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Oft-asked question

Nick Robinson | 09:18 UK time, Monday, 1 December 2008

Long before the arrest of Damian Green, senior Conservatives were given legal advice about the difference between receiving leaked documents and inducing civil servants to leak them. This suggests that they were well aware of the danger - political as well as legal - of either placing (or "grooming", in the phrase used by the police) political spies within the Whitehall machine.

This goes some way to explaining the answer to that oft-asked question: why was a senior Tory politician arrested and held by police for nine hours when other opposition politicians, like the young Gordon Brown were not - even when they boasted of the leaks they received?

Conservative immigration spokesman Damian Green, MP for Ashford, speaks to the media outside the House of Commons, London after he was arrested at his home in Kent and taken for questioning at a central London police station. Carl Court/PA WireThe police who cross-examined Mr Green, the Conservatives' immigration spokesman, suggested that he had not simply received leaked documents but had, in their controversial phrase, "groomed" the civil servant who allegedly leaked them - a man who had been a Tory activist and who applied for jobs in Mr Green's office. The Home Office called in the police after the leaking of 20 politically sensitive documents.

The Home Secretary has refused to apologise for the police's actions. Indeed, Jacqui Smith has told colleagues that she doesn't believe that the police did anything wrong.

However, the leader of the Commons, Harriet Harman, has made clear her determination to investigate both the law under which Mr Green was arrested and the processes which led the Commons authorities to allow the police to search his Commons office.

What explains the difference? Well, 25 years ago, Ms Harman - then a civil liberties lawyer and young opposition MP - was taken to court by the Home Office for - you guessed it - leaking court documents.

This is adapted from the script of my piece on this morning's Today programme.

Comments

Page 1 of 4

  • Comment number 1.

    Tip-top dog-whistle choice of words again there by those driving the media narrative.

    'Grooming'. We all know what that is referring to.

    So what if this civil servant was a Tory activist. Are we expected to believe that Gordon Brown's long list of leaked memo's when in opposition were furnished by some apolitical civil servant?

    'Grooming'? Mandelson is back up to speed I see. Maybe Smith won't look as haggard as she did on Friday night. Man, she looked like her knees had buckled and she was being held up as she gave her non-denial.

    'The police have already told you that no member of the cabinet was informed'.

    Nice try Jacqui but I saw through that one straight away.

    The question remains 'Did you know?' Just because the police have said you didn't know doesn't make it true. It doesn't make it a deliberate police lie either. After all they might not be aware that you knew. Or the chap who gave the statement might not be aware that you knew.

    So. Has Jacqui answered the straight question yet or is she still referring us to what the police said?

  • Comment number 2.

    Jackie Smith should apologise for this. If she doesn't, she should be sacked - along with Michael Martin!



  • Comment number 3.

    Ah, I see the BBC/Labour spin machine has now gone into overdrive!!! Shame on you.

  • Comment number 4.

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

  • Comment number 5.

    Who was Brown's mole?

  • Comment number 6.

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

  • Comment number 7.

    Nick,

    An urgent investigation into the whole affair is needed.

    Dominic Grieve's 50 questions of the government need to be examined together with the laws and process you mention.

    Clearly a Lord Hutton, narrow terms of reference, whitewash will not be not acceptable.

  • Comment number 8.

    What Jacqui smith said is disgraceful, she should resign. She is unfit to be Home Secretary.

    Nick, one question that begs investigation. Did the civil servants who leaked documents to Gordon Brown whilst he was in opposition benefit in any way? Jobs with the Labour Party perhaps or with the Smith Institute?

    If you are a journalist and not a Labour-mothpiece you should be looking into this.

    Here's a relevant tip....follow the money.

  • Comment number 9.

    I hope that the Government look after the Home Office whistle blower better than they did Dr David Kelly.

  • Comment number 10.

    Is there a conspiracy within the ranks of BBC journalists not to go for the political kill? Andrew Marr had Jackboot Smith on the ropes almost pleading to be put out of her misery and he did not press the bugging issue a bit further and then changed the subject. Unbelieveable - why you take their word that they did not know. If the Mayor of London and the Leader of the Opposition knew, it is no credible for the government to say they did not know. Who will rid us of this turbulent government?

  • Comment number 11.

    #5 duhbuh

    Good question.

  • Comment number 12.

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

  • Comment number 13.

    Why on earth have I been moderated? I only said that when I was at the Treasure years ago we lived in fear of the Official Act.

    This is so bizarre, this moderating.

  • Comment number 14.

    Dear Nick ]
    Which ever way you look at this it is all wrong, ALL WRONG?
    Look at the case of the Utility Companies who are forcing entry into peoples homes to fit Meters, even by breaking and damaging the doors in the process.Look at the case ofd Journalist Salley Murrer, and her two colleages, again threats by the police, just what are we into her the police are acting like the gestapos and so are the utilities, this is wrong all wrong. WE ARE IN A POLICE STATE, AND ITS GETTING WORSE, THE ARREST OF AN MP, for doing his job, is unbelievable, totally unbelievable A PRESIDENCE HAS BEEN SRE,

  • Comment number 15.

    Are we facing another Dr David kelly thanks to this government's relentless bullying of anyone with any principles?

    The political culture in this country has been bankrupted by newlabour who failed to recognose the difference between police and state for their own ends.

    'Grooming' has the most disgusting Mandelson and Campbell spin to it.

