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Serious questions to answer

Nick Robinson | 18:07 UK time, Wednesday, 3 December 2008

The fanfares, the ermine robes, the tiaras. She's seen it all before. Her Majesty has delivered the Queen's Speech no fewer than 56 times but never has there been a day quite like this - a day when the monarch didn't just open Parliament - she was visiting the scene of an alleged crime.

This year - as every year - MPs slammed the door in the face of Black Rod - the man sent to summon them. It's a historic symbol that no-one tells our elected representatives what to do.

Michael Martin"Hats off strangers" is the cry when the Speaker's procession goes through the Commons. It's appropriate given today's revelation that the Serjeant at Arms - a senior Commons official - and the Speaker himself appear to have simply doffed their hats when the police came to raid an MP's office, to seize his computer, his phones and private correspondence.

It is now clear that the police have some very serious questions to answer about the way they behaved. So too the Speaker and his officials. So too ministers who were involved in launching the inquiry.

Let us not forget, also, the question that was put again and again to David Cameron about whether he as prime minister would feel comfortable with the systematic leaking over a period of two years.

Comments

Page 1 of 11

  • Comment number 1.

    It is my understanding that the position and responsibilities of the Sergeant-at-arms were scaled back at the time of Jill Pay’s appointment. So far as I understand matters, she is responsible for the security of the Commons’ chamber only. If that is correct, what right did she have to give permission for the searching of Damien Green’s parliamentary rooms? Surely, that was a matter for which only the Speaker could give permission?

  • Comment number 2.

    Are we expected to believe that the speaker of the house did not ask to see a warrant for the search of Mr Green.

    Does he not watch TV everyone asks for a warrant when a search is going to be carried out.

    Does he expect us to believe that the police should have told him a warrant was needed.

    I think the time has come for him to step down.

  • Comment number 3.

    crikey nick
    you have to slide that last sentence in eh? At least you show that you know old blue eyes will win the next election, which should be called before ths stupid plan for mortgage underwriting comes into effect...

    I weep and worry, does this PM have any idea of what he has done to this once great country?

  • Comment number 4.

    Nick that last sentence, I am sure you are winding us up and want the page impressions. There can be no other explanation otherwise. Unless you suggest that this is entirely justified to stop leaks? In which case, I probably won't bother reading your blg anymore.

  • Comment number 5.

    Systematic leaking over 2 years of information they wanted to keep hidden but was in the public interest - now that should have been the question. If the department is that incompetent, the incompetent running it needs to seriously look at what is going wrong or be replaced by someone a little less incompetent!

  • Comment number 6.

    Why is the Speaker wearing a bib? Is he on his way to the trough?

  • Comment number 7.

    Whoever's in Government will not want their civil servants leaking so called sensitive information, however if it's in the public interest then it has to be disclosed by whatever means especially if it's being 'hidden' from the Opposition, media and the public.

    In the case of the Home Office they have been breaking their own laws by employing illegal immigrants (thousands of them!!!). A business caught doing that would be prosecuted - has the Home Office? Thought not!

    Damien Green and the civil servant in question have done us all a favour by exposing this morally corrupt Government



    We live in a democracy don't we?

  • Comment number 8.

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

  • Comment number 9.

    So, we're playing attack of the stiff necks, eh? I can see it now: some huge and expensive enquiry just cuz someone left the biscuit barrel on the table and the neighbours kid reached in through the window and helped themselves. Then there's going to be the botty smacking but it's only dad hitting the chair when mum's out of the room. A bunch of pretend tears and the nasty kid from down the road not coming around to play again. Righty, ho.

    NEXT TIME, PUT IT IN THE CUPHOARD!

    Supremacy of parliament? Oh, pleeze.

  • Comment number 10.

    God how pathetic...Cameron rips into the government and was devastatingly on target with everything he said and all you can comment is the weasel words of your last paragraph...read it back to yourself, are you comfortable in your position of propaganda merchant for the government? Really? It is beyond a joke.

  • Comment number 11.

    Come on Nick, get real. There is absolutely no need to end almost every report by coming down on the governments side. The question about David Cameron being happy with leaks if he was the Prime Minister is a blatant attempt at diversionary tactics which fools only those who want to be fooled. I'm sure it doesn't fool you but maybe you have reasons why you don't want to upset the labour spin machine. Surely Alistair and his men don't hold any sway regarding feeding you little juicy titbits if you behave, do they? Any attempt by labour (no longer "new") to paint the tories as law breakers for receiving leaks , or even touting for them, is highly hypocritical. They have the master in Gordon Brown who owes his career to leaks and was probably very proud of them at the time.

  • Comment number 12.

    Mr Green summed up the position admirably when he said that "An MP endangering national security would be a disgrace. An MP exposing embarrassing facts about Home Office policy which ministers are hiding is doing a job in the public interest."

    Mr Green was doing a job in the public interest and the Govt, the police and the Speaker through his officials were seeking to prevent Mr Green doing his job. The Govt, the police and Speaker have serious questions to answer. It is a disgrace to our democracy and freedoms that they are trying to gag MPs right to expose embarrassing facts about Home Office policy which should in any event be available under the Freedom of Information Act

  • Comment number 13.

    Nick, why continue on the path of tory trumpeting? remember there is still an on going investigation.

    Surely Cameron and co are not asking the civil services to openly commit to breaching there terms of employment, are the tories also saying that the police-force should also have political allegiances and only carry out investigations with political favour?

    You see, the real questions here, are, that DAVID CAMERON is a pure novice, rather than respect the Independence of the police
    and the out-come of the investigation, he has wrongly chosen the novice path of political intervention and in the long term has damaged the parliament and the police.

