The events surrounding the arrest of Damien Green have caused a political storm amongst parliamentarians. From the Labour government we have heard that Ministers had "no prior knowledge" of the arrests, though the permanent secretary of the Home Office instituted the leak investigation, and that the "operational independence" of the police should not be questioned or circumscribed. These lines were agreed quickly by the government's news management team have held for now.
The police raid was undertaken by twenty counter-terrorist officers on the specious common law grounds that would seem to give them carte blanche to target anyone and everyone. From this base, and with the Speaker's permission, they seized Damien Green's constituency material and disenfranchised his electorate. The timing of the raid, at a time when parliamentary privileges are at their weakest and coincidental with the resignation of Sir Ian Blair, speaks volumes.
Whoever know about the raid does not detract from a number of points.
- There is no longer a clear distinction between the state and the Labour party after thirteen years in power. The government has extended its powers through legislation and no longer recognises distinct checks and balances, using bureaucratese to institutionalise an illiberal, authoritarian, secretive and arbitrary state. This is an aim of their civil service counterparts, and even if Jacqui Smith did not know, it is clear that she has no capability of combating the authoritarian objectives of the Home Office.
- The police have obtained more powers over the last twelve years then in the previous twenty and can use them to harass individuals and political parties, though this depends upon the whims of the local Chief Constable. Traffic Taliban, anyone? Uncontrolled state institutions with wide and undefined powers can run riot as their own agendas spin out and away from their political masters. From the current events, the Metropolitan police requires close scrutiny, as a coterie of Blairite officers (in possible cahoots with the Labour party), may be gunning for the opposition. The anti-terror legislation needs to be repealed.
If the Sunday papers provides fresh evidence that the Labour government had prior knowledge of the arrest or that the police were politically motivated in undertaking this arrest, then the constitutional wreckage of Thrusday will be recast in a more sinister light. Then the probability that Gordon Brown will be willing to use the powers of the state on a wider scale to hobble and undermine the opposition is increased, up to using the enabling act. But we can ask if Britain is now an illiberal democracy.
On a positive note, the abuse of power widens the constituency opposed to the arbitrary and frightening tools of surveillance that have been pooled together by this government. What a shame that it takes the Daily Mail rather than the Guardian or the Independent to champion our liberties. Our politics are now so embittered and twisted that left-wing pundits prefer to piss on our liberties rather than forsake their party. They need to be cast out in the cold for more than a generation till they learn that it is my country not my party: right or wrong.