    Call an election.

  • Comment number 16.

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

  • Comment number 17.

    It was a bright cold day in November, and the clocks were striking thirteen.

  • Comment number 18.

    What difference does it make whether the leak comes from a civil servant, a mole or an opposition spy? This is information which the public has a right to know, as long as it does not compromise national security.

    I don't understand what is so difficult to understand. Their one and only duty is to serve us. We have every right to know how competently they are doing it.

  • Comment number 19.

    Nick, you say:

    'This goes some way to explaining the answer to that oft-asked question: why was a senior Tory politician arrested and held by police for nine hours when other opposition politicians, like the young Gordon Brown were not - even when they boasted of the leaks they received?'


    1. You suggest you know that Gordon Brown didn't induce civil sevants to leak documents?

    2. How do you know this?

    3. How do you know that every leak isn't got by inducing civil servants?

    4. Surely, the only way to know the origin of leaks is to investigate EVERY leak.

    5. Why isn't every leak investigated?

  • Comment number 20.

    How did you come across the information about the Tories seeking legal advice Nick, was it leaked to you?

    Don't get yourself muddled up in this hypocrisy, read Lord Rees-Mogg's comment and stand up to them for goodness sake.

  • Comment number 21.

    Jack Straw meanwhile is very surprised by The Police Action against The Right Honorable Mr. Green. Hardly cuts it does it?

  • Comment number 22.

    Unfortunately in the world today it's all about deniability, not responsibility.

    It means that government ministers, who can, and should, be held to account are ceding responsibility to unelected officials. They seem to be being told to get on with the job, and don't leave the minister vulnerable.

    Personally I am unhappy with this state of affairs, since there is no apparent control and no mechanism to exercise it.

    Now what exactly does grooming mean here? Encouraging somebody to betray their trust, or follow their conscience?

    Our conscience is what we need to focus on. Previously people who have leaked documents, of various types and to various MPs, have invoked their conscience as being the driving force.

    I wouldn't put it beyond belief that people with certain beliefs, and it doesn't matter what they are, have been encouraged to take positions where they may come across something useful, and by definition be harmful to the authorities whoever they may be. It has always been so, and probably will in future, unless this heavy handed approach is allowed to contunue.

    I suppose the thought controllers, and we know who they are, will be following the grooming line assiduously, all the way to their own detention cells in due course.

  • Comment number 23.

    This moderating is most unfair. Looks like the Labour government are indeed controlling the BBC. Control freaks.

  • Comment number 24.

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

  • Comment number 25.

    #12 flamepatricia

    I've seen this recording. I couldn't believe it at first, but after watching it two or three times it could be plausible.

  • Comment number 26.

    "The Home Office called in the police after the leaking of 20 politically sensitive documents."

    So a leak about a serious breach of security within the Home Office that was being covered, up was revealed.
    About 3 years ago I wrote to my Conservative MP about a major hole in the aviation security system. He passed it on to the relevant minister. I never got a reply from the Minister and neither did the MP. Lo and behold last year it was revealed that there was a hole in aviation security. Surprise Surprise.

    Lets get one thing straight. This government isn't interested in the hard graft of running the country. It is however fully occupied by "seeing to be running the country". That is why everything in the UK is now falling apart from the economy to education, health and even loss of immigration control. The spin machine is extolling success while the system is collapsing all around them.
    This government is not fit for purpose. We are to all intents and purposes a failed state. Welcome back to the fold Peter Mandelson, spin your way out of the current situation.

  • Comment number 27.

    The leaker wrote to the Tories offering himself up.

    In any event there is no offence of grooming. And there is no evidence he did. Just innuendo.

    They have still dragged up an 18th century law to apply to one man.

    Your post is a disgrace to you and a credit to the skills of Campbell and Mandelson.

    If the facts don't fit smear the man.

    Dr Kelly.
    John Charles De Menezies.



  • Comment number 28.

    Nick,

    Is this story now more important than the EU saying Britain is nearer to join the EURO than ever before?

    Is this story more important than 3 police offcers vs 1 drunken squaddie on CCTV?

    Is this story more improtant than why my blog of yesterday 823 was referred to mediators?

    Is this story more important than the Brown Broadcasting Corperation and it's chief reported/source, Mr R. Mandyson?

    Is this story more important than AD stating his tax and spend package ain't gunna work??

    A good day to bury bad news, me thinks!!!!!

  • Comment number 29.

    Here Nick,

    when did grooming, apart from it's connotations with paedophilia, become an offence?

    Which insidious act of parliament put that into the statute books?

    Can you, and other journalists of an inquisitive nature, be caught in the same trap?

    Are there any other little goodies waiting to bite us?

  • Comment number 30.

    According to Jack Straw (and Jacqui Smith)

    "We don't have a police state here, despite many of the ridiculous newspaper headlines. A police state would be where ministers were directing an investigation... "

    Interesting....

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/6180945.stm

    2006: "The Serious Fraud Office has dropped a corruption probe into a defence deal with Saudi Arabia, after warnings it could damage national security.
    Lord Goldsmith said the decision had been made in the wider public interest, which had to be balanced against the rule of law. "

    So according to Straw and Smith by their definition, we've been living in Police State for 2 years.

  • Comment number 31.

    "Ms Harman - then a civil liberties lawyer ..."