  • Comment number 14.

    This govt has eroded civil liberties in a way that any tinpot despot could only dream of. It is high time that the draconian "anti-terror" legislation is repealed, that the MET is re-structured completely from the top down and made to stop behaving like a bunch of bullying thugs.

    By putting a bogeyman in the front of a media frightened public, the Govt. has managed to curtail the freedoms we have to hold them to account, with this act, they are showing that even our elected officials can be bullied and abused. Well, it is time to stop.

    If we let them get away with this, then a day will come when the ordinary man will be wary of hearing the step of the jackbooted policeman walking up to his front door.

    The speaker has also shown he is weak and incompetent, any householder would ask if the police had a warrant before allowing them to enter their property, if this man can't even do that obvious step he was either in collusion of incompetent, and needs to go forthwith!

    Of course, by posting this on here, I am probably next on their list... Is that a car coming up the road...

  • Comment number 15.

    Dying to read my bedtime story from CEH
    Hopefully on this one he will save us the constitutional/Labour lecture and tell us at last his honest opinion as a common human being.
    Gordon didn't know ...
    Jacqui didn't know ...
    The Speaker didn't know ....
    Who is running this COUNTRY?

  • Comment number 16.

    Nick,
    One of the questions the police certainly do not have to answer is why they searched Green's room without a warrant. simple the S@A CONSENTED. End of story.
    Listening to the MPs today many , perhaps too many, have little or no clue about the extent of their Parliamentary Privilege. And the S@A seems to have no idea of the importance of a warrant. Not bad for the legislators eh?
    t
    http://retiredrambler.typepad.com/tonys_ramblings/

  • Comment number 17.

    Nick

    At least you at last admit all the officials involved have very serious questions to answer. They have shown themselves unfit and incompetent to hold their offices. As a result, they should now go.

    As to your final point, it is a non point: no PM or government would feel comfortable with such a series of leaks lasting over two years. Launching an inquiry and dismissing the civil servant(s) involved would be done, and justifiably, by any government.

    BUT: that does not justify arresting an opposition MP under a law which has NEVER been used before for that purpose simply because he made public embarrassing leaks which have occurred since time immemorial, and then searching his Commons office WITHOUT a WARRANT and IMPOUNDING his effects WITHOUT A COURT ORDER.

    It was particularly weak and unedifying for the PM to refuse even to regret that correct procedures were not followed: he is ultimately responsible for ensuring that they are.

  • Comment number 18.

    Clown's administration is corrupt from top to bottom and has institutionalised lying to the voters.

    When the executive as no mandate and is using a scorched-earth policy to wreck things for the next party in power, it's the *duty* of those with inside knowledge to bring it to the attention of the public.

    Of course, as the politicised police are 'in' on Clown's schemes, the only options is to use the press and/or opposition party.

  • Comment number 19.

    "Let us not forget, also, the question that was put again and again to David Cameron about whether he as prime minister would feel comfortable with the systematic leaking over a period of two years."

    Oh well Nick, I suppose you had to put that in for "balance", but you know, any leak is disconcerting for a government. They just have to get used to it. Us proles who voted them in do have rights too.
    Except of course, real security matters which none of the leaked stuff in this instance was.

  • Comment number 20.

    Nick,

    The questions to David Cameron are as irrelevant as they are hypothetical and misleading. Neither he nor his colleagues would appear to have done anything wrong (apart that is from bringing to the public attention matters that ministers wold rather keep quiet). We are continually told that the government will not answer hypothetical questions, why should he?

    The rest of your log is precise and to the point. All the other agencies, including the ministers and other authorities have serious questions to answer.

    This matter should be pushed as far as it will go. Heads should roll, and it is not sufficient for the speaker and others to blame minnions for their actions whilst not providing them with the support they need.

    The timing of this is also very suspicious and shouldn't be forgotten, as it occured the day after parlaiment was prorogued.

  • Comment number 21.

    Surely the speaker and his officers are culpable for allowing the offices of a member of parliament without the same protection that would have been afforded to him in his own home. In giving consent to this search they have acted negligently. The speaker weakly saying I was not informed is not sufficient defence. He admits now that it was his responsibility to assure that the proper legal process was followed.

  • Comment number 22.

    Just out of interest, how is it that comment #17 from bluntjeremy is moderated before comments 1-16?

    No problems with bluntjeremy's comment, we are broadly in agreement, but this moderation sequence seems strange?

  • Comment number 23.

    your getting better Nick, compared with drwing parallels to the cash for honours arrests

    An oppostion politician being arrested for misconduct in public office over something trivial with the government denying all knowledge of the arrest is a story to be found repeatedly in the pages of the Harrare Herald and this is in fact the right comparison


    What are the odds of the famously partisan speaker martin saying yes if it were a labour MP? practically none and if he any concept of his duty he would have said have you got a warrant.

    what were the police doing searching somewhere without a warrant ?

    How come the police used anti terror laws to arrest an MP accused of, at most a civil offence, of taking abetting someone whose conduct was something that should be dealt with under internal disciplinary measures not criminal law

    the offence itself would be a matter of supreme indifference to anyone but the facists who rule our country and had this been pursued before it would hve seen the whole cabinet arrested including Gordon Brown

    I just hope that after the regime has denied knowledge of the whole thing and lied repeatedly some other mole leaks proof of what we all knew to be true that the Home Secretary is behind the whole thing.

    This business could simply never have occured without the full cooperation indeed active encouragement of our rotten government


    next theyl be taking another leaf out of Mugabes book by rigging the next election, then our transformation from free country well run by honest people under the rule of law to vicous authoritarian dictatorship run by incompetent thieves will be complete


  • Comment number 24.

