On Parliamentary freedoms and Trojan Horses…

Two critical matters, it seems to me, arise from Tory MP Damian Green’s arrest. The apparent abandonment, by the Speaker, of his critical role protecting parliamentary privilege; for which there is only one logical outcome. And what exactly is going on with the supposedly neutral Civil Service? Several top Ministries now seem to be capable of providing the Opposition with significant amounts of private information. But what if the Opposition were running several politicised moles inside the so-called neutral Civil Service? And where does that leave the Civil Service Code? More over at Brassneck

Adds: Matt adds his own thoughts…

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty

  • Harry Flashman

    I don’t wish to be rude Mick so can you clarify what precisely is the etiquette in the blogosphere?

    Just two posts below this thread Pete has already opened this debate (and indeed you have contributed) but now that you have started your own thread where do those who are interested in the matter (and astonishingly few people seem to be bothered) post our thoughts?

  • Reader

    Reader: And what exactly is going on with the supposedly neutral Civil Service?
    Is the problem that most of them have been house trained by Labour, or that some of them have not?
    There were lots of leaks from the civil service during the Major Government as well. That’s the price to be paid for being a decade in power, and incompetent, and arrogant.

  • “Several top Ministries now seem to be capable of providing the Opposition with significant amounts of private information”

    Mick, the other side of the coin needs to be considered too: “Senior civil servants could be withholding key information from the Government”.

    I congratulated the First Minister yesterday on his Slugger Award and he gave me some useful insights into the mechanics of the minister/civil servant relationship, including how to …

  • Reader, if information is power then those who regulate the flow of that information may wield significant power. Sir Humphrey hasn’t gone away, you know.

  • Mick Fealty

    Wherever you choose Harry. And whichever you are most comfortable with… The dynamic of conversation should take priority on that choice… Hopefully they’ll get to different places…


    That’s possible. As I say over on Brassneck, none should forgo their personal conscience, Labour trained or no…

    But if there were to prove to be systematic connecting points then we could be talking about a very messy road ahead…

    Just think what havoc you could wreak here? With each party looking for moles in their rivals constituencies…

    What holds it together is the Civil Service code and (I suppose) the thought it could lead to mutually assured destruction…

  • Mick

    Good piece, it is interesting that the media in the main has failed to follow the real story here, instead seeing it as another bash the government tale. Serious questions need to be asked as to the relationship between senior tory politicians, leaking civil servants and certain pro tory journalists. All this huffing from Cameron is designed is to frighten plod off the scent.

  • Mick Fealty

    There might be something in that Mick… But I couldn’t possibly comment… Not yet at least…

  • veritas

    This is a shocking development. The primacy of Parliamentary democracy is at threat.

    Brown at present has said that he and his party knew nothing about these arrests…

    I`ll wait for the “e-mail” that will arise that proves that Brown`s government where well aware of the pending arrest..

  • baslamak
  • Mick Fealty


    As will I. We may just be disappointed though… This is all playing out in a vacuum. At this stage of the investigation, the only people who know what’s going on is the people under investigation, the Speakers Office, and the Police.

    If the Government does know more than that then they are and should be toast. But that is not the only possible outcome…

  • Harry Flashman

    “All this huffing from Cameron is designed is to frighten plod off the scent.”

    Oh come on mick, are you saying this is all just blown up by the Tories? Ask Tony Benn, Nick Clegg, Denis McShane, Jeremy Corbyn, Tory bastards all no doubt, what they think of this and they’ll let you know in no uncertain terms the dreadful implications of what has just happened.

    Just because the BBC ignores a story (8am Today Programme headlines this morning: Mumbai, Thai airports, OPEC oil price fixing convention, Brazil rain forest conference, Argentinian scandal from the 1980’s, couple of trainee rozzers selling drugs and the death of a Wal-Mart staff member in New York – no mention of the most egregious assault on Parliament in 300 years) doesn’t mean it’s not a story, the internet is alive with this, they simply cannot suppress this issue any longer and it is not a “Tory” issue, check out Comment is Free in the Guardian if you doubt me.

  • baslamak


    Parliamentarians in the UK do not have immunity from arrest, if they are accused of committed a crime what are you saying, the police should not act accordingly. Should they be treated with kid gloves because they are parliamentarians, whilst the rest of us get a hand on the shoulder and your nicked and off to the cells we go?