    Yes, and Gordon Brown was once a champion of liberty; but that was way back in, let's see, 2007 !

    Quote of the day is (strange to relate) from Jackie Ashley in the Guardian:

    "The Home Office loads ever more powers on the police, and seeks to turn its anti-terrorist and anti-corruption officers into a new kind of FBI. Then it runs away when these characters start barging into MPs' homes and offices. Who's really in charge?"

  • Comment number 32.

    Keep your Labour spin doctor friends happy by continuing the pathetic government line. Forget the lack of clear answers from Jacqui Smith yesterday incase your own little leaks dry up!

  • Comment number 33.

    Nick, you really haven't learned your lesson from last week have you?

    Why don't you/won't you whack the spotlight firmly on the government and ask the questions that blogs have been asking for days?

    Stand up and be counted.

  • Comment number 34.


    Nick you missed a good photo shot opportunity here!

    After your recent blogs I feel you should have been included in this shot!

  • Comment number 35.

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

  • Comment number 36.

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

  • Comment number 37.

    GIVEN THE PREDATORY NATURE OF THE CURRENT GOVERNMENT IS IT ANY WONDER THAT THE CONSERVATIVES HAVE TAKEN LEGAL ADVICE.

    ITS CALLED COMMON SENSE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


    Remember DAVID KELLY etc etc

  • Comment number 38.

    There are policeman writing in all the papers today explaining why it was wrong to arrest.- regadless of'grooming' which is not admitted nor is there any evidence you can point to of it, since the guy introduced himself to the Tories, they didn't go out to find him.

    But the BBC print the version signed off by the Labour Party.[Lord A Campbelson]

    When I remember the way you were ready to interpret everything in the Deripaska affair that cast Osborne in the worst possible light and dug for everything I am appalled the poor journalism here.

    Where is your report that he wrote to the Tories offering himself up and was passed on to Green?

    Where is your report that the DPP was not informed even though we were initially led to believe he had?

    Where is your report debunking the fact that Smith implied there were national security issues even though there has been no evidence or link to any such material and Green?

    Where are your reports on the inconsistencies of Ms Smith's statement?

    YOU GO FOR THE RED HERRING WHILST THE REAL ISSUES GO UNREPORTED.

    I have never been more angry with you.
    I mean really really angry.

    I really don't know if its naivety or cravenness.

    I do know that the public service broadcaster does not serve us.






  • Comment number 39.

    WHICH SPIN DOCTOR GAVE YOU THIS LINE??

  • Comment number 40.

    Looks like someone else has been "groomed": the reporter who, on Friday, really didn't know what to say on this seems to have developed much firmer opinions over the weekend, eh?

  • Comment number 41.

    The bags under Jacqui Smith's eyes on Sunday morning revealed the stress she knew she was under from this blunder.

    My problem with all of this: The desperate measures the Labour government is prepared to stoop to in order to hang on to power. They remember the 18 years in opposition - and they don't want to repeat it. Therefore they will try any trick in the book - and break any rule - especially those rules not specifically written down in order to gain advantage. Let's remember that the current Speaker should not be a Labour MP. Under long standing convention it should be an MP from another party. That was a classic example of new Labour ignoring long standing House of Commons conventions put in place over generations. I want to know what the government of the day (of any hue) is actually up to. History records the amazing antics the individuals who make up the government get up to. It's one reason why the SIS has departments keeping an eye on MP's. But even these Services are riddled with corrupt, game playing leaders.
    The police are the group who managed to shoot dead several innocent people lately - so I'm not sure I trust them to get it right on any level at the moment. What I am certain about is that they should never have entered the Commons on the evidence presented so far.
    What I want is for the investigation to actually stop.
    I want Mr. Green’s papers, computers, phones and belongings handed back to him. Today, not tomorrow. The "evidence" they hold is clearly tainted. It is protected by Parliamentary Privilege. How would a Judge allow the “tainted evidence” to be presented in Court? Any officer contemplating hanging on to these items and continuing the investigation should themselves be arrested - for they are the true Enemy of the State, by virtue of being a pawn on the Chess Board of a political act.
    Someone needs to explain to me why an investigation cannot simply be shelved (ended, terminated)!
    We need to reset the clock to the moment before the police entered the Commons. The assertion by Jacqui Smith, Gordon Brown and others, that “they were not aware” of the police investigations is a nonsense. They betray the truth by the use of carefully crafted language to answer the questions posed by the press.
    These senior politicians are surrounded by politically savvy aides. Pretending that you can’t see, or weren’t aware of the proverbial train coming down the track is no defence. What drivel!

    It exposes is the lack of morals, lack of leadership and lack of integrity that makes us, the people of Britain, wring our hands in despair. Remember all the information exposed by the leaks was information the Labour government didn’t want discussed in the open because it contradicted the official line they continue to peddle. The strategy is designed to intimidate Civil Servants and make them think twice before they leak information that will damage the Labour leadership.
    The solution to all these machinations? We need an election!

  • Comment number 42.

    Nick,

    Please explain how a political party 'grooming' a civil servant if different to a journalist 'shmoozing' with politicians in the bars around westminister hoping to get a scoop?

  • Comment number 43.

    whatever D Green's crime was, it wasnt anything to do with terrorism...so i dont care who knew or didnt know i just think we should be told who ordered the counter terrorism squad to arrest and hold an MP... if they say it wasnt a political decision then prove it....show us the paperwork that lead to this sorry event.