    Nick,

    The Speaker seems to have placed MPs above the normal law to which the rest of us are subject. Under PACE section 18 once a person has been arrested a constable can make a search to find property and material relating to a crime without a search warrant. Is this extra right for MPs justified?

  • Comment number 25.

    Nick, why the need to jab one to the leader of the opposition here? Surely if a government - any government, red or blue - wasn't lying through their teeth, this kind of 'leaking' wouldn't be necessary in the first place.

    We've had yet another catalogue of failures by government and the Parliamentary authorities, and yet the 'searching question' upon which you end is irrelevant and biased. Disappointing.

  • Comment number 26.

    The mind boggles. I saw the Speaker's inept performance on BBC Parliament today and, when he said that the police did not have warrants, I gasped with disbelief.

    Speaker Lenthall defied Charles I and a band of soldiers - Speaker Martin let the police in without even a warrant!

    David Winnick and Douglas Hurd both called for the police officer in charge to be called to the bar of the House to explain his actions. Now, that's as strange a partnership as one can imagine, but they're right.

    If Speaker Martin won't do it, then he should resign in favour of someone who will...

  • Comment number 27.

    #17

    Wow! Blunt, all this has done, may I add in a climate where real uncertainies are, Is Strengthen the case against any future investigation into an MP.

    Hey! will the tory party give a job to Mr Galley, How is paying for his top notch lawyer?

    No one is above the law/ unless their an MP,
    Jeez! great!

  • Comment number 28.

    when they are so obviously unconcerned about our rights!

    are we so concerned about their privileges?

  • Comment number 29.

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

  • Comment number 30.

    "Let us not forget, also, the question that was put again and again to David Cameron about whether he as prime minister would feel comfortable with the systematic leaking over a period of two years."

    You conveniently omit that Gordon Brown was asked again and again for his opinion on the matter, which he sidestepped - as usual.

  • Comment number 31.

    The question of Cameron's feelings over the leaks is a red herring which smells more of Gordon Brown than fish. There have always been leaks, and if civil servants , of whatever political persuasion are alarmed by the dishonesty of their political masters then it is right that they leak such information. The fact that the leaks were happening over such a long period and with such regularity suggests that a very great amount of information coming from the home office to the tax payer was to say the least not quite accurate; to be more succinct it in the main probably bore very little relationship to the truth. This beggers the question; how accurate is the information coming from other government departments where the public does not have the luxury of a mole. To use the expression coined by former Home Secretary John Reid (who would know.)," this government is not fit for purpose. "

  • Comment number 32.

    Great to see that Speaker Martin is following that time-honoured tradition, beloved of the managerial classes everywhere, that when something goes wrong :-

    A/ Blame a woman

    B/ Blame an underling

    C/ If possible do A and B at the same time.

    He is shameless and incompetent and should remember the old adage 'The Buck Stops Where ?..'

  • Comment number 33.

    It seems quite clear that when put under pressure by Police officers, the current Serjeant at Arms buckled, failed to ask any questions or refer the matter to her superiors.

    It's hard to imagine any previous Sjt at Arms giving way like this - after all they were always former Senior Military Officers.

    As for the Police, it looks like they pulled a stroke here, taking advantage of an inexperienced Sjt at Arms and not explaining the situation properly.

    "Gorbals Mick" cannot escape blame : he is ultimately responsible and was told in advance that the raid was going to take place.

    Surely he should have asked whether there was a warrant ?

    In the circumstances, he should surely take responsibility and resign


  • Comment number 34.

    Michael Martin must be pulled before the committee of 7 and interrogated over his apparent lack of interest in ensuring that the Police were acting within the law. Why, when he became aware that the Seagant at Arms was handling an issue with the police over the possible arrest of a member, did he not say at that point that they (The Seargant at Arms) should defer the issue to him immediately.

    Michael Martin has lost the confidence of the opposition benches and he has proven himself inadequate at protecting the democracy he is paid to preside over.

    His resignation should be presented once the committee has reported and the debate closed, regardless of the result.

  • Comment number 35.

    Where is the incisive questioning to find out why the Speaker did not ask to see a warrant? You are the man on the inside, so to speak, where is your insight to educate those of us who do not have access to the corridors of power?

    I see your anti Conservative bias comes out again with your last point. You seem to miss the fundamental point that as voters in a democracy we, the people, are entitled to hold the government (whatever persuasion) to account.

    No government has ever got everything right and I'm sure this Prime Minister has received plenty of leaked information when in opposition. Call it karma if you like.

    Civil servants leak information, whatever the party in government, to the irritation of the government. You know this. Stick to reporting rather than spinning.

  • Comment number 36.

    Having said that though, the question that was put again and again to David Cameron is about the only question that doesn't really have any bearing on the current situation and is about as worthwhile as asking a turkey if it would vote for Christmas.

    There are far more questions that do have a real bearing that remain to be answered.

  • Comment number 37.

    Nick,

    Re your last comment re David Cameron. The question answers itself. Of course no one would feel comfortable in that situation.
    But isn`t it one that Gordon Brown has created for himself by failing to be honest and open with the great british public - as he promised to be when he took over the mantle from TB.

    Do you not worry about the ever pervasive Peter Mandleson. This unelected member of the cabinet has never been off screen since his third coming.

    Mandleson has taken over as chairman of UK PLC and down graded Gordon Brown to the role of Chief Executive.

    Mandleson is now running our lives. He dictates govt policy, undoubtedly writes most of Gordon`s speeches and controls what the cabinet is allowed to do or not do as the case maybe.

