MPs demanded protection from a 'police state' last night after the heavy-handed arrest of a Tory frontbencher shocked Westminster. Extraordinary details of four simultaneous raids on immigration spokesman Damian Green's homes and offices raised urgent questions about the independence of Parliament. The Oxford-educated father of two girls, who denies any wrongdoing, was fingerprinted and required to give a DNA sample before being released on bail after nine hours.
Police seized his mobile phone, his BlackBerry, bank statements, computers containing confidential details of constituents, and were only prevented from carrying off legal documents by his wife, a barrister. Officers even leafed through the couple's love letters.
The tactics of Scotland Yard investigating a series of leaks that had no bearing on national security and served only to embarrass Labour were compared to those used in Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe. Last night, the row between police and Parliament was turning into a political crisis for Gordon Brown, who faced accusations of standing by while the rights of MPs were being trampled. Ministers struggled to dispel suspicions that they knew in advance about the plan to arrest Mr Green, amid MPs' fears that the case marked another step towards the politicisation of the police.
The Tories issued a series of questions about the role of Home Secretary Jacqui Smith. Shadow Home Secretary Dominic Grieve said there were huge question marks over the claim that Mr Brown and Miss Smith had not been informed the arrest was about to take place. He said: 'It would be an astounding breakdown in the system of governance, and the linchpin doctrine of Ministerial responsibility, if Ministers were not, at the bare minimum, kept informed.'
MPs also demanded assurances from Speaker Michael Martin that he would defend their interests after it emerged that he authorised an unprecedented police search of Mr Green's office on Commons property. One called on Mr Martin to quit.
Publicly, the Prime Minister said only that his chief objective was to uphold the independence of the police. But his supporters accused the Tories of 'playing politics' with a routine police matter, and even suggested the Yard had undisclosed reasons to seize Mr Green. Thursday's raids, involving some 20 officers, were carried out on Mr Green's homes in west London and Kent, and his Commons and constituency offices. The MP was detained in Kent on suspicion of 'conspiracy to commit misconduct in a public office' and taken to London by Yard detectives ten days after a Home Office official was arrested on suspicion of leaking sensitive documents.
Police are investigating Mr Green's role in four leaks to the media over the past year - two of them to the Mail - that embarrassed the Home Office. The operation was authorised by Met Assistant Commissioner Bob Quick, Britain's most senior counter-terrorism officer. The Crown Prosecution Service was also consulted. Sources said Mr Green is suspected of actively seeking leaked information, not just receiving it.
Met Deputy Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson, who has effectively been running the Met since Sir Ian Blair announced his resignation two months ago, was briefed by Mr Quick in advance. Sir Ian, who officially stepped down yesterday, was not aware of the operation. In the 30 minutes leading up to the raids, Sir Paul rang London Mayor Boris Johnson and Tory leader David Cameron. He also notified Sir David Normington, the Home Office permanent secretary, who claimed he deliberately did not tell Home Secretary Jacqui Smith until after the arrest. The news was relayed to Mr Brown about an hour later.
By last night, Mr Green's ordeal had provoked outrage across the political spectrum, with all parties rallying to his defence. Tory MPs threatened to disrupt Wednesday's Queen's Speech debate. Veteran former Labour MP Tony Benn said the arrest of an MP amounted to a contempt of Parliament. 'Once the police can interfere with Parliament, we are into the police state,' he said.
Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg said: 'This is something you might expect from a tin-pot dictatorship, not in a modern democracy.' Tory MPs contrasted the case with that of leaks of sensitive information to BBC business editor Robert Peston. They raised suspicions that a 'mole' inside Downing Street or the Treasury had passed Mr Peston a string of market-moving banking 'scoops'.
Former Tory leader Michael Howard pointed to Mr Brown's reputation for obtaining Government leaks when he was an Opposition MP. 'If this approach had been in place when Gordon Brown was in opposition, he'd have spent half his time under arrest,' he said. Miss Smith denied that ministers had been involved in any way in the arrest of Mr Green.
British Gestapo in trouble over attempt to prosecute outspoken politician
The British police are now so politicized that they have lost all respect for free speech and individual liberty. Their latest action is a blatant threat to whistleblowers. Note that this is not their first attempt to "get" whistleblowers. Their last attempt has just been thrown out of court as a breach of a right to free speech
SCOTLAND YARD was in turmoil last night after senior police officials criticised its new boss and admitted its handling of the arrest of a Tory MP had been "catastrophic". David Blunkett, the former home secretary, called on the cabinet to review the procedures that led to the police raids on Damian Green's home and Commons office.