  • Comment number 44.

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

  • Comment number 45.

    Make an honest choice Robinson, either declare yourself an apolitical BBC journalist or delare yourself a Government spokesman, but do not as one and claim to be the other.

  • Comment number 46.


    No-one believes this government any more. Their period in power has been one of spin, manipulation, lies, obfuscation...I could go on.

    The Nu Labour project is dead. It has been replaced by Za Nu Labour.

    Brown and Smith didn't know nuffing but Cameron and Boris did! This is just too ridiculous.

    Time for an election.





  • Comment number 47.

    RE MODERATING


    THIS IS AN ADULT BLOG & SHOULD NOT BE

    MODERATED.

  • Comment number 48.

    #23 Flamepatricia

    Moderation is unforately a misuse of the word in this instance.

    By implication something moderate should be about halfway between good and bad, hot and cold, extrem left and extreme right.

    In the context of this blog, and other BBC blogs, it is a means of ceding authority to a team of people who use their own judgement as to what may or may not be allowed.

    This blog is intended to be political, albeit supportive of one flawed et of views, and is expected to elicit contrary views. Unfortunately the criteria on which moderation is applied are a series of catch all headings which almost militate against free expression.

    I'm comfortable with bans on swear words, and making of libellous or slanderous comments, but anything else goes. Rabble rousing is part and parcel of our way of life, with Speakers Corner being the epitome of freedom of speech in our society. None of us is forced to follow, and if we don 't like what we hear, we can walk away.

    Unfortunately there is a new thought abroad, which is to deny a platform to anybody whose views don't conincide with those whoe believe they are authorities.

    That way lies a police state. There is no simpler way of expressing it.

    My conclusion, the people who claim to moderate can be anything but.

  • Comment number 49.

    Well friends and a special mention for flamepatricia, it looks as if we are in for some more rather odd referring and removing. My own removal can only be explained by my calling The Home Secretary 'appalling'. Tread carefully.

  • Comment number 50.

    With reference to the claims of Stalinism..... didn't Stalin's opponents normally have a confession extracted under torture before receiving a bullet to the back of the head at Lubyanka Prison? It was even rumored that Stalin would sign the death warrants himself sometimes sitting-up to the early hours so that he could sign 5000 or so.

    Apparently, Gordon Brown does work late, however, I don't think he's signed any death warrants.

    Anyway, what is all this nonsense? A politician gets arrested as he's suspected of breaking the law and everyone's up in arms.

    I'd like to take this opportunity to welcome him to the real World. Now, can we please get back to hearing about the 'real' Tories?

  • Comment number 51.

    Where did this snippet about 'grooming' come from?

    Who is leaking that?

    If it is part of an on-going police investigation, should you, Mr Robinson, be commenting on it?

    Who is pulling your strings?

  • Comment number 52.

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

  • Comment number 53.

    Watch for the imminent news that this shower thinks we should join the Euro due to the poor performance of the pound.

    Yes it's all part of :

    http://infopatriots.blogspot.com/2008/01/aaron-russo-mad-as-hell-alex-jones.html

    Banks in charge of the world, Police State. Under our very noses.

  • Comment number 54.

    Nick,

    It's been highly interesting watching the coverage on this matter and reading the various comments it has sparked. I think the main problem that has arisen is the clear sense of bias people have noticed from the BBC (to be honest, a feeling that I share).

    I note that you are defending yourself with the references to Churchill, and stating that several v high profile Labour MPs (Brown, Harmen et al) were guilty of leaking to the press during the 1980s, but that somehow this is different - as there is alleged "grooming" or "procuring" of the information.

    Why then do you leave it at that? Where is your analysis of whether this was indeed different to the 1980s? You make no attempt to ask whether Brown or Harmen groomed leakers in the 1980s - it is presented to the public as if this were not the case, and that therefore this IS different.

    Unless you can state that this is the case, you shouldn't give us that impression if you want to avoid accusations of bias.

  • Comment number 55.

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

  • Comment number 56.

    Ha ha - Tories up to their old tricks - ha ha

  • Comment number 57.

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

  • Comment number 58.

    Let's get to the heart of the issue of what really matters. The key issue here is that the police were allowed into the Palace of Westminster to rifle through an MP's office there and seize computer equipment and papers. This is a clear violation of Parliamentary privilege and the Commons authorities, including Speaker Martin, have serious questions to answer.

    Also, it has been reported that a Labour Minister has suggested the Tories will not try to unseat the Speaker, since he would be replaced by another Labour MP. That is an outrageous suggestion, since prior to this awful Labour excuse for a Government, the Speaker was always rotated between the parties. Indeed, Betty Boothroyd was a Labour MP appointed under the Major Government - it caused outrage when another Labour MP (Martin no less) replaced her!

  • Comment number 59.

    Two things:
    1) how do you know Brown didn't 'groom' a civil servant to leak information? Seeing as he wasn't arrested and interviewed by the police we don't know.

    2) Harman wasn't an MP at the time she was arrested.

  • Comment number 60.

    Nick,
    You are an embarrasment as a journalist-you are not objective nor unbiased-I regret contributing towards your salary-in fact I will cancel my licence fee this morning. The BBC was once one of the great pillars of British society-today it looks like something from Eastern Europe.
    This is not objective journalism-this is propoganda!
    Sad times.
    Peter

  • Comment number 61.

