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« Bashful cops | Main | Comment not quite so free as it was? »

The benefit of the doubt

After something of a hiatus over the weekend, there has been a rush of new comment on the Damian Green affair, including this rather good piece by Henry Porter over at the Graun. I get the impression that this whole affair may well run and run. Wednesday's statement to Parliament by Michael Martin promises to produce some real fireworks - it might well turn out to be one of those rare occasions when it is worth watching it all live on TV. With a bit of luck a few heads might roll. God, there might even be some bloodshed.

It's fair to say that this isn't a black and white issue. The argument that MPs should not be above the law seems to me to be a fair one. The problem is that the law is not designed with the interests of the public in mind - it's been written solely to protect the interests of the state. By outlawing the leaking of government information, the opposition are left weaponless in the fight to hold the executive to account. If the government mean to enforce the laws on leaking it will mean that yet another plank of the British Constitution has been torn up and tossed aside by a government that cares nothing for the public, but only for its narrow partisan self. What point is an opposition that has no access to the information it requires? We desperately need a sweeping new Freedom of Information Act that will make nearly every state document public (with the obvious few narrow exceptions). Only then can we be sure that the government can be held to account.

The actions of the police may or may not have had a sinister motive behind them. What the commentariat has made clear is that, after 90 days detention and 42 days detention and 28 days detention and ID cards and cash for honours and databases and snooping on all and sundry, people are no longer willing to give Gordon Brown and his motley crew the benefit of the doubt.

It's about time too.

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Reader Comments (2)

The question of the misuse of counter-terrorist legislation (yet again) seems to me also to be a very important issue.
Dec 2, 2008 at 7:49 PM | Unregistered Commentermontysmum
Apparently there was no use of counter-terrorism legislation. The counter-terrorism police were used because they have been merged with special branch, who would in the past have handled this sort of thing. The law which has alleged to have been broken is old common law, as I understand it.
Dec 3, 2008 at 5:13 PM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

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