Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Tories Must Avoid the Bear Traps

Having just watched the Ten O'Clock News I feel uneasy. I just get the feeling that some people in the Tory Party are getting far too cocky about the the complete misjudgement by the Police and the Government over Damian Green. I looked on with a degree of horror at the pictures from the Shadow Cabinet when Dominic Grieve was reading out Jackie Smith's letter. I'm not even sure the release of the video was a particularly brilliant PR move. It showed nothing apart from a police officer asking the camera to leave.

Tomorrow is an important day. Responsibility and decorum are called for. The Speaker should be heard and not heckled. This must not be allowed to degenerate into a purely partisan attack on a Labour Speaker. All that will achieve is for Labour MPs to circle him with their wagons. The Speaker can rightly be criticised for many things, but misbehaviour by angry politicians tomorrow will do nothing to convince people that Parliament remains the pre-eminent debating chamber in the country.

But The Speaker has a responsibility too. He owes Members of Parliament both an explanation and an apology. If he strikes the wrong tone and appears arrogant and haughty then he will deserve the consequences which will undoubtedly follow.

Bear traps are being laid for the Tories. Tomorrow is a day for cool heads. Understandably, this issue has provoked much anger and there will no doubt be some on display tomorrow. But I hope it does not degenerate into something uglier, which can only do damage to politics as a whole.


kenny murphy said...

On Newsnight the shadow cabinet footage potrays them as chuckling schoolboys.

Brown sounding statesmanlike and looking much better groomed these days...

trevorsden said...

Ms Smith seems to be getting her ideas of how to behave from watching 'Spooks'

West Ham Shirt said...

"Brown sounding statesmanlike and looking much better groomed these days...

December 02, 2008 10:41 PM

That'll be the embalming fluid.

Travis Bickle said...

Apparently the Sun tomorrow reports on a letter from Smith to Cameron accusing him of being unfit for high office.

The words pot, black and kettle come to mind.

Old Holborn said...

I'd like to see the Tory's armed with pitchforks tomorrow, not sitting around like a Parish Council upset because a police dog did a poop in the childrens playground.

cherami said...

Ian Dale is right.

Labour have scored a grotesque own goal; let them pick the ball out of the net in sympathetic silence.

The Tories best tactic would be to sit with their arms crossed and say nothing except have two or three nominated 'grandees' ask questions.
If it is a bear pit, Labour win.

Jabba the Cat said...

"I just get the feeling that some people in the Tory Party are getting far too cocky about the the complete misjudgement by the Police and the Government over Damian Green."

I suspect that Richard North's analysis, that everyone has dismissed, is probably right on the barrel head.

Dominic Allkins said...

That'll be the embalming fluid.


BTW - where is MacAvity? Anyone seen him?

WV: fible (make of that what you will)

Doug said...

There is simply nothing Martin can say that will redeem him. This isn't one incident it is the culmination of a long list of dishonour he has brought to his office. If by the end of the day Martin hasn't announced his resignation then all those who care for our democracy should metaphorically storm the Bastille.

In every disreputable scandal the Labour party have been involved in the Tories have sat back and never closed the deal of Labour's corruption and complete lack of fitness for office. They have been cowed by the Labour bully tactics and as everyone knows you have to stand up to bully. The Green scandal is not a partisan issue and strikes at the very heart of our parliamentary democracy. If the Tories won't stand up to defend it in a full throated manner then they don't deserve the trust or the votes of the people to form the next government and certainly not my trust or vote.

jailhouselawyer said...

The Newsnight coverage was very good with Ken Livingstone, Ken MacDonald and Michael Howard sparring, Paxo ref and wind up merchant, with producer feeding him through his earpiece.

For myself, I blog why

Dominic Grieve is no judge of Damian Green's innocence

and that he should face arrest.

Jonathan said...

Yes - Grieve looked cocky.

After him - I think some automaton came on. I switched off - he wasn't in lip sync - I was just hoping he wasn't a Conservative as he (out of the corner of my eye - whilst my other half was talking 'at' me) appeared like the Tory-Boy character Harry Enfield used to do.

mutleythedog said...

I slightly disagree, I found the footage of the wooden and non-reactive female scene of crime officer/evidence collector photographing box files to be chilling in the extreme...like there was a real crime or something.. maybe one day they will be photographing your flat to compile a file for the CPS Iain? I do hope not...

Adam Penny said...

I agree that the footage didn't add much to the sum of human knowledge, but on the other hand with the short attention span of the modern journalist it keeps interest up.

I don't think it did any harm either the whole reading out of her statement as it was patently ridiculous. The letter smacked of hubris to me.

I'm hoping that the speaker will end up resigning tomorrow. Labour having two speakers in a row was an appalling break with tradition, never mind the fact that I can't think of a speaker who has been at the centre of so many controversies.

BrianSJ said...