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

  • Comment number 62.

    Reporters and MPs and the gnomes of WM groom each other for tit-bits.

    It's the system.

    So the police decided to investgigate ONE such case.

    POLICE STATE!

  • Comment number 63.

    Harriet Harmon & Jack Straw's comments perhaps tell us a lot more than some might think.

    Both have considerable legal experience in this area and will be very careful about the words they use and also will be mindful of collective cabinet responsibility.

    I would summise the word surprised really means the following.

    I wouldn't have done it, I can't believe they have done it and I can't defend it.

    Perhaps much like to use of the words brave and courageous by Sir Humphrey Appleby in Yes Minister.

    I would imagine there may well have been a Sir Richard Mottram moment or two in the Home Office over this.

  • Comment number 64.

    Here are three possible scenarios. Let's see if some of the ranters on this blog can tell the difference.

    1. Tory activist approaches DG asking for a job. DG says no. TA gets job in Home Office and starts leaking to DG, asking "now can I have a job?". DG says no.

    2. Tory activist approaches DG asking for a job. DG says no. TA gets job in Home Office and starts leaking to DG, asking "can I have a job now?". DG says that he'll see what he can do (e.g. safe Tory seat).

    3. Tory activist approaches DG asking for a job. DG says yes, and suggests he gets a job in Home Office and leaks info to DG, with a firm promise of preferment if the Tories come to power.

    (1) is completely legitimate, and no encouragement is being given. However, it would seem rather unwise to be accepting leaks which are so obviously party political (exactly what public good was served by leaking possible lists of labour rebels?). (2) is questionable, but probably not outside the law. (3) is way beyond what is acceptable and deserves prosecution.

    Exactly how might the police distinguish between these possibilities, without taking steps to secure potential evidence before it can be destroyed? DG may have conducted himself as in (1), but if in fact he's behaved as in (3) and he's invited for interview, his first action will be to delete files, shred documents etc.

  • Comment number 65.

    There is a world of difference between a civil servant disclosing information for the greater good, and one who leaks for purely party political views

  • Comment number 66.

    Nick: this is not worthy of you. MPs - right, wrong and plain daft - should be allowed to challenge in public with information they receive in private. It is the 'making public' part that preserves democracy. If the publiciser gets it wrong, there goes their credibility on everything else. Check and balance. In this instance, the police seem to have got their timing horrendously wrong (if they were not being political) or viciously right (if they were being political). The first option is just stupid and requires immediate explanation in this politicised context. The second option is unacceptable.

  • Comment number 67.

    After watching the Jacqui Smith interview with Andrew Marr, and reading a spread of media that covered this issue, I’m not too worried about Damien Green being arrested. It’s not the best law and has generated some lurid headlines and comment but I can’t get worked up about this.

    Some MP’s may have an intellectually romantic idea of parliament’s status but that’s as dumb as suggesting all MP’s are crooks. Likewise, there’s leaks with a public interest defence and others which may just be dirt digging for political advantage. From what I can tell, the police followed the evidence and acted within the law.

    Between the Labour intellectuals mouthing off and shooting their own party in the back, the Tories being sneaky and getting caught with their fingers in the till, the media getting in a snit over self-serving faux principles, and the usual suspects scattergunning mud in the hope some will stick, it looks like just another day at the office.

    We hear a lot of froth from people about government, but the two stories that did catch my eye were the banks total lack of entrepreneurship skills and big business milking people’s Direct Debit accounts. This strikes me as being a more useful focus to develop: it gets to the heart of the risk averse and greedy attitudes that have undermined the country.

  • Comment number 68.

    Nick,
    so much has already been said about this matter but nobody seems to have questioned why a list of 42 Labour "rebels" was in the hands of Home Office officials.
    I ask myself: is this a matter of national security or were they just waiting for the police to be "followed up"?

  • Comment number 69.

    See we are subject to censorship again.

    The Police used the word "GROOMING"

    WE MUST ASK WHO GROOMED THE BBC?

  • Comment number 70.

    what I dont understand is how Boris Johnson and, so it seems, David Cameron were told in advance of the arrest, but both the Speaker and Ministers did not. Is it credible that the police briefed the Leader of the opposition and the Mayor of London but not Ministers or the Speaker?

  • Comment number 71.

    it is about time the bbc and sky where imparcial at least bbc don't have brown in their adverts dose alan Bolton pay him or does the tax payer pay as usual are all political reporters threatened to be arrested under terrorism act can you imagine being locked up for 42 days for telling truth where's brown now noticeable by his absence jim oldham

  • Comment number 72.

    Last night in extraordinary scenes 10,000 armed police descended on Westminster to shoot the last remaining Opposition MP, holed-up in Committee Room 9. Lord Chief Justice Ian Blair explained: the MP was shot at 12:01, and sentenced, tried, charged, and arrested 5 minutes later. Home Secretary Smith said this was an example of how Labour had improved waiting times in the Criminal Justice System.

    The MP had been overheard complaining that a full-stop was missing on page 567 of the Pre-Budget Report. A furious Chancellor Martin explained: this MP threatened to undermine confidence in version 540 of the National Economic Recovery Plan.

    In other developments the Chancellor confirmed that he was intending to borrow 1.5 times world economic GDP on Tuesday, but predicted that the UK would return to trend growth on Wednesday enabling the debt to be repaid by Friday. Thereafter all debt would only be for sustainable investment.