    Surly not. If Green and Cameron have nothing to fear the former will be exonerated, is that not what they would tell their constituents. But what Cameron is demanding is that green be exonerated for simply being a member of parliament and that is not on imo.

    It is interesting he has not chosen to make a Statement to the House on this matter. (unless I have missed it) for one would have thought given he is making much of his parliamentary status Westminister should be his first port of call, not certain editorial offices.

    As to what people like Benn etc say that is for them.

  • Harry Flashman

    No, MPs like priests, doctors and lawyers are not above the law, but they are still entitled to “privilege” ie they are allowed to carry out their jobs without the police interfering.

    This was a blatant example of political policing and well you know it, the Labour party spun leaks like billy-oh when they were in opposition, last week they leaked the PBR announcements without the least problem, are you suggesting that Robert Peston of the BBC should have his office raided and he and his bosses in the BBC should be arrested? Peston seems to be remarkably well informed about government policy that the rest of us don’t know about, how do you think that is?

    This was political policing at its most brazen, if you accept this then you must be prepared for the Tories to do the same thing when they get into power.

    I don’t accept it because I believe in freedom and liberty, you might be happy to accept a police state, that’s fine but please don’t believe that the rest of us are sheep like you.

  • Mick Fealty

    That privilege has to be upheld by the Speaker to be of any use to an individual member.

  • baslamak

    Out of interest, have the Tories asked if the speaker was informed prior to Mr Green’s arrest.

  • Jimmy Sands

    I don’t think you can cry “political policing” simply because an MP gets his collar felt. He may be entirely innocent of course but if it turns out that he did indeed manage to persuade a civil servant to spy on the Home Secretary on a regular basis, not on any great moral issue but simply for bog standard knockabout point-scoring, then it seems difficult to me to argue that only the (apparently junior) bureaucrat should be the only one to suffer. Moreover should any inducement have been involved then he may not want to make any long term plans.

  • Greenflag

    ‘but they are still entitled to “privilege” ie they are allowed to carry out their jobs without the police interfering.’

    So if an MP is breaking the law he is allowed to continue having this privilige unmolested whereas the average Brit is arrested and thrown into jail ?

    So the ‘priviliged ‘ must have their freedom whereas the hoi polloi get it in the neck ?

    Freedom ye can’t beat it eh 😉

    It’s a police matter so presumably of Martin has exceeded his ‘powers’ he won’t be returned with a larger majority at the next hustings ?

    BTW. I did’nt know you were a supporter of Marie Antoinette and noblesse oblige and all that . Lady Astor would have been a fan of HF back in the 1930’s ;(

  • Comrade Stalin

    I’m less concerned about an MP being arrested (an enquiry is to be expected if it is found that there were no serious grounds for this), but more concerned about the suggestion that anti-terror laws are being used. We were told, and we are still being told (such as during the 42-day debate) that the legislation couldn’t be used except where it was strictly necessary to deflect a terrorist threat. I hope that people will remember to hold the government to account on this.

  • Gorbals Mick

    I must go now!

    (Test word: fact)

  • Baz está fresco em Vermont

    “So if an MP is breaking the law he is allowed to continue having this privilige unmolested whereas the average Brit is arrested and thrown into jail ?”

    If Zanu Labour can arrest him, they can put me or somebody else in *prison*, that’s the scary bit. I’ll tell you something else,

    SF, APNI, SDLP, or perhaps evewn the DUP, are going to try to help, or risk much, for anybody clinked re: immigration, education, corruption in public office, or kindred.

    I have anything up to a dozen police officers, dog team, waiting at ports, that’s the sort of harassment, I face on a trip to Britain, and they are there exclusively for me.

    Once they came up to me, in the street, in Scotland, and advised I needed to hurry up, or I might miss a sailing!

    That’s service.

  • Jimmy Sands

    No anti-terror laws were involved in this case.

  • Baz está fresco em Vermont

    Look, if it is brigade strength policing, what’s the difference, jeepers,

    Some people! did you want him taken to Castlereagh for dry toast and a solid hiding?

    We should just be grateful he didn’t have an office in Stormont.

    Would Sir Reg have to resign for ‘negotiating’ with ‘a party of spies’ or something.

  • Who Am I?

    I made my name using leaked Treasury documents.
    I serve in the Cabinet with a member who insisted she could not be arrested for doing 93 miles per hour as she was on her way on Parliamentary business.
    I have lived in 10 Downing Street since the 1997 election.