Some questions for the Conservative Party about the Damian Green affair?

David Cameron knows that attack is the best form of defence and I wonder whether the attack he has launched over the police handling of the arrest of Damian Green is intended to distract attention from the Conservative Party’s involvement in the whole matter.

So perhaps, the Conservatives might want to set the record straight by answering a few questions, such as:

  1. Is Chris Galley (the civil servant, who according to newspapers, was arrested on 19th November and started the sequence of events that led to the arrest of Danian Green) a member of the Conservative Party?  If so, when did he join and does he hold any positions within the Party?  If not, has he been a member of the Party in the past and when?
  2. According to the newspapers there was a relationship/links between Chris Galley and Damian Green.  How many times has Chris Galley met Damian Green and how many times have they spoken on the telephone or communicated by e-mail?
  3. Has Chris Galley met David Cameron or any other member of the Shadow Cabinet?
  4. Newspapers have reported variously that Chris Galley applied for a job with the Conservative Party and/or a job with Damian Green and that he has been a Conservative Party candidate in the past.  What other roles has he applied for in the past?
  5. Has Chris Galley been given any assurances or promises about future roles with the Conservative Party?  If so, who gave those promises or assurances?
  6. Who in the Conservative Party, apart from Damian Green, knew about Chris Galley’s role at the Home Office?
  7. Who in the Conservative Party knew of the source of the leaks that are alleged to be part of this case?
  8. Had Damian Green discussed leaks from the Home Office with David Cameron, Dominic Grieve or any other prominent Conservative?  If so, when?

19 thoughts on “Some questions for the Conservative Party about the Damian Green affair?”

  1. Desperate stuff.

    So it’s a crime to have ever been a member of the Conservative Party and work within government, is it?

    Jesus.

    Why don’t politicians like you recognise that there are legitimate questions here to be answered, and stop these ridiculous deflecting tactics?

    Try talking to Denis MacShane. At least he understands the proper role of Parliament. But then again, he’s had to go through the inconvenience of an election. Unlike you!

    Having said all that, welcome to the wonderful world of blogging.

  2. Now please don’t be touchy.

    I am not suggesting that it is a crime to be a member of the Conservative Party, nor am I suggesting that it is a crime to be a member of the Conservative Party and work within Government.

    However, if you are a member of a political party and you work within the politically neutral civil service, you have to be extremely careful not to abuse your position.

    Given the suggestion by David Cameron and others that Labour Ministers were somehow involved in the arrest of Damian Green, it is perfectly reasonable to ask what are the links between Chris Galley and the Conservatives, and whether there is any substance to the suggestion that he was trying to enhance his position in the Conservative Party by his actions as a civil servant.

    As for the proper role of Parliament and the issue of Parliamentary Privilege, this primarily relates to what is said in Parliamentary proceedings and debates. It does not (quite rightly, we are not talking about the Russian Parliament here) exempt MPs from arrest on criminal matters.

    Oh and thank you for your kind words of welcome.

  3. These are extremely pertinent questions and I would be astonished if either the Conservative Party agrees to answer them or they have not already been put to the Conservatives (i.e. Mr Green) by the police. Mr Galley will no doubt already have given the police his own answers to many of them. The home secretary gave a strong hint on today’s Andrew Marr programme that there had been a series of what she called ‘systematic’ leaks from her department and that some of these may well have involved much more sensitive material than the relatively innocuous stuff which is currently ‘in the public domain’ through Damian Green having used it. There are also suggestions of more suspected moles or leakers in the home office besides Mr Galley. If something more systematic and widespread than the published evidence so far reveals has indeed been going on, would the police action vis-à-vis Mr Green appear quite so excessive or heavy-handed?

    All this is necessarily highly speculative and can easily be dismissed as conspiracy theorists’ fantasy, but it’s not easy to discount it altogether absent replies to Lord Harris’s questions.

