Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Releasing the Police video was silly

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.


It Will Come to Me said...

Sadly the Tories are lead by a PR wallah so what do you expect. Pity DD isn't in charge.

Anonymous said...

Couldn't agree more. Sometimes saying less is more powerful. The video doesn't even show anything of interest.

On a separate techy/computing point ('cos you seem to like them), some people have claimed that by removing PCs, paper files and disabling his email account, Damien Green is effectively unable to do his job. This seems to be a stong arguement.

Leaving aside the issue of the paper files, I don't understand why removing the PCs and disabling the email account was necessary.

Couldn't the police simply take a full disk image of the PC hard drive?

And why disable the email account? I can see why they may want copies of saved emails but why disable the account? What purpose does it serve?

Any ideas?

Anonymous said...

I agree that it was silly - but compared with the original outrage the silliness is trivial. No doubt Labour will try to exploit the video but they are on very thin ice.

dizzy said...

Disk image would only record the availabel date and not the zero'd data. Taking the disk means you can forensically analyse the "empty" space for "deleted" content. Of course if Green had been clever and overwritten data ten tiems with zeros it would be difficult to retrieve anyway.

Anonymous said...

I disagree, the video shows that due process was ignored by the police. There is of course the over the top use of Police time to investigate the non-crime. This isn't a local bobby poping his head through the doorway, this was an expensive, heavy handed and abusive use of the Police for political gain, the public need to SEE this for what it is...

dizzy said...

"the video shows that due process was ignored by the police"

How pray tell does the video show that exactly?

"the public need to SEE this for what it is"

See what? Ten seconds showing three policeman with gloves on saying "sorry I need to ask you to leave"? Come off it.

I should add that I'm not saying due process wasn't followed, nor that it wasn't heavy-handed or over the top. But suggesting the video shows that to be the case is... well it's bollocks frankly.

Bill said...

Whilst I accept that Grieve's performance might be considered wooden (personally, though, I didn't think it too bad), I think it was essential to show this video.

I agree it showed very little of interest, but that is the whole point; it showed little of interest because one of the people present (I presume a plain-clothes police official) asked for the filming to cease. He said this was 'inappopriate'. Why? On whose authority did he ask for filming to cease. Obviously neither the office, nor the whole parliamentary complex, is not a public place so the law relating to filming in a public place does not apply, but I imagine that the only people who could cause filming to cease, legally, are the parliamentary authorities. Did they do so? I have seen no evidence to support this.

There are far too many cases of police seeking to prevent filming of their activities for no good reason other than that they as individuals might not be held up for public opprobrium and for no real reason of protecting security or the integrity of whatever activity they are carrying out.

Anonymous said...

I can understand why, in this 24 hour rolling news age, it was felt important to release a video like this. It also puts some visual element to an issue that the average bloke on the street struggles to grasp. However, the content itself was flimsy - just a flash of gloves and being shown the door.

With it being that low in quality it shouldn't have been used.

Imagine the video without the footage included. Do you lose any value? No, I don't think so. In fact, the message could have been better if it was a collection of statements and points from leading Conservatives to show the outrage felt. As it stands it is like they were trying to replicate a scene from "V for Vendetta".

Anonymous said...

Only the lass had gloves on I think. Didn't look a professional job to me, but I am skewed by what I see watching Frost and The Bill... Surely one to stand outside the office preventing people from interfering would have made sense.

Bit of a damp squib really. No argy bargy. A meek withdrawal from the Conservative bods. Not even a hand on camera affair in a Roger Cook stylee. My respect for the Police is diminishing though. If it continues I may resort to not capitalising the word.

Anonymous said...

I do not agree - I found the woman with the purple gloves pathetic and the police pushing an individual around quite sickening.

The Grieve bit was not brilliant - but so what? A formal Tory statement without BBC interuptions is a pleasant change.

But lets sod off with this nit picking- Iain Dale has Lord Arsehole's typical intervention. These Labour bastards don't need any more encouragement in trying to stifle and smear opposition.