As the political storm grew, MPs and civil liberties groups questioned the role of Sir Paul Stephenson, who took temporary charge of the Metropolitan police when Sir Ian Blair left office last week. Stephenson was regarded as the favourite to succeed Blair, but one senior police officer described him yesterday as "easy meat". A senior official on the Metropolitan Police Authority, the Met's watchdog, said his oversight of the police inquiry into the leak of sensitive Whitehall documents to Green, the Tory immigration spokesman, raised important questions about his judgment and cast doubt over his prospects.
The official said Stephenson should have told Sir David Normington, the Home Office permanent secretary [i.e. a bureaucrat] who called in police, that leaks of nonclassified information were not a matter for a police inquiry. Normington will chair the panel that will interview and vet applicants for the job of Met commissioner. The deadline for applications is tomorrow. The police official said: "Why didn't the Met just [tell the Home Office] to use discipline and misconduct rules instead of agreeing to a criminal inquiry? What this all hinges on is judgment and proportionality. Sir Paul has got a huge problem with this. "This is a big problem for the Met. They have managed to get every main political party and everyone in the media against them. For the Met it's catastrophic. I think this could damage Sir Paul's prospects."
Be careful not to offend homosexuals, Catholic priests in Britain warned
Does that mean that they must not read from Romans chapter 1? Maybe it is really queer priests that they don't want to offend. There is said to be a lot of homosexuality at the Vatican
Roman Catholic priests have been banned from using 'heterosexist' language in their churches in case they offend gay worshippers. They have been told by their bishops not to assume that every churchgoer is a heterosexual and to reflect this 'in language and conversation'. 'Remember that homophobic jokes and asides can be cruel and hurtful - a careless word can mean another experience of rejection and pain,' say the bishops in a leaflet advising priests and worshippers how to be more welcoming to gay people. Priests are also encouraged to put up posters advertising 'support services' for homosexuals, a move bound to infuriate many Catholics who believe gay sexual activity to be sinful.
The advice was welcomed by gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell as a 'positive initiative which will bring great comfort to gay Catholics and their families'. He said: 'Its sympathetic, understanding message is a big improvement on the past homophobia of some Catholic pronouncements on homosexuality.' However, he said the 'laudable change of tone' was undermined by the 'homophobic content of the Catholic Catechism' and by Pope Benedict XVI's opposition to gay marriage.
The advice was criticised by Lynette Burrows, a Catholic commentator, as 'pitiful'. She said it was ridiculous that Church leaders appeared to be ' grovelling' to a secular agenda. 'It is things like this that are enfeebling the Church at the moment - the concentration on things that don't matter and missing the things that do,' she said. 'What is pitiful as well as demeaning is that the Church is running after homosexual opinion but nothing is going to make homosexuals like the Catholic Church. 'This is because the Catholic Church teaches that homosexuality is a disorder and whatever the bishops say will not change that.'
Media Bias in Australia
The ABC's partisan preferences are not limited to Australian politics
The taxpayer-funded Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) occupies a position in Australia similar to that enjoyed by the BBC in the United Kingdom. The ABC runs two free-to-air national television channels, four national radio networks, nine metropolitan radio stations in major cities, 51 radio stations across rural and regional Australia and a range of Internet and subscription services. No Australian commercial network approaches the ABC in terms of reach and, arguably, influence. It is well-funded, amply staffed and under more or less constant criticism for projecting a left-wing take on just about every aspect of Australian life that it touches.
Grahame Morris, a chief of staff to former conservative Prime Minister John Howard, once described the national broadcaster as, "our enemies talking to our friends." The recently retired presenter of ABC TV's national gardening show was a former member of the Communist Party. The ABC, you see, takes no chances. Even when you were invited to tiptoe through the tulips, the ABC provided an ideologically reliable guide.
Obviously, the political and cultural disposition of the national broadcaster, as it sucks up taxpayer dollars, is an important and legitimate area of public debate. The left does not see it that way. Conservative criticism of the national broadcaster's political and cultural perspectives is usually brushed off by the ABC and its friends as an attack on the "independence" of its journalists, producers and managers.