    Ian Dale, Tory blogger-in-chief, in his preceding comment asks sarcastically whether it’s a crime now for a member of the Conservative Party to work for the government. Of course it isn’t. But from the facts already known it appears that the home office official concerned worked, or had worked, in the home secretary’s private office; that he has been arrested and bailed on a charge of leaking official documents without authority to a Conservative front-bench MP; that he has applied in the past for a job in the same Conservative MP’s office and has stood as a Conservative candidate in a local council election; and that the purpose of the leaks has been purely (or impurely) to provide the Opposition in parliament with ammunition to use against the government which employs him — not to blow the whistle on any injustice, impropriety, corruption or dishonesty on the part of his ministers, nor even to sabotage some aspect of policy with which he personally has a moral or ethical objection. Might Mr Dale not agree that this combination of circumstances makes these ‘systematic’ leaks notably different from the ordinary run of leaks that we have seen in the past and that at the very least it calls for a mighty thorough investigation, even if a few sensitive political toes get trodden on in the process? And that Lord Harris’s questions are more reasonable than his comment seeks to make out?

    Brian
    http://www.barder.com/ephems/

  4. @Iain – if you read the about page you’ll see that the author has 26 years of elections under his belt.

    More generally, I think these are valid questions, but the primacy of Parliament is also an important principle. The arrest of an MP for political activity has to pass a very high test of immorality/illegality.

  5. If we transpose Gordon Brown for Damian Green etc you might ask …

    Are any of the civil servants who leaked information to Gordon Brown in the 1990s, when he was an opposition spokesman, members of the Labour Party? If so, when did he or she join and does (s)he hold any positions within the Party? If not, has (s)he been a member of the Party in the past and when?

    How many times had the people who leaked information to Gordon Brown met him and how many times had they spoken on the telephone or communicated by e-mail?

    Did these individuals meet Tony Blair or any other member of the then Shadow Cabinet?

    Did any of these individuals apply for a job with Labour and/or a job with Gordon Brown and were any of them a Labour Party candidate in the past? What other roles had they applied for in the past?

    Had the people who leaked information to Gordon Brown been given any assurances or promises about future roles with the Labour Party? If so, who gave those promises or assurances?

    Who in the Labour Party, apart from Gordon Brown, knew about the role of these individuals at the Treasury?

    Who in the Labour Party knew of the source of the leaks that are alleged to be part of this case?

    Had Gordon Brown discussed leaks from the Treasury with Tony Blair or any other prominent Labour party official? If so, when?

    Hmm. Hardly killer questions either way round are they?

    Do you expect anyone reading this could possibly believe that, if an equivalent number of anti-terrorist police had arrested Gordon Brown in the mid 1990s on the same charges used last week to detain Damian Green, held him for nine hours, and searched his homes and Westminister Office, you would have responded by asking the Labour party questions like these ?

    I don’t think so. You would have been protesting in the same terms that we have heard this week from the Tories, Lib/Dems, and even Labour politicians such as David Blunkett, Denis MacShane and Tony Benn.

    And if the Conservative government or the police had been mad enough to arrest Gordon Brown back then you would have been absolutely right to protest in those terms. You are wrong now.

  6. Actually, they would have been perfectly valid questions. And undoubtedly would have been had a criminal offence been committed.

    The issue is are Members of Parliament above the law. The correct answer is “no”: Parliamentary Privilege does not exempt MPs from investigation or prosecution in respect of criminal matters.

    For that reason, I was entirely supportive of the police’s pursuit of the so-called “cash for honours” inquiry. The police have to be allowed to pursue such matters without interference from politicians. After the event, they can be held accountable for their actions, but for politicians to intervene and try to direct a policing operation while it is going on really would be to set some very dangerous precedents.

  7. Iain, do you justify your patronising tone on the basis that you have more electoral experience than the author, or more blogging experience?

    As for talk of “ridiculous deflecting tactics”, I would venture that your apparent outrage over the use of the word ‘grooming’ is far more deserving of this description than anything offered here by Toby Harris:
    http://icanhaz.com/grooming

  8. Tim, nothing patronising at all in my comment.

    I am indeed outraged at the use of the word ‘grooming’. I suspect most people would be.

  9. I don’t have to read between the lines to identify a clearly patronising aspect of your comment, Iain; “Try talking to Denis MacShane. At least he understands the proper role of Parliament. But then again, he’s had to go through the inconvenience of an election. Unlike you!”

    (Psst! Condescension is a word you may wish to look up if you fail to detect it in this sentence, dear boy.)

    However, with regards to the use of the word ‘grooming’, we have no clear idea of the true context in which the word was used, only a second-hand report via the Tories about how outraged Green was that the police used the word (he claims) to provoke him during his interview.