    He was obviously not happy as to how things were unfolding for him with the Damien Green story and tried to spin it in Labour`s favour.

    Mandleson is just one great contol freak and that will be his undoing. Just how long he will last this time is debatable; but sooner or later Gordon & Co will get feed up with his controlling ways.

    Things are not going well for the Govt. The bank bail out is not working, the measures in the PBR have fallen flat and the Queen`s Speech contains nothing but hot air. (Even Prince Phillip was seen looking in Jack Straw`s bag to see where the rest of it was).

    When the Polls return to some sort of consensus, not the erratic way they are at the moment, Labour will then restart its internal politicing and Mandleson will probably be given his P45 - again.

    No one is strong enough to reign him in and he will therefore self destruct.

  • Comment number 38.

    Or the question that was put forward to Gormless numerous times this afternoon.

    "Do you regret the searching of an MP's office witout a warrant?"

    Which he too refused to answer.

    But I wouldn't have expected you to pick up on that one!

    Have you got any serious questions to answer, Nick?

  • Comment number 39.

    Labour's favourite excuse!

    No one takes responsibility. We'd better have an enquiry to give us time for them to forget about the issue.

    I lost count of the number of times Gordon Brown was asked whether he agreed that an MP's office in Parliament should be raided by police without a warrant.

    He seems to have a bad allergy about answering questions.

    This time he has upset a lot of MP's including his own so he will have to come up with the right answers and fast.

    This is one issue that won't go away for it could affect all of us whether we like it or not.

  • Comment number 40.

    David Cameron about whether he as prime minister would feel comfortable with the systematic leaking over a period of two years.


    An easy question for Cameron to answer.


    On entering government the Conservatives should review the working of the Freedom of Information act.


    This isn't working at the moment. Gordon Brown, for instance, has blocked requests for years regarding advice given before his disastrous gold sell off.


    There may need to be some sort of tiered access to information.

    The public can't expect unfettered access to everything. Maybe diluted responses to queries can be released - which have been assessed by a board who manage requests regarding sensitive data?


    Cameron could also give a straight answer to a straight question in PMQ's.


    No wonder people want to leak information at the moment. It is the only way to force the truth out of Labour - however trivial the query might be.

  • Comment number 41.

    Nick

    On what basis have you concluded that there was "systematic" leaking - a word used by the Labour Government to try to tarnish the Tories by suggesting that they induced the leaks?

    Unless you have evidence that the leaks were systematic, and not only where the public interest justified a leak, you are posing a "When did you stop beating your wife" type question.

    To ask the alternative question, does the Government consider it is right to systematically hide from the electorate anything that would cause the Government embarrassment, and use legal processes where the information is leaked as a result?

  • Comment number 42.

    So too ministers who were involved in launching the inquiry


    So Ministers have a lot of questions to answer. I ain't holding my breath. I don't expect a lot of answers.


    We only ever hear the truth once it has been dragged out of Labour, kicking and screaming. Normally after someone has leaked something.


    We will get half truths and obfuscation and promises of plans and reviews which we will be told "are the right thing to do".


    Don't get your hopes up.


    Don't expect anything from the Gordon Brown and the "Lame Duck party"

  • Comment number 43.

    Gorbals Mick has finally been found out.

    Inept and entirely unsuited to high office; this pompous and vain nonentity has been indulged for far too long by the Labour nomenklatura. He has failed to exercise proper oversight of his own office and has provoked a major constitutional scandal by his incompetence.

    He must resign or be sacked!

  • Comment number 44.

    At all levels, national and local , we are increasingly seeing government versus the people rather than governance on behalf of the people.

    Just how can any party be claiming to govern with the consent of the people when that consent is only based on what the government decides we should know rather than what we have a reasonable right to know?

    There would appear to be some similarities here with the famous "Clive Ponting" case when a civil servant was prosecuted under the official secrets act for leaking the information that "The Belgrano" was actually sunk when sailing away from the Falklands exclusin zone during the conflict. The government wanted this hushed up and even the judge in the trial appeared to give a biased instruction to the jury who promptly ignored him and found Ponting "Not Guilty".

    The people can soon tell a real security threat from when a government is up to no good trying to avoid embarassment

    I wonder if anyone has considered that a prosecution in this current case might be just what is needed as I the chances must be high that a jury would come to a similar decision. Where then would the governments stand re the current and numerous abuses of anti terror legislation if it was clear that chances of a conviction for anything other than real security issues was remote?

  • Comment number 45.

    "Let us not forget, also, the question that was put again and again to David Cameron about whether he as prime minister would feel comfortable with the systematic leaking over a period of two years"

    Remember smug G. Brown being interviewed by Frank Bough- well what goes around comes around.

  • Comment number 46.

    The last paragraph is pointless so why add it at all? It is just obsequious in the extreme. New Labour lacks a message and so do their messengers it seems. You do not pay attention to the comments on your blog so I for one will just go away and discuss real life with real people.

  • Comment number 47.

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

  • Comment number 48.

    This whole furore rather spoilt Gordon Brown's attempt to steal the limelight by announcing the headline grabbing 2 year deferment in mortgage repayments for those who have lost their jobs in the present credit crisis. (Ed Ball's face was a picture of smugness as GB was making the announcement). I may be economically ignorant but how are the Building Societies going to recoup the lost revenue from these payments which they need for new lenders? More handouts from the bankrupt Treasury perhaps. As a housing expert said these poor unfortunatess might be better off selling their homes rather than stay in a property that is going to lose 30 - 40% of its value over the next few years anyway. Why postpone the inevitable?