    And finally King Peter 1 was acclaimed winner of Strictly Come Dancing with 110% of the popular vote.

    He knows nothing of these matters said the Prime Minister’s Official Parrot.

  • Comment number 73.

    dear Nick
    When ever there is a major political row, it normally is a diversion for the main event, Some one is being lined up to be crucified and this time the Police are involved so they cannot be independant observers, Lets hope some Civil servant is being led to the Knackers yard, as was Dr David Kelly, who was totally left out in the Cold by the Politicians.OH yes THE HOME SECRETARY SHOULD RESIGN WHAT SHE HAS SAID IS UNFORGIVEABLE --- make no plans, she is now totally in damage limitaion mode, and any body, who gets in her way will be castrated.and hung out to dry.

  • Comment number 74.

    Oh, here come the apologists.....

    "grooming".... So, that makes it alright then, eh Nick? You really beleive that?




    Well, I used to think I could trust the BBC. Sorry mate, but I could no more call you a journalist than I could call myself a brain surgeon. I'm afraid you've just become another mouthpeice.

    Are you not in the slightest embarrased about how all of this manipulation is tarnishing any credibility your profession may have had? Do you never think "This is not why I became a political journalist?"


    Sorry. Not calling you a liar, but I can no longer rely on you to tell it how it is, rather than how you're told to tell it. The two are complete polar opposites.


    Sad. Where is left for us to go to seek the truth? The objective, unvarnished truth??

  • Comment number 75.

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

  • Comment number 76.

    Nick

    You may have been fed a clever line, but it doesn't wash.

    1. If, as you write, the Tories sought legal advice re what was legal and illegal with respect to leaks, this would have been because they wanted to stay on the right side of the law: after all, having an MP arrested for breaking the law is the ultimate nightmare for any political party. (Or do you think that the entire Tory party is dishonest? Perhaps you shouldn't answer.)

    The very receipt of such legal advice therefore makes it incrediably unlikely that Green did anything illegal: he knew the law in detail and he knew that breaking it risked his arrest, the ruin of his long career and possibly gaol.

    Do you really think, knowing him as you must do, that Mr. Green is that reckless and stupid? It just doesn't strike me as at all credible from what I have read in the press about him. I very much doubt you think so either, but please tell us your view.

    2. The notion that there is some tangible, fundamental difference between the conversations Labour MPs had in opposition with civil servants leaking material and those Mr. Green and no doubt other Tory MPs are having these dark days is also deeply flawed.

    The Labour 'narrative' that you are trying to spin, namely that when Labour were in opposition 'we just received leaks', whereas today the Tories are 'conspiring and 'grooming' civil servants illegally to obtain leaks' just does not wash.

    At the very best it is a difference of semantics, whereas the issues at stake are of fundamental principles: that of being able to hold the government to account, freedom of information, and the right to these former without intimidation from the Government or state via the police.

    So, despite what you write, the semantic, even putative difference Labour are trying to spin does not go any way whatsoever towards explaining the oft asked question as to why a senior Tory politician was arrested and held for nine hours when other opposition politicians were not.

    The BBC's 10.30 news last night even showed an opposition Gordon Brown looking proud and gleeful as he made public to the BBC a leak which he felt embarrassed the Tories when they were in government. You really think Brown didn't say thanks to his leaker and that if there was anything further that could be embarrassing to the Tories, he would value it? Give us all a break: yet Brown was never arrested.

  • Comment number 77.

    Excuses, excuses. What look's and feel's like a police state, probably is a police state.
    Perhaps they can legislate to ensure their 'anti-terror law' is not used against 80 year old hecklers or BNP members with leaflets. Oops, nearly forgot, Icelandic Banks. 'Terrorism' has a distinct meaning. Typical of this treacherous, controlling government to use it in their fight against freedom, liberty and democracy - and especially useful when it contradicts their regime... Al la' Zimbabwe, over rule, people, elections, state control to cling to power.
    World renowned BBC ? Now a political tool.

    Oh how I long for a return of trust in politicians and faith in the police.

  • Comment number 78.

    what I dont understand is how Boris Johnson and, so it seems, David Cameron were told in advance of the arrest, but both the Speaker and Ministers did not. Is it credible that the police briefed the Leader of the opposition and the Mayor of London but not Ministers or the Speaker?

    And if David Cameron and Boris Johnson did know, why didn't they protest to the Home Secretary and/or the Prime Minister?

  • Comment number 79.

    POST 50 EXTREMESENSE

    Death Warrants???

    IT HAPPENS MOST WEEKS we are fighting

    two wars.

    DAVID KELLY etc etc

    The clever guy never signs them,theres no

    BLAME then.

    Maybe you will realise when you dont tow

    the line. . . . . .

  • Comment number 80.

    So, not content with refusing to even report the most important story regarding our freedoms for many years (it's just been a 10 second aside at the end of each news program so far, with absolutely no explanation of the details), the BBC is now using slurs against anyone who disagrees with the Brown/Smith line.

    I did think that by not reporting on the story properly the BBC were simply bowing to pressure from Brown/Smith to keep it quiet and to try and keep the public in the dark about what's been happening.

    Now it seems that the BBC is actively spinning away word-for-word exactly what Mandelson/Campbell are telling them to do.

