Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Greenwash

The Tories are hurriedly puffing up the Damian Green farrago as big as possible - highlighting the use of 'anti-terrorist police' (they weren't) to arrest an MP for receiving leaked material (they haven't - they are working on 'misconduct in a public office') and then searching his office without a warrant (they didn't need one under PACE). The indignation of many Tories over someone who leaked a small pile of documents for political gain compares with how the Tory government treated Sarah Tisdall back in 1983.

Back then, the Guardian received - anonymously - a copied document which disclosed the political tactics to be used by the then Secretary of State for Defence, Michael Heseltine, in the Commons to announce the arrival of the cruise missiles at Greenham Common airbase. It didn't contain any information of a national security nature, nor anything truly classified, but the full force of the law swung into action - far harsher than anything we've seen so far. After a court case, the Guardian editor was forced to hand over the document and the authorities tracked it back to one Sarah Tisdall, a junior official in the MoD. She was prosecuted under the Official Secrets Act, pleaded guilty and got six months, of which she served three - quite possibly a deal to minimise further government embarassment. All of that happened because the view was taken that she might at some unspecified point in the future leak some unspecified, genuinely secret documents of national security importance.

But back to today. Firstly, the Tories are outraged that Green is under suspicion of being less than straight in his dealings. After all - he is one of us, they cry. Ah yes - the claim that he couldn't possibly do anything wrong because he is one of the elite. That sort of thinking led to the fervent in house denial that there could ever be Soviet penetration of the intelligence services, because our chaps didn't do that kind of thing. The unswerving certainty that Green has done nothing wrong contrasts nicely with the absolute assurance of every Tory blog last year that it was only a matter of time before the shackles were strapped round Lord Levy's wrists, if not Tony Blair himself. Back then, the bloggers and the briefers were crowing about the presumed guilt of those two - and others - and revelling in the leaks flowing from somewhere in the police service. Things don't look quite so clear now, do they?

Secondly, they are nervous that this might not be the end of the matter. Some suggest that David Davis might be in for a long chat with the Met after he was seen making off with some policies previously the property of the Government. All of this is an attempt to scare off the police.

That may prove to be the least of their worries, as I think that there is still a far bigger fish to be caught - the Tory mole in the Treasury.

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