready to write a letter to the contestants congratulating them on their achievements.

    Aaghhh, I continue to both very sad and angry.

  • Comment number 77.

    I wonder what the parliamentarians from the same era as Lenthall, who fought for many of our democratic rights, would have made of:

    1. 42 / 90 days

    2. ID Cards

    3. Arrest of opposition politician

    4. Secret trials proposal

    5. Backdoor attempts to get a DNA database

    6. The application of terrorist laws against the public and other countries

    7. Dodgy dossiers to justify war

    8. Track record of the application of ASBOs

  • Comment number 78.

    If leaking information is a crime what about all of the spin. The emergency budget was leaked to the point that there were no surprises, should not the PM and Chancellor also be arrested... They were surposed to anounce the information to parliament first. They are in contempt of parliament.

    The government cannot cannot have the unique right to leak favourable information, the opposition should be able to hold this sleazy government to account for things that go wrong, this is their duty to the electorate and right as members of parliament.

  • Comment number 79.

    Sounds like we need the army on guard at the Houses of Parliament, to tackle these wayward Police officers.

    I find it incredulous the security officers there didn't eject these Police officers, by force if need be. When you hear both sides of the House up in arms...something is seriously amiss with our country. And you are right to draw parallels with previous is how the last civil war started.

    A very black day for democracy in this country.

    As for Brown and Co saying they knew nothing...sure!

  • Comment number 80.


    Ive just thought of another question you could ask... you know seeing as your a bit short of ideas like....

    Why was no one arrested for leaking David Kellys name as the source for the BBC story that Downing Street "sexed up" the dossier on Iraq's weapons.

    After all it resulted in a mans death.

    I know this is isnt as serious embarrassing nulabour but even so its quite serious.

    Dont you think?

  • Comment number 81.

    Well it seems to me that there are some very real questions that need to be asked of the government. What has happened is absolutely appalling in a supposedly democratic country. I have yet to see or hear any evidence that any member of this government really cares about it.

    Our rights and liberties are being steadily eroded by a government that at best seems clueless on these issues - and I am a member of the Labour party. The press is currently failing us as badly as the parties and the police are.

  • Comment number 82.

    #71 badger

    Like I said, "with some exceptions".

    I've never seen a "balanced" thread on here.

  • Comment number 83.

    #34 Eatonrifle
    "Desperate attempts to force you to sing from the same hymn sheet as the reactionary right wing on here is sickening. Just rise above it as usual."

    If you think the Tony Benn & the LibDems are "the reactionary right wing", you're even more in need of medication than CEH.

    NuLab's Politburo have dragged a once left-wing party well to the right of the "official" Tories on civil liberties.

    Time for another "What's Left?" campaign I think. Butskellism was positively socialist by comparison with the economic policies of "Duff" Gordon & Capt. Darling.

  • Comment number 84.

    Nick, so the govt leaned on you previously, and is still breathing down Auntie's neck, I expect.

    I forgive your circumspection!

  • Comment number 85.

    Just a thought Nick

    If this new law is going to apply to the opposition and its moles, then surely it should also apply to government who are forever leaking stories to the press.

    Perhaps Nick could put together a full list of all the leaks he has known about and had info on, cross reference it with fellow hacks, and make a full complaint to the COUNTER TERROR TROPPERS.

    Just think we could have half the house facing life imprissonment.

  • Comment number 86.


    "What I think it does however do is underline the independence of the police from the politicans,"

    Just heard Geoff Hoon on Radio 4 Question Time tonight say the same thing. The audience hooted with laughter. So, sorry, that angle isn't going to work.

  • Comment number 87.

    Re "maggiemaggiemaggie"

    "Would these fools have held Mr Green for 42 days given half a chance."

    If they had we would never have known; he simply would have been "unavailable"


    The Home Office has, obviously, been closely involved with The Met in this investigation from the outset; now it has unfettered access to all the confidential paper and electronic data and records belonging to a senior member of the opposition. Talk of "fishing trip" ... ?

    No matter what the outcome of this incident, a very clear message has been given to those concerned in the direction this country is heading, whistle-blowers and "independently-thinking" MPs.