    First you attack the messenger for telling the public the truth about the negligence and lies of the government. Then, when that doesn't work, you start to slur the people who confirm that the messenger was in the right.

    You (the BBC) should hang your heads in shame. The public are not buying your distortion and government lies.

    You have gone beyond a biased joke, and have become a truly sinister propaganda machine for a very sinister government.

    You are not trusted by the people who pay your wages (ie the tax payers), and I hope that by 2010 you will no longer exist.

    You have taken the goodwill of a historic organisation that is there to serve the public, and have twisted yourselves into a nasty propaganda machine which actively works against the public that you are supposed to serve.

  • Comment number 81.

    Green and Brown is not black and white.

    Nick, you say the Conservatives received legal advice on the "difference between receiving leaked documents and inducing civil servants to leak them". Can you elaborate? You set this piece up to suggest that the Tories have overstepped the mark, but have not told us where the mark is.

    You claim that this is the difference between Green and Brown.

    Would saying to a potential mole, yes, I will be pleased to receive any documents that you believe the government has concealed, which are in the public interest, be overstepping the mark?

    What about if Green (and Brown) had encouraged this... You would be serving the public in leaking documents that the Government has tried to conceal?

    Nick, the Green and Brown is not black and white, it is a grey area. I would be careful how you spin it or you could end up red faced.

  • Comment number 82.

    76 bluntjeremy

    Excellent post.

  • Comment number 83.

    There we go again - Nick endeavouring to justify the Labour stance on the issue. This position is indefensible.

    There is no justification in treating a front bench MP the way he was treated, and thereafter trying to justify by springing hitherto unknown legal terms like 'grooming'.

    It is about time BBC ensured that their reporters are objective and not led by party politics akin to the one Nick Robinson has taken to date on this issue.

    Do I hear Tories writing to BBC?

  • Comment number 84.

    #55 Mr Curzon

    Right on.

  • Comment number 85.

    The fact so many comments are being moderated gives me the impression that not many comments are complimentary to Mr Robinson.

  • Comment number 86.

    Cassius on the situation at Westminster and why Damian Green now bears the
    responsibility for what happens next:


    http://cassiuswrites.blogspot.com/2008/11/tale-of-three-parties.html


    "For Gordon Brown and Jacqui Smith - Parliamentary supremacy is theoretical. It can, they imply, be temporarily suspended for "Police operational reasons" in the same way that Alistair Darling disposed of
    Prudence at the PBR. To many this will be the most sinister utterance of the
    story so far, but to Gordon and his spin doctors, so long as the poison and
    innuendo are allowed to work their magic, February can't come slowly
    enough."

  • Comment number 87.

    #56 Laughatthetories

    It seems your postings seem to be some kind of anagram on part of your ID.

    Have you got anything constructive to offer?

  • Comment number 88.

    #25

    That's the interesting thing about conspiracy theories they are entirely plausible based on publicly available information / evidence and how you link them together.

    They are fascinating to study and to watch them feed off themselves and grow based on partial information. Most fascinating is to see the integration (or not) of new information which directly contradicts the original conspiracy theory.
    It is similar to reading the growth of the Mayan calander end of the world theory which is fundamentally based on a misinterpretation. (Which is basically similar to concluding that the world will end in 10000 AD because we only use 4 digits to write dates now, so no dates after 9999 will exist - therefore the world ends).

    You have to dig into the detail to get to the fundamental issue.
    Apart from very poor decisions and selection of wording which has obvioulsy occurred the furore over Damian Green's arrest is similar.

    The alledged source of the leaks appears from the information to have been previously a Tory party activist (and nothing wrong in that) and had also applied to work with said MP.
    When an investigation to uncover who might be leaking (in contravention of their contract of employment) the information it seems implausible that these two pieces of information did not come up.

    The question then becomes what thought process or therorising went on within the investigation. If someone suggested that it might be non-coincidental to the leaking then I am sure police would have been duty bound to pursue it.
    That it was badly executed and poorly thought out is very clear (which gives rise to the alternative conspiracy theories for those leaning the other way politically).

    That someone in the investigation could not have thought up a more sensible way to ask the questions required than a very public arrest should be a matter of some internal review at the Met which I am sure the impartial chair of the MPA will facilitate.

    Analysis of this issue is complex because it is still an ongoing investigation and therefore any risk of making available information which could prejudice the enquiry is clear.
    For my part my reading of the information and analysis provided seems to point very clearly at the expected outcome.
    i.e. this will result in no criminal charges being laid and that a review of the rules relating to similar potential actions will take place to ensure a better way of dealing with them in the future.

    That an outcome could possibly be that the police could not investigate an MP without prior political consent of a minister or even at all is not a pleasant outcome - that really is a fascist state in the making.
    Or should MPs be trusted to police themselves (they did such a good job with their own expenses after all) entirely or should it be handled only by MI5/6 and who should ask them to investigate (or should the decide for themselves - equally unappealing solution).

    Of course no, the separation of police, judiciary and parliament is required and that such a tremendous mess has occurred, to my mind, indicates that this separation remains functional if imperfect (but what is?)

  • Comment number 89.

    The more we hear about this (or fail to hear about it, if you happen to watching the BBC News), the more sinister it gets.

    There's now a clear attempt by Jacqui Smith and the police to smear Damien Green.

