Over the past ten years, whenever Tony Blair has been faced with embarrassing or serious leaks, he has called in the Cabinet Secretary, senior civil servants, private detective agencies, special branch, Mi5 and GCHQ to investigate leaks.
60 Leak Inquiries in First 3 Years. In the first three years of the Labour Government, 60 leak investigations were ordered by Whitehall departments. There were nine leak inquiries alone in the Home Office in the first three years under Jack Straw (The Guardian, 14 February 2000). These included inquiries into: a leak to the Guardian of a memo from Jack Straw watering down provisions in the Freedom of Information Bill; a leak to the Telegraph of the outcome of the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry; and even a leak from the Cabinet Office into David Clark's first-class air trip to Australia and New Zealand as part of fact finding tour into freedom of information legislation.
Government ‘out of touch’. In July 2000, Blair called in GCHQ officials to help with a leak inquiry after a series of memos – including one from Blair saying voters perceived the Government as ‘somehow out of touch with gut British instincts’ - were leaked (Sunday Mirror, 23 July 2000)
Britain must join Euro. In July 2000, Blair ordered a full leak inquiry after a memo was leaked saying Britain would face ‘meltdown’ if it didn’t join the Euro (Downing Street AM Lobby Briefing, 4 July 2000).
£850,000 makeover for Downing Street. In July 2002, Tony Blair ordered a leak inquiry after a £850,000 makeover refurbishment for Downing Street – including new study for Cherie; luxury wallpaper; and glass-fronted period bookshelves – were leaked (Sunday Times, 7 July 2002)
Cabinet Splits Over ID Cards. In August 2004, Tony Blair called in a private detective agency to assist in investigating 26 leaks to the Sunday Times in 15 months, which included leaks on: Cabinet splits over ID cards with Jack Straw describing plans as ‘flawed’; Cabinet disagreements over liberalising licensing laws after figures showed alcohol-related violence was soaring; Blair’s concerns that public sector efficiency is worsening; awarding honours to celebrities to ‘add interest’; and concerns over America’s strategy for post-war Iraq (Sunday Times, 8 August 2004).
Other Cabinet Ministers Leak Inquries. Blunkett - Abolishing Trial by Jury. In July 2002, David Blunkett ordered a ‘full scale leak inquiry’ after plans to abolish trial by jury were leaked ahead of the White Paper’s publication (Birmingham Post, 15 July 2002).
Byers – ‘Burying Bad News’. Stephen Byers had two leak inquiries surrounding Jo Moore after she said September 11 was a ‘very good day’ to ‘bury’ bad news. The initial email was leaked, and he had a second leak inquiry after a further email surrounding Princess Margaret’s funeral as
another day to ‘bury’ bad statistics was leaked a year later (Evening Standard, 14 February 2002).
Gordon Brown – Objecting to Turner’s proposals. In November 2005, Gordon Brown ordered a leak inquiry into how his letter objecting to Lord Turner’s pension proposals was leaked (Sunday Telegraph, 27 November 2005). Most recently, Gordon Brown reportedly ordered a ‘high-level leak inquiry’ after Conservatives announced plans for a 3p cut in corporation tax ahead of the Budget (Daily Telegraph, 23 March 2007).
Pretty devastating stuff. So why no leak inquiry now Tony, eh? Something to hide?