Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

The Met's Failure of Judgment

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

The Met's Failure of Judgment

Article excerpt

AS THE fallout from the arrest of Tory immigration spokesman Damian Green continues, it is the Metropolitan Police that looks most damaged. Sir Paul Stephenson, who authorised the ill-judged operation, was until now a front-runner to succeed Sir Ian Blair as Metropolitan Police Commissioner, and indeed has a strong track record. He is now said to be reconsidering his application. Certainly this debacle suggests a lack of the political nous necessary to head the Met.

The Met's discomfort will not, however, save ministers from embarrassment. At every level, the arrest was a disastrous error. It raises serious questions about the privileges of Parliament, if police investigating an alleged minor breach of the law can raid an MP's Commons office. It undermines the relationship of confidentiality between an MP and his constituents if police can take away computers containing private correspondence. It intimidates any other civil servants who may feel inclined in the public interest to leak instances of flagrant government incompetence.

As for the Home Secretary, it seems astonishing that she should not have known in advance that the arrest was planned. But a more likely casualty of the affair could be the Speaker of the House, Michael Martin.

He has announced that he will be making a statement on Wednesday which will presumably say whether he himself authorised the police search of Mr Green's Commons offices. Is it really possible that the Speaker either did not know about a police raid on the Commons office of an opposition frontbencher or raised no objection to it? Even if he had been told incorrectly as the Serjeant at Arms appears to have been that the arrest was approved by the Director of Public Prosecutions, he should have raised concerns about the apparent abuse of MPs' privileges. His job is to protect parliamentary freedoms.

If Mr Martin did indeed authorise the raid, then his position is untenable. That would cause the Government discomfort. …

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