Leading article: Our freedoms under threat

Share
Related Topics

There is no law, no system, no set of regulations which can more effectively hold governments to account than the conscience of man. Opposition parties, the public and the press rely on individuals, not systems, to tell us what those who rule over us would like us not to know. We call them "whistleblowers" because, like referees, they seek to keep the players in our political system in check.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown knows very well the importance of whistleblowers - his preparations for the 1996 budget debate were greatly assisted by Labour's obtaining of a copy of the document the night before. It is hoped, therefore, that if the Metropolitan Police have no case to make against shadow Immigration Minister Damian Green beyond that he used a whistleblower to bring accurate and important information into the public domain, Mr Brown will be among the first to condemn the arrest of a parliamentary colleague by the anti-terror squad.

Mr Green was interviewed for nine hours; his mobile phone and computer were seized by police, and his house, Commons and constituency offices were searched by nearly two dozen counterterrorist police, though as far as is known, their operation has nothing whatsoever to do with "terror" issues. Rather, the Met investigation centres around a junior Home Office official accused of regularly leaking memos to Mr Green, exposing serious errors by his department which included the clearing of thousands of illegal immigrants for work in sensitive Whitehall security jobs.

Crucial details about the case are still not yet known: the full extent of Mr Green's relationship with the civil servant and the full details of the information he obtained. But at first sight the Met would seem to have badly miscalculated and badly mistreated Mr Green in the process.

Following the 1996 budget debacle, leaks to Labour from 10 and 11 Downing Street became so bad than a full-scale internal investigation was launched into the issue. At no point, however, were members of the Opposition arrested by the terror squad. Had that happened, Labour members would have screamed with justifiable outrage. Now a government department eager to introduce ID cards and detention without trial, Taser guns and citizen databases, is once again exposed to the accusation that the powers and systems it has given, and seeks to give, the police are observably undermining our freedom.

As for the Met, whose commissioner, Sir Ian Blair, stepped down yesterday, they too must consider their reputation which has been damaged by numerous botched operations in recent years, not least regarding politicians and their party donors. The next commissioner must work hard to restore our confidence in the force and avoid political scandals: there were too many during Sir Ian Blair's days in command – including, as it turns out, on the final one.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Health & Safety Consultant

£16000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic and exciting opport...

Recruitment Genius: Project and Quality Manager

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is an independent ...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Sales Executive - OTE £20,625

£14625 - £20625 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This role is for an enthusiasti...

Guru Careers: Financial Controller

£45 - £55k DOE: Guru Careers: A Financial Controller is required to join a suc...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Nicky Clarke has criticised the Duchess of Cambridge for having grey hair  

Letting one’s hair turn grey would be the most subversive Royal act

Rosie Millard
 

London’s foreign money bubble is bursting – but will we be better off?

Chris Blackhurst
Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

Margaret Attwood on climate change

The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years
New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered: What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week

New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered

What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week
Oculus Rift and the lonely cartoon hedgehog who could become the first ever virtual reality movie star

The cartoon hedgehog leading the way into a whole new reality

Virtual reality is the 'next chapter' of entertainment. Tim Walker gives it a try
Ants have unique ability to switch between individual and collective action, says study

Secrets of ants' teamwork revealed

The insects have an almost unique ability to switch between individual and collective action
Donovan interview: The singer is releasing a greatest hits album to mark his 50th year in folk

Donovan marks his 50th year in folk

The singer tells Nick Duerden about receiving death threats, why the world is 'mentally ill', and how he can write a song about anything, from ecology to crumpets
Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation' over plans to overhaul reverse-chronological timeline

Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation'

Facebook exasperates its users by deciding which posts they can and can’t see. So why has Twitter announced plans to do the same?
Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag - but what else could the fashion house call it?

Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag

The star was shocked by a Peta investigation into the exotic skins trade
10 best waterproof mascaras

Whatever the weather: 10 best waterproof mascaras

We found lash-enhancing beauties that won’t budge no matter what you throw at them
Diego Costa biography: Chelsea striker's route to the top - from those who shared his journey

Diego Costa: I go to war. You come with me...

Chelsea's rampaging striker had to fight his way from a poor city in Brazil to life at the top of the Premier League. A new book speaks to those who shared his journey
Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkish President Erdogan could benefit politically from the targeting of the PKK, says Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Our choice is years of Tory rule under Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Yvette Cooper urged Labour members to 'get serious' about the next general election rather than become 'a protest movement'
Singapore's domestic workers routinely exploited and often abused in the service of rich nationals

Singapore's hidden secret of domestic worker abuse

David Cameron was shown the country's shiniest veneer on his tour. What he didn't see was the army of foreign women who are routinely exploited and often abused in the service of rich nationals
Showdown by Shirley Jackson: A previously unpublished short story from the queen of American Gothic

Showdown, by Shirley Jackson

A previously unpublished short story from the queen of American Gothic
10 best DSLRs

Be sharp! 10 best DSLRs

Up your photography game with a versatile, powerful machine