    Jacqui Smith has said the she is not allowed to comment on the case or to interfere in the work of the police, but then in her interview yesterday went on to make allegations without offering any evidence for them, such as the claim that the police investigation is into 'systematic' leaks and that these leaks threatened national security. Yet all the leaks that have been publicly mentioned were clearly in the public interest and present no threat to national security - indeed, quite the opposite.

    This is new information not previously mentioned by the police. If accurate, it can only have come from direct knowledge of the police case and involvement in it - which she has denied. If inaccurate, then it is an unwarranted smear against a MP who should never have been arrested.

    By using the word 'grooming', which has been previously used only in cases of paedophilia, the police have begun a smear campaign against a leading opposition politician. What next? Faking evidence? If I were Damien Green, I wouldn't be worried about what the police are taking from my computer - I'd be worrying about what they might be adding onto it.

    Even as recently as a week ago, I'd have laughed out of court the idea that the police would fake evidence to frame an opposition politician in the UK. But then a week ago, I'd have found the idea that the police would arrest an opposition MP for doing his job ludicrous too. And the stakes are now so high that the police and the government simply can't afford to bring back those computers without some helpful 'discoveries'.

  • Comment number 90.

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

  • Comment number 91.

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

  • Comment number 92.

    48

    Well indeed, as we discuss the freedom of speech and the public's right to information I am amazed and gratified that your post has been deemed, very rightly, not to be off topic. And as for 47, as we contemplate this implications of Damian Green's difficulties, my pleasure at reading this post is only exceeded by my astonishment that it has not been moderated out, as were my efforts to publicise the very views you both urge with such clarity. Possibly today's moderation is beginning to nurture the moderate rather than suppress the reasonable.

  • Comment number 93.

    There is still no reporting demonstrating enthusiasm by either the Crown prosecution Service or the DPP, to take the Green case to court. Indeed, both Government organisations on Friday distanced themselves from the police action. They were involved at a preliminary stage, but this is the usual course of events, but DID NOT give any kind of formal go-ahead for subsequent police action.

    Yet, when the police raided the House of Commons they told the sargeant of Arms, that the DPP had a solid case which allowed them to continue the raid. This was somewhat misleading - will the gaining of evidence by such duplicitous means actually be ADMISSABLE in court? Judges have thrown out cases for a lot less.

    It looks like all established procedure has been thrown aside. Overseas reporting on this is scarce, I suggest embarassment would be the most significant inhibiting factor - UK is supposed to be an advanced country that created the cradle of democracy.... I am deeply ashamed to be British just now.

  • Comment number 94.

    Seeing as anything which goes against the government line is being moderated out of existence, will you ban this one I wonder?....

    Gordon Brown is a lovely fluffy bunny, and Smith is a wonderful public servant. Ian Blair acted in an entirely appropriate manner. The BBC has acted with integrity and balance throughout.

    Not.

  • Comment number 95.

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

  • Comment number 96.

    The government talk a great talk about "Social Justice" - but I've been rapidly coming to the conclusion that our current government are just a bunch of bullies.


    At least Harriet Harman, unlike her ministerial colleagues, is prepared to say this needs investigation.


    With respect standing up to this bullying Government - we have to really, really hope that the Monetary Policy Committee square up to Gordon Brown on another matter.


    The interest rate cuts, will in effect allow the government to borrow more money - no doubt followed by a sustained period with the money printing presses running.


    Take a look at this article to understand more:



    Someone needs to stand-up to this government

  • Comment number 97.

    hmmm..Nick. Your words are still a bit weaselly. Tories taking legal advice re leaks..a bit dodgy. The 'young' Broon using leaks...more acceptible?

    You need a bit more distance Nick. On what has come out so far There can be no excuse for whoever it was to authorise the police to stage a raid on an MPs office in the House of Commons. This is a resigning matter but I won't hold by breath...

  • Comment number 98.

    @67

    there we have it then.
    If Charles thinks we should be focusing on something else the chances are that this IS the real story.

  • Comment number 99.

    "I can only conclude Mandy & Gordy etc

    HAVE GROOMED THE BBC

    HOOK LINE SINKER."

    Oh, that's amazing. It's almost Haiku. Is there anybody else who reads through all these comments fighting simultaneous urges to laugh and cry? Is this really Britain now? This is the level of comment we have? You may or may not think Nick Robinson does a good job, but do any of the posters like the one above or all the others of the "typical...police state...Labour own the BBC..." etc ilk really think that their comments are reasoned or sensible? Does anybody else see them as the spittle-flecked ravings of people who will see a "NuLabour" conspiracy if their custard is too hot, too cold or even just right?

    Not long ago I turned doen the chance to liev and work in Canada. I now deeply regret that I chose to stay here and watch what should be an opportunity for intelligent comment become a hot bed for political grudges and hopeless no-marks ranting at the sky.

    Cheque please.

  • Comment number 100.

    Trying to put myself in Jacqui's position - ugh! - if there was a 'systemic series of leaks' from my department, I'd definitely want it to be investigated.

    Of course I'd also want to be kept bang up to date with its progress because, as Jacqui says this is is about 'some of the most sensitive and confidential information in government'.

    Her claims to know nothing about Green's situation until after the event says, to me, she's either lying or incompetent.

    Do not forget that this 'systemic series of leaks' was preceded by a systemic series of Home Office blunders.


 

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