I'm with OH. I have had no sense that the Tories show any sense of anger or caring about this matter. It is a bit of a wheeze. Dominic Grieve seems to be no more competent than Jackboots.

Kilvert said...

If there's not a satisfactory outcome Wednesday then I suggest everyone makes there way to Heathrow to close it down with a sit in until Brown and his goons call an election.

Wrinkled Weasel said...

This is a post where my first reaction is to conclude that Iain knows best. Really.

And then I look at some of the central characters in this, particularly The Speaker. He has serially brought the office into disrepute, but what of the Green affair?

We are told that he agreed to allow the police to enter and search the office of a member of the Shadow Cabinet. Presumably they explained that this was the result of a complaint about leaks from the Government, hardly something that even Michael Martin wouldn't hear warning bells ringing. This scenario, by the way, is predicated on the public position that nobody in Government knew the raid was on the cards, which I don't believe for a minute.

Let us suppose that Mr Martin was surprised and shocked. Let us suppose that, instead of rolling over, he considered the implications. In that situation, it is a certainty that he would have put in an emergency call to the Home Secretary. After all he was in shock over the police raid of the Mother of Parliaments, whose sanctity he is charged with protecting and this raid has political ramifications. So he calls the Home Sec, who is shocked and surprised that Damien Green is in the frame. Martin is saying, "This is delicate, this could impact enormously". Smith is saying, "Yes, put the investigating officer on the line. I am going to ask him why he is there, and what the scope of his investigation is."

That is what should have happened. Instead, nobody did anything, even question it.

Can you believe that? Neither can I.

In the circumstances, which were extraordinary, talk about the sanctity of Parliament and due process are a bit lame, don't you?

I am sorry that Iain is towing the line, quite obviously the line, that everyone should remain calm and not cause a fuss.

You deserve four more years of Labour.

Jimmy said...

Labour having two speakers in a row was an appalling break with tradition

What tradition would that be?

whoissecretdubai said...


Do you, by any chance, happen to know who Secret Dubai (the blogger: secretdubai.blogspot.com) is?


DespairingLiberal said...

What has happened is extreme and it is bizarre. It is an assault on our democracy.

The video clip I think has chilled the public. It really brought home to people the enormity of what has happened. Many people are questioning the venality and indifference shown by Smith & Brown with their line that they "cannot interfere with a police investigation", as if the police are somehow free to harass anyone including MPs in an investigation launched by the government in a case where they are merely embarassed by a leak!

They even lie about the leak repeatedly, claiming it was "sensitive" information as if it's a national security issue.

I feel as evidently do many Tories (and MPs of other parties in the House) that backs are up against the wall and this is close to do or die time.

I'm sorry Iain, but I fail to see how being nice within Parliamentary norms, making a few well chosen remarks and politely requesting a debate will change anything. Next time someone leaks, everyone will be very, very careful not to have anything to do with it. That is what the government wants.

Note the weasel words from Gus O'Donnell this morning, quoted on the BBC, "But Cabinet Secretary Sir Gus O'Donnell insisted internal systems were in place for staff to raise "matters of concern". As if the machine would have taken the slightest notice of attempts to get them to stop issuing false statistics that hide the truth from the public!

Faustus said...

I agree with Doug, Wrinkled Weasel, Despairing Liberal and others, and disagree with Iain.

The Tories should stop accommodating this government and start opposing it 'robustly'.

They could start by showing the faces in the video of the out-of-control policemen raiding Green's office.

Why were the faces obscured?

The Tories act as if they are constantly afraid of something.


Lady Finchley said...

I agree with Iain. As much as it would extremely satisfying to protest with dramatic flourish those who think this is what should be done have no real idea of the fierce tribal loyalties in politics and in the House in particular. Just think how they all caved in on 42 days detention and the 10p affair. In my view the Home Secretary is fast on the way to hanging herself but Gorbals Mick will hang on as will Brown. If it is a matter of bringing down the Government don't expect any help from Labour - it is like turkeys voting for Christmas.

Lady Finchley said...

Oh, and just read Jailhouse Lawyer's blog on Dominic Grieve. Oh dear - reading law books in prison does not a lawyer make.
Jailhouse Lawyer, once agaoin hoisted by his own petard.

DespairingLiberal said...

Lady Finchley, point taken, but we should be looking ahead to the General Election and not over-fussing about parliamentary outcomes in the meantime. If the Tories go soft and roll over on this one, they will lose votes. If they look like battlers, the public will side with them. Same goes for the LibDems.

Iain makes good points but I sometimes feel he is a bit too much in the Westminster Village hothouse and not so much in touch with life outside the M25.

strapworld said...


Just watch the short clip again of the search. The arrogance shown towards the MP who is quickly ushered out of the room.

Nobody knows what they did in there. Nobody knows what they read, copied, took. What they planted.

