Green and "grooming"

I don't know Damian Green well but we used to have occasional very civilized lunches together and I always think of him as being one of the human faces of the Conservative Party. So his arrest and the ransacking of his Commons and constituency offices by the police came as a great shock. Of course his frontbench immigration portfolio is one of the touchiest areas of current political debate.


The government and the Home Secretary have been embarrassed by some of the revelations. It may be in the interest of the government to muzzle debate and keep embarrassing revelations out of the public eye, but It is the foremost job of the opposition in a parliamentary democracy to provoke debate and expose government embarrassment to the light of day. To seek to intimidate anyone carrying out that most crucial of democratic roles is a deeply worrying development in the increasingly fractured and failing constitutional arrangements of the United Kingdom.

So the rights of ordinary backbenchers (and opposition frontbenchers too) against the power and pomposity of ministers have to be cherished. Too many MPs duck the difficut questions because they are in government, want to be in government or have been in government. My only hesitation is whether Mr Green knew that his source was going into the Home Office to in order to access and leak sensitive material. This seems to be the basis of the police allegation of "grooming" - of course a thoroughly snide abuse of terminology on their part.

There will always be moments when civil servants will be confronted by something so flagrant that they feel an over-riding responsibility to get it into the public domain - but recognising all the implications of such a breach of their employment contract. But that is different from entering government employment with the specific intention of leaking. At the moment the appalling cack-handedness of the Speaker, the evasiveness of the Home Secretary and the heavy-handedness of the police mean that there is more heat than light in this particular debate.

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