  • Comment number 49.

    Can you ask when the government knew that the police didn't have a warrant? I am very very interested to find out at what point this was told to Gordon. Both him and the Home Secretary must have known this last Friday.

  • Comment number 50.

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

  • Comment number 51.

    But who leaks things more than this discredited and shameful government? Who leaked a potential freeze on stamp duty? Who leaked most of the provisions in the Pre-Budget Report? That's right, Gordon the Golem and his little minnions.
    Clap them in irons I say. Let's see if the police can search No 10 sans a warrant.

  • Comment number 52.

    18 J.J.Carter

    Absolutely correct - Labour are institutionally deceitful


    They have moved so far on from the days of 'spin' which seems almost an innocent form of deception compared to what they get up to these days:

    1. Anyone remember Brown answering a question from an opposition politician in PMQs?

    2. Brown blusters clear lies concerning "boom and bust", "best placed for the recession" - largely unchallenged by the media.

    3. Brown makes up false scenarios which he attacks and pretends are opposition policies or views. At its most extreme he blurts "do nothing party" - which he knows is a lie.

    4. Mandelson - what happened on that yacht? He's not saying.

    5. E-mails to manipulate the speakers statement

    6. Dodgy dossier

    7. I'm a pretty straight kind of guy (who we since find out lied about the Eccelstone affair)

    8. etc, etc, etc, etc........


    Labour have forgotten how to tell the truth.


    It is no wonder people feel the need to leak information.


    This crisis is a direct result of Labour's rejection of honesty with the public.

  • Comment number 53.

    Fact: The Police do not need a warrant to search any premises where an appropriate person has given consent for the search.

    In this case the Sgt at Arms after consultation with Mick Martin gave such consent. The issue therefore IS NOT the absence of a warrant but whether in law the Sgt at Arms is an appropriate person.

    The Police believe she is, has this been contested ?

    Secondly what was written on the form which she signed as this would inform her about the nature of a consensual search.?

    I assume she read it!

    Why did Mick not ask the obvious question ?

    Both Sgt at Arms and Mick should have demanded a warrant before allowing a search. The Police would then have to have either withdrawn or applied for one.

    I suspect it would have been refused on application.

    That said , they asked for and got consent, so the search is NOT ILLEGAL as some claim.

    What this does show is that by not asking obvious questions Martin is unfit for office and should step down.

    BBC STOP REPEATING THE gOVERNMENT SPIN ON THIS ISSUE, it is not about the lack of a warrant!

  • Comment number 54.

    re: 48, sicilian

    This whole furore rather spoilt Gordon Brown's attempt to steal the limelight by announcing the headline grabbing 2 year deferment in mortgage repayments for those who have lost their jobs in the present credit crisis

    As with all Labour policy, it's badly thought-out and the only reason it exists in the first place is to distract from a previous mistake. Anybody with any sense is going to see it for what it is: a scam designed to deflect our attention from the truth. Labour are trying hold off the incoming tide with a bucket and spade.

    BTW peeps: [my username] at blogspot dot com. Check it out.

  • Comment number 55.

    "....the question that was put again and again to David Cameron about whether he as prime minister would feel comfortable with the systematic leaking over a period of two years."

    The right answer to this is that he nor any other prime minister should be comfortable about leaks that indicated that a government department was not working properly and the way to avoid it would be to run the department properly so that there was no need for the leaks to occur.

    If the government was running the country properly and the electorate had some trust in what the government told them the leaks would stop.

  • Comment number 56.

    "Let us not forget, also, the question that was put again and again to David Cameron about whether he as prime minister would feel comfortable with the systematic leaking over a period of two years."

    And of course he failed to answer.

    Nonetheless, it is immaterial. Happy or not, leaks will happen so long as there is something to leak.

    The best, and possibly only, defence against leaks, systematic or otherwise, is to do your job properly. I've said it before and I'll say it again:

    There couldn't be any embarassing leaks if the government had nothing to be embarassed about.

  • Comment number 57.

    Nick,,Lets not forget -"The question put again and again to David Cameron whether he as prime minister would feel comfortable with the systematic leaking over a period of two years."

    The answer as you and all the rest of Labour already know is "No"

    The reason you and the rest of Labour keep on asking it is to provide a smoke screen and to conflate the two issues.

  • Comment number 58.

    The timing of the Sgt-at-Arms discussions with the police lead to some interesting questions. Did the Met tell her the day before they were going to search and ask if she would authorise access? Why didn't she think to consult her legal advisers then, the day before, of the implications?
    Also did the Met apply for a search warrant for Greens parliamentary office but were they refused, and therefore had to effectively bluff their way in?

  • Comment number 59.

    The questions keep on coming!

    First, the warrant, 3 different high-level police officers today on Radio Five Live gave 3 different 'interpretations' of the Law:

    1 a warrant is needed to enter a 'crime' scene

    2 not needed if an 'arrest warrant' has already been issued

    3 n/a if it's Parliament - another is needed

    And then there's the question of where the Speaker was when the Sargeant at Arms signed the consent form? Was he in breach of his duties? Sleeping? Was the Sargeant at Arms too inexperienced in her post - in which case, why did she sign?

    And last of all: has a crime been committed?

    To Be Continued..... :)

  • Comment number 60.

    I would expect the government to put the best spin on this they can but that is no reason for Nick to repeat it when it's so lame.

    The most depressing site today was some of the Labour back-benchers who would rather grovel to the Labour leadership than stand up for their constituents and their own rights.

    Pathetic!

  • Comment number 61.

