Having just watched the video released by the Tories last night showing the police in Damien Green's Palace of Westminster office I have to say it was a pointless and pathetic video of huge proportions. Don't get me wrong, it's not that I don't think the police action in this case - especially putting at risk the confidentiality of Green's communications with his constituents - was "over the top" and constitutionally questionable*.
However, the video quality, especially the performance of the shadow Home Secretary Dominic Grieve was really hackneyed. The result being that the charge of "false outrage" and "political opportunism" becomes more salient. On that point though I should add that those who argue of "synthetic outrage" and "crocodile tears" on the grounds that such outrage didn't exist 25 years ago are doing themselves an intellectual disservice and taking their readers for idiots.
Anyone who argues that the words of a politician from political party A are inconsistent with the views expressed by political party A 25 years previously is at best disingenuous, and at worst a complete fool. It's the equivalent of blaming your parents for having you when you face misfortune. The conflation of an individual today with the views of their party 25 years previously is crap basically.
Clearly there is no doubt that Tory MPs, along with Lib Dems and some Labour are mightly pissed off at this. However, the Tories reaction to it, which was measured at first, has, thanks to the video, simply upped the ante to a point where they just look like moaning teenagers and worse still will allow those idiots arguing of false outrage argue it even more.
Having said this, there has to be a debate in the Commons about where the line should be drawn on Police action and the manner it should be carried out in the Palace of Westminster. The issue is a hot one that needs to be clarified, but as I say, thanks to the video release by the Tories it is in danger of backfiring horrifically.
Yes, there are questions that need to be answered about who knew what and when. Yes, if the Home Secretary didn't know then the question "why didn't she know" has to be answered too. And yes, perhaps there should be some sort of legislative actions to clarify the offence of "misconduct in public office" and its status in statute (which I beleive is also in question).
However, releasing a video where the shadow Home Secretary looks so wooden on the matter was a massive mistake in my view, especially when the so-called footage merely involves Andrew Mackay walking in and being asked to leave immediately. It's hardly action-packed ransacking of an office.
As I've already said, don't mistake this post for saying that the issue is not an important one that has opened a can of worms. Clearly the defintion - or atleast the understanding - of parliamentary privilege is now in question. The sanctity of the Palace of Westminister is also involved. And there is the wider question about Government in relation to leaks that, according to reports, are not covered by the Official Secrets Act.
The issue I have personally is that the video release actually belittles and undermines the importance of those questions and could actually blowback on the Tories atr a time when the questions they, and others, are raising are vitally important.
* I use "constitutionally questionable" with caution here. I have heard differing views from constitutional experts about whether parliamentary privilege can be extended to leaks and the like based on different precedents.