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
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Commercial Litigation NQ+

Very Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: NORTH HAMPSHIRE NQ to MID LEVEL - An e...

MANCHESTER - SENIOR COMMERCIAL LITIGATION -

Highly Attractive Pakage: Austen Lloyd: MANCHESTER - A highly attractive oppor...

Senior Marketing Manager - Central London - £50,000

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (Campaigns, Offlin...

Head of Marketing - Acquisition & Direct Reponse Marketing

£90000 - £135000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Marketing (B2C, Acquisition...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Norovirus the food poisoning bug that causes violent stomach flu  

A flu pandemic could decide next year’s election

Matthew Norman
J. Jayalalithaa gestures to her party supporters while standing on the balcony of her residence in Chennai. Former film star Jayalalithaa Jayaram is one of India's most colourful and controversial politicians  

The jailing of former film star Jayalalithaa Jayaram is a drama even Bollywood couldn’t produce

Andrew Buncombe
Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Why do we like making lists?

Notes to self: Why do we like making lists?

Well it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
Hong Kong protests: A good time to open a new restaurant?

A good time to open a new restaurant in Hong Kong?

As pro-democracy demonstrators hold firm, chef Rowley Leigh, who's in the city to open a new restaurant, says you couldn't hope to meet a nicer bunch
Paris Fashion Week: Karl Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'

Paris Fashion Week

Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'
Bruce Chatwin's Wales: One of the finest one-day walks in Britain

Simon Calder discovers Bruce Chatwin's Wales

One of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
10 best children's nightwear

10 best children's nightwear

Make sure the kids stay cosy on cooler autumn nights in this selection of pjs, onesies and nighties
Manchester City vs Roma: Five things we learnt from City’s draw at the Etihad

Manchester City vs Roma

Five things we learnt from City’s Champions League draw at the Etihad
Martin Hardy: Mike Ashley must act now and end the Alan Pardew reign

Trouble on the Tyne

Ashley must act now and end Pardew's reign at Newcastle, says Martin Hardy
Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?