    In the web video of the search someone,presumably a police officer, seems to insist on the camera being turned off and the Conservative official leaving the investigative scene. If there was no warrant, given that he didn't seem to be impeding anybody, was that an appropriate instruction?

  • Comment number 62.

    Good grief, where did that last sentence come from? I hope no-one has leant on you to show 'balance'?







  • Comment number 63.

    Oooops Mr Robinson
    You almost forgot the brief from your party bosses.
    Just remembered to add it in the last paragraph didn't you?

    You're getting to be an embarrassment!

  • Comment number 64.

    Par for the course for The Government back benchers to introduce red herrings to try and extricate their Party out of a hole. Whether or not David Cameron as P.M. would be happy to accept Department leaks is neither here nor there and nothing to do with the present issue. If he runs his Departments properly there will be no need for embarrassing leaks. If he doesn't then he deserves all he gets in terms of leaks.

  • Comment number 65.

    Why on earth did you have to add that last sentence? You just can't resist it. This matter is about the basic freedom of speech which has an extraordiny amount of support from all parties.

    As far as I am aware, though I am sure I'll be told otherwise, it is NOT the job of the leader of the Opposition to answer hypothetical questions.

    Just about every MP from all the main parties who spoke during the Speaker's address were in agreement on the main point that the police and indeed the authorities at the commons were in the wrong. The fact that it has now emerged that there wasn't even a search warrant, defies belief, we are talking about the House of Commons, not Alice in Wonderland.

    The PM has completely lost the plot, the Speaker has no comprehension of history and the fact that it will be the government that will word the motion to be debated, quite frankly, stinks.

    This no democratic solution and the quicker the Speaker is removed along with this useless government the better. I trust that the incoming government will insist on a non political BBC.

  • Comment number 66.

    Having read various blogs on different newspaper sites, there seems to a common belief that the police have become politicised under New Labour. Recent events appear to confirm that, along with a partisan Speaker and Ministers who are being extremely economical with the truth. The Speaker has to resign and be replaced with a non-Labour appointment. The Home Secretary has some serious questions to answer and her position has to be in doubt.

    The Stygian Stables need flushing out - we need a General Election now and a new Government. The present mob in power hasn't got a clue and is corrupted by power up to its armpits.

  • Comment number 67.

    I think we should have camera teams following all ministers. That way we won't have the need for whistleblowers.

    The issue is what is the government allowed to keep to themselves. Oh and for good measure camera teams should follow all MPs.

    That way we can have paralysed government and everything can be discussed by Ant and Dec or Davina McCall.

    My point is what limits to be want to place on confidentiality and if the answer is 'none' think where it might get you in a few years.

  • Comment number 68.

    mandybrown what a double act for democracy, into the gutter once again how can this unelected nasty pair continue to run this once decent country, a lecture from mandelson on right and wrong!!! stop your support of them Nic you end every session with a possative for ZANU NULAB.

  • Comment number 69.

    #50 ceedoubleu

    Yes! absolutely, when Mr Galley is hung out to dry and gives his story to the press, inducments and all, we shall see where the cards fall.

    If there ever is another conservative government, then by their actions they will have to legislate for a new constitutions,
    now! Cameron has already said he wouldn't stand in the way of an Independent Scotland! and the tories have said that their position on Scottish MP voting on British issues, is something the tories would legislate against.

    So, it is more than probable that the tory unionist would break up the uk, I guess a tory victory in 2010 would be music to Alex Salmonds ears .

    Of course I wouldn't see a PROBLEM WITH THE CONTINUATION OF SCOTTISH LABOUR.

  • Comment number 70.

    Do you think when he finally does the decent thing shortly, the Member for Bolsover will throw in: "Taxi for Mr Martin?"..... and wife.

    Maybe not, but I bet a few on the other side will be calling it.

  • Comment number 71.

    #7 - Bickers

    "We live in a democracy don't we?"

    No - not any more you don't.

  • Comment number 72.

    At last Nick - you've acknowledged that there are serious questions to be asked about this incident. Pity you weren't asking them right from the start.

    Pity about the dig about the Tories at the end.

  • Comment number 73.

    Why have their been leaks in the Home Office??



    Here is an example where the Statistics Commission points out to Sir David Normington that the Government have been manipulating Home Office statistics to deceive the public.


    This government are Institutionally Deceitful


    Is it any wonder people leak when this government are so dishonest?

  • Comment number 74.

    Parliament has been around for 200 years and still the 'learned' members do not appear to know its status under the law - and half of them are lawyers - allegedly.

  • Comment number 75.

    #69 -

    I suspect ther are plenty of English who would like to give Scotland their independance after the mess Brown has made, they would be delighted to see him kept up in Holyrood.

  • Comment number 76.

    why has the BBC in general and Nick and Robert in particular become the unofficial wing of the labour party. every blog is now an apology for independent journalism. as others before me have pointed out that last paragraph was totally superfluous and also meaningless as Cameron is not in government and if he was and managed government departments as badly as the present shower then leaks would be the consequence. The pure hypocrisy of GB who made his name on leaks is awesome. He then attempts to bury the news with yet another headline grabbing housing announcement, remember 3 million homes to be built, remember ten eco towns to be built, the media fall for it every time....as with all GB's announcements the devil is in the detail, remember he said "a percentage" of interest will be deferred...1%, 5%, 10%........lets wait and see!

  • Comment number 77.

    re: 74, warblers

    Parliament has been around for 200 years and still the 'learned' members do not appear to know its status under the law - and half of them are lawyers - allegedly.

    Parliament has been around for 200 years and still the 'learned' members do not appear to know its status under the law - and half of them are liars - certainly.

  • Comment number 78.