    We have all been warned.

  • Comment number 88.

    As an ex Labour Party member for over 20 years (til 2001), I want answers. Now we will see if there are any Labour MPs left with backbone or principles. Any who don't condemn this arrest should be ejected at the next election.

    Let's face it, if leaking were a crime, many ministers and ex ministers would be in gaol already. Especially Lord Voldemort, recently returned from foreign parts.

    I expect people like Paul Flynn, Bob Marshall Andrews and Jeremy Corbyn to speak up.

    The Augean stable must be cleansed.

    KGB* (UK) must be eliminated as a political force.

    *Klunking Gordon Brown

    There may be humour in this, but it's not a joke. I'm in deadly earnest. My great grandfather was arrested in December 1938 in Kiev and never seen again. He was executed in secret one month later. My mother came as a refugee to the UK after the war. She was grateful to Britain for taking her in. She earned her citizenship cleaning toilets in hospitals and loved her adopted country with a passion. My English father gave up six years of his life in WWII to fight against tyranny. He was wounded and shellshocked. We must stand up for our freedoms or we shame our forbears.

  • Comment number 89.

    #48 balhamu

    Just occasionally you make a valid point, but to suggest that this is all a plot by the "official" Tories is past a joke. I can understand that from party loyalty you might be unable to concede that the LibDems and other left of centre parties exist, but to ignore Tony Benn's input you are being plain silly, as the poll ratings will soon show.

    They were already down again before this story broke - see the Grauniad's 'Tories extend poll lead amid pre-budget report doubt' - but when even the Grauniad's main Politics section makes no defence of Brown and neither Saints Michael White nor Polly Toynbee leap to his aid, then surely even you would admit that "Duff" Gordon has another big problem of his own making here. Wouldn't you?

  • Comment number 90.

    48 Balhamu

    Following on from our previous conversation, regarding membership of political parties - according to Wikipedia:

    "As with the Labour Party, membership has long been declining and despite an initial boost shortly after Cameron's election as leader, membership resumed its fall in 2006 and is now actually lower than when David Cameron was elected in December 2005.

    However, the Conservative Party still has more members (about 290,000) than the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats combined (around 200,000 and 70,000 respectively).

    However, the party does not publicly provide verifiable membership figures, making this difficult to confirm."

    So who knows!?

    Now I will get referred by "Darth Fool" unless I write something on topic as well... so:

    Nick has prompted me to look up this chap Lenthall. He seems like a very honourable and brave man. Time to do some Googling.

    Political Party membership

    P.S. I was mainly persuaded to join the Conservatives by David Davis. He clearly had friends across the political spectrum who were interested in civil liberties and the respect of parliament (Tony Benn and Rita Chakrabait from Liberty).

    David Davis is also friends with Alistair Campbell - oh well - if there is someone with little respect for parliamentary process that is he.....

  • Comment number 91.

    The rotten NuLabour project cannot be allowed to spin [pardon the pun] out of control.

    Bloggers, we must unite under the banner of Freedom! NuLabour have already destroyed our economy!


  • Comment number 92.

    #75 onanmcfly

    you wrote
    "Controversial decisions like this are not taken on a whim"

    On the contrary something of this scale of idiocy has all the hallmarks of a gigantic foul up.
    Any politician with even the very rudiments of a brain would not have failed to understand the effects something like this would have. Love 'em or loath 'em they all want to be liked so you vote for them and things like this they just don't plan.

    My take is simple and I believe plausible:

    Minister during a meeting expresses annoyance at the continual un-sanctioned leaks from his department. (yes you could argue unwritten intent but I suggest off the cuff remark)
    Cabinet Secretary feels duty is to uphold the standards of the civil service and asks police to investigate.
    Police chasened by the cash for honours debacle play it strictly by the rule book and follow the enquiries wherever they lead.
    Police (The Met) for it is they, to avoid being caught, as under Ian Blair, been possibly accused of acting favourably to a particular party now the head of the MPA is of the opposite hue decide what they need to do without having any discussion with a political figure. Hence they come up with a really daft political plan - had they checked with a politician no doubt the folly of the plan would have been obvious.
    And so the PR disaster unfolded. No Government minister was told - lest the Met be charged with interference especially as an opposition figure was the target.
    You might even look at the notification of Michael Martin some sensible attempt by police bound by the book of elliciting the Lenthall response (and sigh of relief all round).
    Boris as MPA chair (the Mets oversight) had to be informed as obviously they had some understanding what would follow - why did Boris not say - you realise what this will mean or perhaps he did and they ignored it - sure Boris could be asked.
    Did Boy Dave do the same or was it at 13.59 they were all told just before the van doors opened.

