The emerging story regarding the arrest of Tory frontbencher Damian Green would be absurd if it did not represent such a continuing degradation of age-old liberties. As Janet Daley commented, ‘anybody who thinks that the Conservatives are creating an overblown fuss over the arrest of Damian Green is making a genuinely grave mistake’. Many people may dismiss the Tory response as political showmanship, and think that as Green was only questioned and not charged, we should forget the whole sorry saga. But this episode cannot simply be swept under the carpet and forgotten.
At the moment the details of the arrest are still slightly hazy but essentially, Damian Green was arrested on Thursday by anti-terrorist police and held for nine hours, because he had made public leaked Home Office information related to his brief as Shadow Immigration Minister. Some Tories have alleged that the authorization for the arrest was made from the upper rungs of the government itself – a claim that the government deny, saying this was an entirely police matter. Either way it seems clear that the information disclosed by Green (that the government was employing illegal immigrants in 'security-cleared' positions) was a legitimate matter of public interest.
But the details in this story are not the most worrying element. What is so hard to comprehend is the idea that an opposition Member of Parliament can be arrested by counter-terrorism policy, held for nine hours, have his home and his parliamentary office searched (seemingly with the consent of the Speaker), simply for daring to hold the government to account. This is a blatant and undeniable encroachment on the civil rights of the British people. The arrest of an MP by special operations units is the type of scene witnessed under tyrannical dictators. (Well, I suppose Gordon Brown is unelected...)
The worrying thing is that there have been no sweeping invasions of our privacy, they have been snuck in through the back door under the veil of anti-terrorist measures, surveillance cameras and ID cards. The Tories are right to make a big deal out of this arrest, it would be difficult to blow this one out of proportion, but they need to make sure they make real changes when they come into power.