The EU

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Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Protecting our Democracy

I started out wanting to talk about being on LTC with George Anthes, minus George, and then shifted to the EMail I received about the Holocaust no longer being taught in Britain (more on that later, but for now, not exactly true), and then I thought I should blog about Anthropologists behaving badly, but then I came across an item about abuse of Government Power in the UK.

I found this via Instapundit, who linked to a longer item by Roger Kimball.

To try and sum it up from afar, the Conservative Party, being in the opposition, has a "Shadow Minister" for each cabinet office and his or her job is to go after the Government when they find error or incompetence. The Shadow Minister for the Home Office (a sort of combination Department of Homeland Security, the CIA and the FBI) is the Honorable Damien Green, MP. After having a go at the Government in Parliament, Mr Green was arrested on 27 November and held by the British Police Anti-Terrorist Specialists (20 of them) and questioned for nine hours and had his home occupied and his computer and papers examined. (Apparently his daughter wandered in after school and thus she got entered into a database that includes children whose homes have been visited by the police.) After nine hours he was released without having been charged. For me the most unfortunate part of this is that the Speaker of the House let the police examine his Parliamentary offices.

The reason for this police action (or over reaction) has to do with two areas, "aiding and abetting misconduct in public office" and ""conspiring to commit misconduct in a public office." That is to say, his questions about bad Government performance were based on information leaked by one or more civil servants. Imagine if in the United States the Executive Branch went after every leaker and every Senator and Representative who received leaks--Congress would shut down, and the Press as well. The New York Times would be spending all its time cooperating with the Police, as they say.

When an interviewer on a Sunday talk show began addressing the Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, about this, she gave a long and rambling response that essentially said that the Police are independent and do what they want. Now that is scary. In contrast, Mr Kenneth Clarke, QC, MP, a former Home Secretary (Conservative) said if he had been informed of such an act his reaction "would have been horrified fury."

Roger Kimball linked to this opinion piece in The Telegraph, by Janet Daley, who talks to it from the point of view of a conservative newspaper on the scene. But, over at The Manchester Guardian, a definite left wing paper, Columnist Henry Porter has at the Government. On the other hand, there is this defense in the same Guardian, by Vernon Bogdanor, a Constitutional Scholar at Oxford. I am not buying it.

I would be interested in seeing what Polly Toynbee of The Guardian has to say, but so far, nothing.

What I consider to be a generally reliable source regarding civil rights that looks at both sides of the Atlantic, Samizdata, has two pertinent posts:

Brian Macklethwait, who quotes Matthew Parris:
For me, Thomas à Becket and Canterbury Cathedral spring to mind. I picture an infuriated Prime Minister bellowing at a flat-screen television: "Will nobody rid me of these troublesome leaks?" Who the four knights were who took it upon themselves to act upon the presumed wishes of a maddened monarch, we may never know, but when Mr Brown insists that he didn't actually know, it is possible to believe him.
And Philip Chaston

After seeing what the Labor Government did with regard to Damian Green, or allowed to happen, or at least failed to apologize for, I am not as outraged at the protections given to Congressman William Jefferson (D-Louisiana), the man with the $90,000 in cold cash in his home freezer. Back in May 2006 the Republican leadership of the House got its back up over the question of the FBI looking around Congressman Jeffferson's House offices. The Speaker told the President that he was violating the separation of powers by asking to search the office.

Democracy is a somewhat fragile flower and needs to be protected by all the practitioners. As some Brit quipped, "It is enough to make me vote Tory."

Regards -- Cliff

PS While looking over The Guardian I came across an opinion piece by WBZ's own Dan Kennedy. A local guy goes international.

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