Friday, November 28, 2008

Damien Green and Democracy

Much as I hate even to be suspected of defending Tories, the arrest yesterday of MP Damien Green, it seems only for the charge of assisting moles in government to leak information to the Press that Brown et al would rather we didn't have, is profoundly worrying and a terrible indictment of the state of our democracy. We need to know, if we haven't been told already, why he was arrested, what they were looking for when they rooted through his personal possessions, why he was held for nine hours, and who was the motivating force behind the police action.

According to the radio this morning Brown knew nothing about it. But since the authorities informed Cameron and Green's arrest had profound constitutional implications, it's frankly pretty hard to believe that nobody told the Prime Minister. (Which is what the Tories have been trying to imply by calling the tactics "Stalineseque"--remember the LibDem leader's put-down on Gordon Brown as having gone from Stalin to Mr. Bean?)

As Damien Green himself has said--and again, may all the gods forgive me for seeming to show sympathy to a Conservative--it is the job of the Opposition to hold the Government of the day to account. (Labour may well be reminded of that very soon.) And one of the tools it has for holding the Government to account is the judicious use of leaking. They all do it. And they've all been doing it for as long as politics has been the handmaiden of the news media. As long as they're not giving nuclear codes to the enemy or informing Islamist rebels about troop movements in Afghanistan, who cares?

The terrorist attacks in India prove that democracy is necessary now more than ever as a counter-balance to the armies of fundamentalism, the armies of violence and unreason. Without thriving democracies to lead people away from their madness, those evil bastards would suck the world back into the Dark Ages. Let's not give them too much comfort and encouragement by starting to dismantle the best achievement of humanity since the Enlightenment they would have liked to snuff out.

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