    I take this is a plausible scenario which requires nothing more than a casual remark and the following of the rule book.
    In furories of such a scale it has been my experience that they are rarely planned to the detail you give them credit for but follow a predictable route which was just not thought about before the initiation.

    Is it what actually happened - who knows and perhaps we shall find out, perhaps we shall not.
    One thing is certain - even if the actual facts are fully known they are a number of people who will prefer to believe something more complex and sinister occurred.

  • Comment number 93.

    #60 Attersee
    "And all the time maintaining the look of an Easter Island statue that's just been told a huge flock of seagulls is on its way to the area."

    Perfect. Thank you for providing something that made me smile on a grim day for democracy.

  • Comment number 94.

    The censorious Labour supporters are coming out of the woodwork again. You won't silence us! We will resist Jackboot Jacqui's Police State whatever it takes!

    DNA databases, the arrest of opposition politicians on trumped up charges... How can you support this shameful erosion of our liberty? You have sold your soul.

  • Comment number 95.

    The chances that have allowed Clunking Fist into supreme office in this country have led us to the greatest threat to the British state for some considerable time. The police action, which could not conceivably have been launched without ministerial approval at the highest level, has taken viscious, stalinist and bullying conduct to new depths - unconstitutional conduct. I would urge anyone with knowledge of Stalin's conduct to publish it. Their statutory protections may not be assured with this man in command but I cannot believe that honour is completely dead in this country.

  • Comment number 96.

    Not much from CEH on this blog, unless he is too busy blowing the lid on corrupt tory MPs!!!!!!!!!

  • Comment number 97.


    Still a bit light on content (actually content free)...

    Do you have anything to say about what happened, rather than how your blog was received?

    You obviouly can't say any thing critical of the situaiton labour have led us to - how about filling in with something on mandleson and oleg?

  • Comment number 98.

    Summarising the views on here:

    Civil Servants, who sign a contract promising to follow the Official Secrets Act, can disregard this providing they only leak to opposition politicians (who are the arbiters of what is and isn't in the national interest to pass onto the media or any individual of their choosing).

    This doesn't just apply to isolated 'public interest' leaks. Opposition politicians can cultivate (or even hire) civil servants who serially forward on every document they come across. An arrangement where civil servants are being paid by opposition politicians to leak documents is perfectly acceptable and should not be investigated- indeed it is to be encouraged (the public have a right to know).

    Opposition politicians should be encouraged to use the information in whatever way they see fit - hide it, pass the policy off as their own and criticise the Government for 'stealing' their own policy from the Conservatives (e.g. HMT Inheritance Tax plans), use it to embarrass the Government - whatever they see fit.

    It is unclear if this also applies to agents of foreign governments.

    This only holds in time of Labour Government (which hopefully will never, ever happen again).

    It's the only way of explaining the uproar on here (and elsewhere) that the police have had the temerity to investigate the systematic breaking of the Official Secrets Act, and what appear to be serious allegations.

  • Comment number 99.

    So 80 got referred,

    It drew a comparison on leaks with the David Kelly affair, which was caused by a government leak, they leaked his name to the press didnt they?

    It led to a mans death.

    Nick, could perhaps ask why there was no investigation into this leak.

    It was after all more much important than merely causing a little embarrassment to the Home Sec.

    Just a thought

  • Comment number 100.

    re: 85, carrots

    Just think we could have half the house facing life imprissonment.

    I can hardly contain my glee
    At the thought that I may see
    Brown behind bars
    And Hoon seeing stars
    And Jacqui wailing like a banshee!


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