    #75

    I suspect there would be plenty of Scottish
    that wouldn't want another tory government.

  • Comment number 79.

    Almost eighty posts and nobody's made a joke about Black Rod yet?

  • Comment number 80.

    Nice of the speaker to stand by his junior. Still (if you pardon the pun) I guess you get what you pay for.

  • Comment number 81.

    Did anyone see the report on C4 news tonight? The reporter said that Labour has been focus grouping on this and isn't too worried. So that makes it OK, then.

    Given that broadcasters have been carrying street interviews with people who seem to saying that MPs should be treated just like us etc, either we have an electorate which is less politically aware than many of us had been willing to believe or they genuinely don't care about any democratic accountability or even know how our Parliament functions.

    What these interviews have been showing is how far our society has moved from healthy scepticism that at least has some grasp about events to rank ignorance. If this is so, that means that many people, possibly even the majority wouldn't actually mind if any form of ultra authoritarian government was in office. How worrying is that and crucially, what would stir them out their inertia?

    Maybe, we're only being shown interviews which match the social aspirations of the BBC/ITV focus groups. Maybe anyone who can put a sentence together or doesn't drop 'h's' gets edited out. Maybe this is why any political interview only lasts a couple of minutes in Britain these days. Would say, a batch of interviews in a French street elicit so much ambivalance (Sarhozy voodoo doll and Villepin arrest being current issues)?

    Are we, the people who're contributing to these comments in such a small majority that we might become the first ones to be locked up because we do care?

    Is it a failure of our media to so isolate individual events because they have such a low estimation of the audience that no connection can now be made between events, accountability and outcomes. having helped a University student understand a film studies question, I've discovered that sentence analysis and logic are no longer taught., so what is being taught in the way of analytical tools to our citizens these days?

  • Comment number 82.


    I've followed this case from the first and was determined to see the speaker of the commons expain his position . Notwithstanding all the points concerning the alleged criminal activity of an MP and the Police behaviour afterwards, I was astonished to listen to this man and his hestitating response to allegations against him.

    Whatever else the speaker of the house of commons is- he's no speaker!

    We know Michael Martin had a tough upbringing, shipyards etc.

    However, his speech was absolutely dire! Slow, inarticulate and lacking in confidence. the man seems inept in more ways than one. Is this the level we now expect from such people and in such high positions in this land.

    I've heard teenagers with learning disabilities speaking with more confidence, charm and delivery than this man.

    Like her or loathe her, at least Betty Boothroyd had charisma, and confidence and was imbued with charm. All the qualities lacking in the current speaker ( and for that matter his master- the PM!)

  • Comment number 83.

    #36 twoapenny and others

    Having said that though, the question that was put again and again to David Cameron is about the only question that doesn't really have any bearing on the current situation and is about as worthwhile as asking a turkey if it would vote for Christmas.

    The question put to David Cameron is about the only pertinent one being put.

    If he would not be happy with a Labour activist infiltrating his private office when he is PM and then breaking the law by systematically leaking every single document they come across and with a senior Labour minister encouraging it, why is he so apoplectic with rage about this incident?

    Remember how every big Treasury announcement over the past year or so has been pre-empted by the Conservatives by about 3 days, allowing Osborne either to get his retaliation in first and shape the media narrative in response to it, or claim Labour's policies as his own and say it is just copy-catting? This is the direction I suspect the investigation will turn.

    It would be a serious embarassment for Osborne if there was proof that actually he was the copy-cat.

  • Comment number 84.

    I could go on and on about BBC bias but it's all been said before and, to my mind, the only solution is to take away the money. If 1 million stopped paying the licence, Nick is silenced along with the ZaNu Labour mouthpiece.

    But my real worry is the lack of backbone and decency of Labour back benchers. This is now 'spinning' compltely out of control and our democracy is seriously at risk. This is not helped by the announcement today of the proposed new law making it compulsory to tell any organ of thr state your ID.

    Surely there are 30 of these men and women with enough backbone to actually realise that the country is more important than a Labour government at any price.

    I hope but I am not holding my breath. Pigs, snouts and troughs come to mind.

  • Comment number 85.

    81. At 8:17pm on 03 Dec 2008, micromj wrote:

    "Did anyone see the report on C4 news tonight? The reporter said that Labour has been focus grouping on this and isn't too worried. So that makes it OK, then."

    Did not see the report, but it does not surprise me - our schools have been teaching ignorance for years and our media dumbs down to the level of single celled organisms.

    What really brings it home to me is the ignorance most people exhibit on Government borrowing. Brown spent all the income from the boom and more - he was deficit spending throughout the boom years, leaving this country in a terrible mess now we have hit bust. But try explaining that public borrowing now represents future tax rises and/or future spending cuts to the average citizen. This country is screwed and Brown is largely responsible, yet he gets credit for being in charge when the mess he has created comes back to bite us. I give up!

  • Comment number 86.

    #27 derek

    Cameron implicitly admitted the Conservatives were paying for the lawyer in the House today by side-stepping the question.

    Probably right they are paying for the lawyer though - after all, they are the reason Mr Galley is in such a pickle

  • Comment number 87.

    When the government are kicked out - they are going to have to do a lot of paper shredding.

    Brown's government is currently covering up how the Hutton Inquiry was mislead.

    Freedom of information requests are being ignored.

    Gordon Brown cover up of dodgy dossier


    Now that the Met Police have practice - and the Speaker knows the drill - maybe it is time to start a criminal investigation asking this question:

    "Did the government mislead the Hutton inquiry?"


    We can't rely on leaks to people like Damian Green to find this out. Many of the documents, although fictional, are still classified.