Alex said...

Dizzy, I felt the same way about the release of the video, but equally it does have a strong purpose in showing the amount of harrassment shown by the police when a simple concersation would have sufficed. The idea that this crime merits this level of investigation is ridiculous. Nobody was hurtr and the police had to conjure up an obscure common law offence to find something to prosecute.

The only reason that they went to search 3 locations with 9 police oficers was because they were pushed into the investigation by the Home Office/Cabinet Office.

Anonymous said...

As soon as it was known that this video existed its release was inevitable. The timing may be another matter. On the other hand Grieve did take the opportunity to stress that the Conservatives weren't setting out to disrupt the Queen's Speech which was an important and timely thing to do.

On the other hand the content of the video may be more interesting than you think. Bill rightly highlights the odd use of the phrase "not appropriate". It suggests that the police officer was not at all sure of his ground.

If I were McKay I'd probably have agreed to send the camera out but have insisted on staying to observe the search. I don't believe the police could have stopped him.

Anonymous said...

I'll think you'll find they were at fault in not introducing/identifying themselves and explaining their purpose for being there. Given that there was nothing other than the Met seeking to usher those that were filming/asking, them from the office without doing so was wrong.

It may be a small point, but many cases are won and lost on such points....

Dizzy may not agree with it, butnonetheless process was ignored and thats wrong!

Anonymous said...

and might I add that they were there illegally to being with, as stated by the speaker. If this is Britians finest Police, heaven help us when real terrorist cases go to trial, the likes Ms Booth (remember her?)et al will have a field day if the basics can't be done right.

Ignorance is no defence, these officers were ignorant beyond belief.

dizzy said...

"I'll think you'll find they were at fault in not introducing/identifying themselves and explaining their purpose for being there."

How do you know that they didn't do that before the cameras were rolling?

dizzy said...

I'll give you the lack of a warrant. Hwoever, I still think the video was silly beyond belief.

dizzy said...

Worth noting that not having a warrant but being given consent does not make it illegal. At least I dont think it does.

Anonymous said...

Is it just me or is Dominic Grieve a gormless Tory twat?

By the way, all this 'warrant' debate is complete nonsense to anyone who understands the law. If you don't know what you're talking about, shut up.

Anonymous said...

While the video did not show much exciting activity, my first reaction was the exact same as Dizzy's.

However, looking back on it now, I can see it for what it is. A captured moment of an unprecedented action in the history of our Parliament. The moment itself is probably momentous in that it either shows the beginning of a police state or hopefully, the nipping in the bud of police abusing their power against the parliamentary sovereignty

Anonymous said...

Big Dave: 'police abusing their power'. What? They asked to search the office and were given permission. If I knocked on your front door, asked to have a look through your kitchen drawers and you said 'yes', in what way would I be abusing my power if I then proceeded to do so? Frankly, 90% of the reaction to this has been absolute bullshit. Get a grip.

Anonymous said...

Anonyarse, the events are not 100% clear. I am going according to the speaker's statement that the police did not inform the SA-Arms that she did not have to give consent, thus badgering their way in. If that really is the case, the police are abusing their powers.

You may be happy living in a police state, and accepting their every action as the only standard. I am however, not.

Anonymous said...

"You may be happy living in a police state, and accepting their every action as the only standard. I am however, not."

Dear oh dear. This type of hyperbolic guff is exactly what I'm talking about. Sheer nonsense and contributes nothing to the debate.

Anonymous said...

I'll rephrase.......

You may be happy to live in a police state......

which is the meaning I was getting at if you look at my first comment, not that we are currently living in one.

As for hyperbolic guff........the deterioration in standards in parliamentary life is numerous since this labour bunch got in power.