It was as dangerous for those police officers as it is for our constitution. Goodness knows they are stupid. They should have had the MP as a witness to what they did. All manner of allegations could be made about them.

NOW, think if they can do this to an MP what about you and me?

As for Grieve, he has one of those unfortunate faces that appears to be smiling or smirking when serious. He cannot change that BUT it does not come across well.

If this is what Cameron considers a fight back, though, I am concerned. I just think this afternoon will be a really big damp squid. Cameron will let us all down. I worry about his 'leadership'

But, I am prepared to come on here and apologise if I am incorrect.

Mike Hobday said...

Does anyone have the shadow cabinet video link. I doubt Iain will post it!

not an economist said...

I think there would be a fall coming for the Tories. Remember - Mandleson and Campbell have now had 5 days (Friday to Teusday inclusive) to come up with their soundbites and, as you say, bear traps, before this parliamentary debate. I didn't think Michael Howard fared too well on Newsnight last night.

Johnny Norfolk said...

Dont agree.

The Tories have been far to timid. They need to take the gloves off for a fight.

The Tories need to think hard about what they do but they must be strong very strong.

They should be very angry about what Labour has done as most of us are.

Show no weakness, show no mercy and start to destroy Labour as Labour did to the Tories in the latr 90s.
Do this and Torry ratings will go through the roof.

Man in a Shed said...

The Green affair shows the Labour leadership in its true dishonest and shameless anti-democratic colours.

But the real bear ( or elephant ) trap is the talk about the Euro.

There's no chance of it happeneing - its a Lord Mandymort trap to get the Cosnervative party of pointing out the massive failure and betrayal of our country by his renewed friend Gordon 'insane debt levels' Brown.

not an economist said...

Johny Norfolk:

The startegy you suggest is fine for the economy nad no doubt other areas. But for thDamien Green affair - well I dont know what Mandy has planned but it seems to me Labour could get away with portraying this as a reckless opposition soliciting leaked information by using Tory plants in the govt bureaucratic machine. I agree Cameron et al DO need to challenge the govt on this but they need to be carefeul. And I dont think pompous references back to what the speaker did in the civil war will help. As Livingstone said last night - We're not living in the middle of a civil war at the moment.

Man in a Shed

I agree. As soon as I heard about this on the news I thought a trap was being laid for the tories so splits in the Tory party could be shown up. I guess the last thing Mandy wants is for the likes of Clark to be back on board and another flare up on Europe could stop that happening. The Tories need to ensure their response is measured, shtg both wings of the Tories can agree on. If thats possible.

Tim said...

Hammersmith & Fulham Council are investigating a council over an alleged leak to opposition councillors of a massive cuts plan

I look forward to the shadow cabinets full support in this matter

after all the whistle blower is about democracy

Iain Dale said...

Tim, no one is saying leaks shouldn't be investigated. If I were Hone Secretary I'd have wanted it looked into as well. Arresting an MP for receiving and using the information (which wasn't important enough to fall under the OSA, it should be added) is a totally OTT reaction.

Vienna Woods said...

I quite believe that the Harpy meeting held yesterday to organise Labour and their Lackies to "start singing from the same hymn sheet", resulted in the disclosure to ITN that the report to the Met came from the Cabinet Office and stated the case involved a breach of national security.

Of course this ruse will be used as the excuse for involving the police. Case closed!

Of course all telephone messages into NSY are recorded. Any bets that the tapes have disappeared, or have been inadvertantly damaged.

Elby the Beserk said...

Good to hear Mandelson making all sorts of claims on R4 this morning, on a matter which is presumably sub judice.

Indeed, the whole farrago has the stench of Mandy about it.

Man in a Shed said...

Having just walked the kids to school _ I thought a bit more about this.

What Labour are afraid of is their own back benchers (hello Diane Abbott ) and the ideological supporters in the media ( ie the The Guardian, BBC, and more and more the Telegraph ).

Hence they want to make the arrest of an opposition MP a partisan issue. So we get the likes of Ken Livingstone on Newsnight trying to score points, and ignore his principles ( assuming he had any - but I would have thought red ken was against MPs being pulled in by the old bill on fishing expeditions ).

Vienna Woods said...

I've just been speaking with my son who is a a Detective Chief Inspector. We were talking about the Damian Green affair and the Conservative video of the search. He reckons that ejecting legitimate people while conducting a search is highly irregular and that anything seized should be itemized and signed for, otherwise the evidence could be inadmissible. He also added that the presence of a legitimate person prevents any possibility of 'gardening'.

I didn't click immediately when my son used the term 'gardening'. Apparently is is an in-house term for 'planting'. Nuff said!

dalesman said...

Mandy was on the Today programme this morning and was really stoking the fire.
The Tories need to beware, this affair now has Mandy & Campbells paws all over it.

