The Home Affairs Committee has reported on the arrest of Conservative frontbencher Damian Green MP. Late last year, police barged into Parliament, and with the – unprecedented – agreement of the Sergeant at Arms (who is supposed to protect MPs from state officials), rifled through Green's office, arrested and held him, and went on to search his constituency office. His home too was ransacked and, say friends, left 'uninhabitable'. Naturally, his computers and phones were confiscated and his email put out of commission.
His crime? Some dreadful terrorist plot? No. He had received information from a Home Office whistle-blower, exposing the embarrassing fact that the Home Office managed to grant security guard licences to illegal immigrants, and even gave one a job. The whistle-blower was arrested in a dawn raid, too.
This jackbooted (or is that Jaqui-booted) thuggery confirms my point in The Rotten State of Britain – that when you give people power, they will use it. Citing 'national security', twenty counter-terrorist police were sent in to rake over the home and offices of a well-liked MP who had merely embarrassed ministers. The Home Secretary says she didn't know the arrests were planned – in which case she should be fired for incompetence, being out of control of her officials and police who organized the raid. If she did know, she should be fired – for a major assault on the integrity of Parliament, which is supposed to protect us from people like her.
The Committee says that the 'national security' excuse for the raid was rather rich. Green was arrested for doing what ministers weren't doing – just telling the truth. And Opposition, Gordon Brown made great use of leaked material to embarrass the government, without having twenty counter-terrorist police unleashed on him.
MPs can't be above the law. But this was just state thuggery against a representative of the people. And the police shouldn't be above the law either. Bullying their way into Parliament without a warrant tore up about 350 years of hard-won constitutional precedent that was supposed to protect our representatives from harassment by the powerful. The last time this happened, it caused a civil war.
Nor can Parliament work if people can't write confidentially to their MPs without other people snooping on them. I don't imagine that the police limited their scrutiny of Green's computers to the few emails he might have had from the whistle-blower. This isn't about MPs or some decrepit rule of 'privilege' – it's about members of the public being protected from the unrestrained power of ministers and officials. The Speaker of the House of Commons should put his foot down. But he can't because at last report he was on a taxpayer-funded junket to Dubai. That's how rotten our state has become.