  • Comment number 88.

    @ 13 - Derek, what are you on? Ah, I see : everything you've posted is correct, except that you've wriiten 'tories' when you meant 'labour', and 'David Cameron' when you obviously meant 'Brown, Smith, Martin, and the rest of this corrupt and immoral excuse for a government'...

    @ 27 - you forgot to add '... an MP like Gordon Brown' at the end.....

    @ 75 - again, you mistyped 'tory' when you obviously mean 'labour'...

    Please don't bother to thank me for correcting your otherwise meaningless, misguided and inept postings - it's a service we provide, don't you know.

  • Comment number 89.

    #40 jonathan

    The public can't expect unfettered access to everything.

    Any why not? I thought systematic leaks of every document the Government holds was in the public interest? Isn't that the defence to why Galley did no wrong?

    Follow the logic - why should everything just not be published? It's in the public interest, apparently.

    I thought a wise council of Opposition members had the final say over what is and isn't in the public interest (e.g. it's in the public interest for the Opposition to steal policies from the Government through advance leaking by sympathisers, pass them off as their own and criticise the Government for copying them).

  • Comment number 90.

    But Nick, David Cameron has already expressed his opinion that the public should be kept informed of this type of information.

    If Labour are embarrassed by their own ideas, plans and policies, then that's their problem.

    They shouldn't be so sneaky.

  • Comment number 91.

    Nobody ever resigns under this government - utter disgrace

  • Comment number 92.

    Nick you are an intelegent man why do you fall for it every time Gordon Brown spent his time in opposition leaking.I would expect him and the labour party to do the same again.When in opposition next time.We need the opposition of whatever party to keep the government of the day honest.That is what we call democracy

  • Comment number 93.

    #81

    I saw that interview and wondered also.

    Then I thought about the number of comments to this weblog, across the various entries posted by Mr Robinson over the last few days, which must total about 2000 now, almost all expressing the same view in their different ways.

    I have also seen comments on each of the Guardian, Telegraph, Times and Mail websites, which also show huge numbers of people writing in indignation.

    Taken altogether, I couldn't understand that comment- I just put it down to spin, as indeed the commentator seemed to be saying ("we're onto real issues about mortgages etc, let them carry on talking")!

    I'll be interested when the next lot of polls come out, although they seem to be abit all over the place at the moment.

  • Comment number 94.

    Sometimes it is extremely hard to produce a balanced blog - the government is just wrong here.

    Of course post Gilligan (proved substanially right) and David Kelly (proved completely right) the BBC runs in fear of the powers of Westminster. It is time the British public had a media to protect them, a media to expose corruption and scandal, a media with bite !

  • Comment number 95.

    The Official Secrets Act is the most heinous piece of legislation in statute law. The sole function of this legislation is to hide the malfeasance, maladministration, corruption and incompetence of Government Ministers. It affords no protection against the intrusiveness of foreign countries. It is designed to hide the truth from the British public.
    Under every form of constitution, Stalinist, Fascist or Democratic, the most hated and persecuted people are those that tell the truth. Mr Christopher Galley (whistleblower) is a national hero.

  • Comment number 96.

    "Let us not forget, also, the question that was put again and again to David Cameron about whether he as prime minister would feel comfortable with the systematic leaking over a period of two years"

    No, let us indeed forget it because it's a stupid, stupid question. Of course he wouldn't be happy with it, any more than Brown or Blair were (except the ones they were doing themselves of course) or indeed as Major was before them. However, the difference between all of them and ZanuLabour is that they didn't send in the stasi to intimidate those involved, unless the leak was of Official Secrets, not just something they'd rather keep private.

    I think you should also point out the sheer hypocrisy of posing this question to Cameron given Labour's own flip-flop from leak-exploiters to leak-despisers since getting into power. Why do you feel this is an important question for him, but not one for Gordon Brown, that ace leak-user of the 1990s?

  • Comment number 97.

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

  • Comment number 98.

    For what it's worth, I'm still waiting for evidence that either Green or Galley committed an offence. Though I am quite sure Galley broke his terms of employment.

    In the absence of a crime, the house of cards which is practically everything said in public, everything said to have been leaked by the Police, and everything that has been insinuated by the Labour trolls here and elsewhere, comes tumbling down in a hideous mess.

    I foresee a cabinet member's career finishing before this story is through.

  • Comment number 99.

    At what stage did the BBC become a party political broadcast for Labour. I don't think the BBC even pretend to be neutral anymore. Or could it be, like blog 81 suggested, the BBC think that the average person doesn't care and believes anything that is reported on the news without question. ITV's headline news covered the story about today's incident but it was way down on list for the BBC news. Instead, the BBC's headlines glorified the Prime Minister's mortgage help plan and his pledge that the overall priority was the economy. Where will the money come from for that plan and wouldn't it be better spent on creating jobs rather than creating or adding to the benefits culture. What occured today was surely worthy of full coverage and detail.

    The PM's response to the incident was not only hypocritical, it was unacceptable. The man appears to be inhuman. What happened to the 'man of integrity' 'man with a moral compass'? It was all part of the Labour spin and it's never been clearer what a load of spin that was. First we have the inhuman response the tragic case of Baby P and now his refusal to condemn the way in which Green was arrested.

    Blog 81 struck a bit of cord when mentioning that those who care could be the ones who get a knock in the night. Will all dissenting voices be silenced. I used to think 1984 was science fiction but I'm not so sure now.

    When a major TV broadcaster becomes a vehicle for political views, I think we are in trouble.

  • Comment number 100.

    #77 power-to-the-ppl

    Only half?

 

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