Dick the Prick said...

I quite like the giggling schoolboys analogy. Ofcourse this is a severe breach of rules, procedure, priveledge but mainly etiquette. It highlights organizations without leadership or strategic direction.

It's not necessary to focus on a blame culture except that of the Labour hierarchy who have no idea how to bloody administer things. The police made an humungous mistake but i'm sure it was in the best of intentions.

I think the scary thing is that nothing is run properly, councils, defense, DfID, PCT's, home office, rozzers, DWP, treasury, BoE - you bloody name it and they don't have a clue what they're supposed to be doing and are having to improvise on the job.

The Tories have greater problems than a chap being inconvenienced for a bit.

Lady Finchley said...

Despairing Liberal, Strapworld etc

Yes, we should be looking towards a General Election which is why we should NOT be forcing votes of confidence we won't win.

And, Strapworld, I wouldn't worry about DC's leadership if I were you - he is one tough cookie behind the deceptively smooth face.

Adam Penny said...

What tradition would that be?

Of recent years Parliament had taken to alternating speakers between the two main parties. Not written in stone, but a useful way of keeping the appearance of the post non-partisan. The pattern was broken with Michael Martin.

DiscoveredJoys said...

If I put my tin foil conspiracy hat on I see the Damian Green arrest as a deliberate ploy by senior NuLabour to skewer the Tories. On one hand the Tories have their loyalty to one of their own, and on the other hand they have their automatic respect for Laura Norder.

However the underpants-on-head cock-up theory also works. Someone very high in NuLabour petulantly swiped at an annoying midge and accidentally knocked the ming vase off the table.

Whichever theory is true, in the aftermath the NuLabour spin machine is whirling at super-turbo-nutter speed.

I agree with Iain that the Tories should avoid the bear traps if there is nothing to gain but this will only maintain the status quo. To challenge a bully you have to strike back with overwhelming force, so the question for the Tories is whether the Damian Green Affair is the first blow in the run up to the election - or not.

There are many people who would support the Tories on a roll-back-the-state ticket. More so I expect than the economic issues. By the time the General Election comes round much of NuLabours economic record will be old news, but ID cards, phone call database, no modern Bill of Rights, Terror Legislation, failure to hold EU treaty referendum, out-of-control policing - all of these can be melded into a powerful challenge against big-statism.

There are few people outside Westminster who believe that MPs are above the law, but many people who believe that the police have become politicised and opressive. Is the Damian Green affair the trigger for the push back?

African Mum said...

Your bipartisan approach is very decent but really surprising in the circumstances. Tories are still playing by Queensbury rules, Labour are punching below the belt. When are the Tories going to start fighting Labour, a party that actually wants the Tories to cease to exist?

Stuart said...

Apparently Jill Pay, the Serjeant at Arms, gives the order to slam the doors of the Commons on Black Rod, as he approaches.

Do you think she might just let him in this time?

Bugledog said...

People are sick of this government and want to see a robust opposition. The only person who i feel is actually capable of attcking Labour is David Davis. Everyone else seems so bloody wet! We can not let this corrupt government set the agenda on this matter.

not an economist said...

I thought the video was a waste of time tbh. I watched it and thought "so what". It amounted to:

Tory walks into office.

Investigating officer tells him to go away.

Tory does so.

End of.

Had the officer got his truncheon/batton/stazer out and given the party official a good kicking then that would have been sthg to watch. But no.

Pretty uneventful really.

Although I now appreciate the point made elsewhere on this site that it was irregular for the officer stop a witness to what he was doing accessing the room.

Jimmy said...

Arresting an MP for receiving and using the information (which wasn't important enough to fall under the OSA, it should be added) is a totally OTT reaction.

Indeed it would be.

Jake said...

I disagree. Let it get ugly I say. If you just sit back and let these things happen they will become the norm.
Today is a day to sceam and shout.

Reporter said...

Jacqui Smith is simply lying.
I have sent David Cameron and Nick Clegg more than enough evidence that MP's are being monitored and via email and phone calls with the US and UK government being at the centre of this.
Here is a link to a trace I sent to both opposition party's that shows that even a Labour party MP was being intercepted. I was called and told that this was being investigated and I sent many documents of proof.
Here is one of those documents in video form if it is allowed to be displayed, if it is click on HD for high definition and maximise the video and see where the email are being intercepted on this accasion on behalf of the US or UK government. If more evidence is needed I have lots that I sent to both opposition parties’.

Tim said...

when are we going to stop councils sacking council officers who whistle blow

or people who expose big business

and of course Government

look forward to full support from the Shadow Cabinet

Adam Penny said...

Actually, having seen the days events I take it back what I said about that bit on the news with the tories reading the letter around a table: it did do more harm than good in the end. It was clear that splits in opinion were much more along party lines today whereas support yesterday seemed pretty bipartisan.