This has unhealthy echoes of the Plebgate affair
Why would former policemen leak details of an investigation that didn’t result in a prosecution (never mind a conviction), which took place nine years ago and where the details were incidental to the alleged act being investigated?
The answer to that is, of course, entirely speculative. It is also to a large degree irrelevant. If there was evidence of criminal wrongdoing, they should have acted at the time. If there wasn’t, they should have left it there. It is not the police’s job to enforce workplace discipline; still less is it their job to intervene in the political sphere. It’s impossible to dismiss the suspicion that there’s an element of settling an old grudge against Green both for the extent to which Bob Quick was criticised for his handling of the raid and arrest, and for Green’s victory in having his personal details subsequently removed from police files. If so, it would be wholly unacceptable for a current or former copper to use confidential information gained in his or her public duty in a private vendetta.
Indeed, I’d have thought there was a strong case to be made that these leaks breach the Data Protection Act, in that they seem to drive a coach and horses through the data protection principles.
That being the case, the public doesn’t have a right to know what is or isn’t on Green’s computer (or that of any other MP), unless what’s there is breaking the law. Yes, in other walks of life, to download porn would be a sackable offence but MPs aren’t in a normal job. For a start, they’re effectively self-employed and so there isn’t anyone to sack them bar the electorate. Nor are they paid as such for their time in their office – an MP receives the same whether he or she works 15 hours a day or does nothing for five years. How they spend their time is their business until the point where it’s for them to justify their work to the voters.
What worries me about this is the echo of Plebgate. That’s not to say that Quick or ex-PC Neil Lewis are lying – though we only have their word against Green’s, and clearly someone is – but it is to say that once again, a senior minister is under heavy political pressure because of comments that policemen (or ex-policemen) have made, which shouldn’t have been made. The political fact is that rogue elements within the police force (or formerly of it) are seeking to determine who can sit in the cabinet. Even if the numbers are tiny, twice still looks like a trend.
Green should not be sacked for something that might or might not have happened nine years ago. In fact, I’d suggest he’d be well within his rights to deny it even if it were true, simply because the story should not be in the public domain and any other response would give it credence. Whether it would be politically wise to do so is another matter.
Leaking, and the judicious use of leaks by oppositions and backbench MPs, has a long and at times noble history. It also has a murky side, into which category these allegations undoubtedly fall. They should be treated as the irrelevance they are.