But an obligation to provide balance and diversity of opinion is enshrined in the ABC's charter; and the corporation's editorial policies and style guide set out rules for news and current affairs journalists in an attempt to ensure that the obligation is met.
The ABC's partisan preferences are not limited to Australian politics. Consider this comment in the lead up to the 2004 U.S. presidential election from Red Symons, the presenter of one of its prime time radio programs:
"774 ABC Melbourne is, of course, supporting Senator John Kerry in his endeavor to become President of the United States. We can't take sides in Australia, but I've had it from management we can take sides elsewhere in the world. We want Kerry to win."The Australian chapter of Democrats Abroad would have been chuffed to know that.
There are broadcasting codes that can be used to try to hold the ABC accountable to its charter. The process is far from satisfactory because, in the first instance, the ABC itself is the arbiter of complaints made about it. So between 2005 and 2008 the Howard Government attempted to use the Senate Estimates Committee process to take the problem of political bias straight to the corporation's managing director.
Over the three-year period, the Government tabled more than 1,000 examples of ABC journalists violating the organization's editorial guidelines and style guide?its rule books for providing fair and balanced reporting. The examples were extracted from a very small part of the network's output?the program transcripts that the ABC makes available online?and thus represented only a very small percentage of the total network programming. Unquestionably, a complete analysis of ABC output would have yielded thousands more.
A particularly egregious example of ABC mischief had occurred in February 2003 when Prime Minister Howard visited then Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri in the lead up to the war with Iraq. In a meeting with Mr. Howard, the president of the world's largest Muslim nation gave an undertaking that her Government would explain to the Indonesian public that a war on Iraq would not be regarded as a war on Islam.
However, ABC News, broadcast across Australia and beamed into Asia, that evening reported, "Well, there's support for Iraq tonight from the world's largest Muslim nation. Indonesia claims a war on Iraq would be a war on Islam." The ABC was forced to run a correction the next day, but the damage to the national interest had been done.
The Howard Government's efforts to modify the behavior of the ABC resulted in a number of smoke-and-mirrors efforts to address the issue of bias in its current affairs broadcasting. However, one year ago, the 11-year-old centre-right Liberal-National coalition of John Howard was defeated in a federal election by the centre-left Australian Labor Party (ALP) led by Kevin Rudd.
On election night, the ABC's TV anchor and network icon Kerry O'Brien, on air live from the national tally room, declared that there had been a big swing "to the ABC" in Bennelong, the electorate of Prime Minister John Howard. The gaffe, if O'Brien's comment had, indeed, been unintended, provided an eloquent metaphor for the symbiotic relationship between the ABC and the ALP. Maxine McKew, the ALP candidate who went on to win Bennelong from the prime minister, had been a 30-year veteran journalist and presenter at the ABC. She left the network at the end of 2006, laughing off suggestions that she intended to stand as a Labor candidate in the federal election.
Two months out of the ABC, McKew joined the office of Labor Party leader Kevin Rudd; and one month after that she announced her intention to contest Bennelong for the ALP.
Kerry O'Brien, the election night anchor, presents a 30-minute national current affairs program four nights a week on ABC TV. In the 1970s, O'Brien himself was on the staff of a Labor Party leader. On Sunday mornings, ABC TV presents "Insiders," a national review of the week in politics anchored by Barrie Cassidy. In the 1980s, Cassidy served as press secretary to Labor Party Prime Minister Bob Hawke. ABC Radio National has Phillip Adams, another former member of the Communist Party, covering politics and current affairs for about seven hours a week. One of his regular guests is Bruce Shapiro, contributing editor to The Nation.
The gratitude of one Labor prime minister for the election-time efforts of the ABC is recorded in the Cabinet diary of a former minister: "The ABC deserves a decent go because it has done well by the ALP in the last two elections," Labor's Paul Keating said in 1992.
The Rudd Labor Government has promised to restore a staff member to the ABC board of directors, a position that was abolished by the Howard Government. It has also said it will depoliticize the ABC board; which really means it will stack it with its own ideological allies and friends. The ABC, after almost 12 years of confrontation with a conservative foe, once again has in Canberra a government that many of its foot-soldiers are happy to believe in.
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, OBAMA WATCH (2), EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.