- let's abolish hereditary we can dream up new ways to offer peerages
- stuff the convention of alternating speaker from the 2 major parties
- politicise the civil service gradually
- get your disgraced ministers to resign, then hire them again 2 weeks later
- pmq's? oh let's just avoid answering

i could go on but it is so bloody depressing thinking about this bunch.

over 10 yrs in power, greatest economic boom in our history (which began with the tories), greatest tax take in history, and end up with the mother of all debts!! bravo labour

Anonymous said...

Big Dave,

- Abolishing hereditary peers was a brilliant reform. Just should have gone further.

- Politicising the civil service? Well, this started quite a long time ago. Remember Bernard Ingham - a civil servant but effectively Thatcher's spin doctor.

- Ministers resigning and coming back is as old as the hills. Mind you, as in manner political matters, Mandy is more daring than most, I admit!

- PMQs has long been a pointless bit of theatre (verging on panto). If you're looking there for enlightenment, I fear you have a long wait ahead.

As for the overall record, mixed indeed. But minimum wage, low unemployment, low inflation, low interest rates and a range of anti-poverty measures are good enough for me. Iraq was a disaster but then again Tories were 'shoulder to shoulder' on that one, so I can't think of any major reason to regret the last 11 years of government. The previous 18 before that were nightmarish and the last think we need is to go back to that.

dizzy said...

The "Record" that is "good enough"

low unemployment - currently the highest it has been since 1997 and predicted to hit 3 million within the year.

low inflation - Changed the measure from the RPI to the CPI thus excluding house prices and giving a false impression oflow inflation which had little resemblance ot the reality of the high street.

low interest rates - helped to encourage massive personal borrowing both secured and unsecured thus creating a housing bubble that is currently crashing to the floor.

anti-poverty measures - child poverty has increased according to the Office of National Statistics.

The previous 18 before that were nightmarish - This is the classic false and bullshit narrative of mega-proportions. 18 years of nightmare that saw the same Government and party returned again and again.

That is like saying that the Blair Years have been a nightmare. The ballot box suggests otherwise. Bad decisions made yes, nightmare no. The same is true of the 18 years that Tories were in power.

I suggest that you put away the blind hatred that makes sweeping generalisation that clearly bear no resemblance to the reality for the majority of the electorate (see ballot box point) or shut the fuck up.

Anonymous said...

Calm down, Dizzy! I thought my evaluation of the 'record' would be a touch provocative but there's no need for that!

You are right that terms like 'nightmarish' are probably over-the-top. However, I sometimes wonder whether those in London and the South East really understand how devastating the early 80s recession was in the Midlands and northern England and also in Scotland. From that vantage point, it looked like communities were being ripped apart and impoverished by a govt that didn't care, whilst the south escaped unhurt and even prospered. Again, a simplification I accept, but for many in the north, the hatred of Tories is visceral for that reason.

Attempting to put tribalism to one side, I still think I would take the New Labour govt over the Thatcher/Major ones, the latter just being too divisive and destructive (although, I concede, taking some tough but necessary decisions as well).

Is that better or shall I shut the fuck up?

dizzy said...

Have you looked at an election map and seen how many MPs in the North were returned fro the Tories in 83 and 87?

Anonymous said...

I think you are being a bit over-literal and simplistic. The 'north' (and indeed Scotland)of course includes lots of constituencies that were not so affected by the de-industrializtion of the early 1980s (e.g. great swathes of Cheshire) and so it is unsurprising to me that many Tory MPs were returned in the 83 and 87 elections (helped by an inept Labour opposition, too). I was just making a general point and as someone who lives north of Watford Gap, I can assure you that many people have not forgotten the disastrous impact of Tory policies on their communities during that time. For them, 'nightmarish' is a fairly good description of at least the first two Thatcher administrations.

Anonymous said...

I meant to add that I've no doubt at all that if you lived in Tonbridge Wells or Bromley during that period, your appraisal of the Thatcher government may well look very different. That was the point I was trying to make. The London-centric media and (to a lesser extent) blogosphere often suggests it doesn't understand what goes on outside the south-east very well.