    I point this out only to highlight that I have solid ground to back my claim (about your patronising tone) and you have hearsay and a rather selective use of a dictionary to back yours (about how a word might have been meant, used and/or interpreted). Any further discussion of ‘grooming’ and your outrage over it should probably take place elsewhere, especially if you’re going to dismiss out of hand the points I raise in my CiF comment.

  10. Just for the record on the “inconvenience of elections”: I have fought nine public elections – won seven; lost two.

  11. Iain, I owe (and offer) you a grovelling apology: I misspelled your first name in my earlier post. I am kicking myself. As another person whose name — surname, in my case — is constantly misspelled, I should have known better.

    But I offer no apologies on matters of substance. I’m certain that if the party roles were reversed, I would be every bit as strongly in favour of putting Toby Harris’s questions, unchanged, to a Labour front-bencher suspected of encouraging (let’s use a more neutral word this time) a Labour Party activist working as a civil servant for a Conservative government (who had reportedly met the front-bencher in connection with an application for a job in his office) to supply him, and perhaps others?, clandestinely and illicitly with sensitive government information, without authority to disclose it, and with the sole purpose of enabling the opposition to make difficulties for the government (not to blow the whistle on any supposed wrong-doing, which might be a different matter).

    I can’t quite believe that you (Iain, or indeed Chris) are seriously opposed to these questions being put, given the facts as so far revealed, regardless of the party affiliations of those involved. And I’m disappointed, to put it mildly, that anyone should suspect that I would take a different view if the party positions were reversed. We’re all (presumably) grown-ups and we should all be capable of putting aside party loyalties or sentiments in making judgements about these rather serious constitutional and political issues. The knee-jerk tribal reactions of so many prominent Tories in recent days do them no credit at all. (I acknowledge that they have been joined by such Labour worthies as David Blunkett and Denis MacShane, who seem to be more concerned about any possible breach of their fundamental human right as MPs not to be liable to investigation if suspected of a crime or misdemeanour than about the duty of the police to investigate a possible crime and to follow the evidence wherever it leads.)

    Brian
    http://www.barder.com/ephems/

  12. Now now, let’s have none of your New Labour evasiveness. You only seek to distract attention from the fact that Iain is a very clear winner in the losing stakes.

  13. A valid set of questions.

    Another area of questioning, which goes to the heart of David Cameron’s judgement in this matter is whether he would be perfectly happy, were he ever to be Prime Minister, with political activists working in high offices of state, passing information that they thought was politically expedient to members of the opposition on a regular basis?

    Isn’t it far more important, and in the public interest, to carry on with our country’s proud tradition of an impartial civil service?

  14. Theo is absolutely spot on. It will be a disaster if the key question here, about what seems now to amount to a systematic espionage operation by the Opposition front bench using a Conservative Party activist as a clandestine source from within the private office of the home secretary herself, at the very heart of government and with access to the most sensitive documents imaginable, is overlooked and pushed into second-rank position by the issue which really excites the politicians and the journalists: the precise procedures to be followed if a police investigation requires a search of the computers and documents of a member of parliament.

    Brian
    http://www.barder.com/ephems/

  15. All good questions that the Conservatives won’t answer. Methinks, Iain Dale protesteth overmuch. Of course, the police were duty bound to investigate. The Speaker’s response today raises as many questions as it answers but that it was cock-up not conspiracy is clear.

    I wish I could agree with Theo about the ‘impartiality’ of public servants but I fear that’s gone the way of the IBM golfball typewriter.

    Welcome to the blogosphere Lord Harris. As a neo-phyte myself, learning to blog from a smart phone, my sympathies. Now if only I could figure out how to embed text……

  16. Paul, I spent nearly 40 years in the public service, and I don’t believe that I ever let my private political views (as a life-long supporter of the Labour Party and a party member before and after I was a public servant) influence my actions or advice in my position as a loyal servant of elected governments of both parties. Nor do I know of anyone else in the same position acting any differently. Of course public servants whose jobs include tendering advice to ministers don’t leave their values and views in the cloakroom with their raincoats, but they take account in giving their advice of the known views and commitments of their political masters, they try to warn them of the likely consequences, positive and negative, of what they want to do, and having given their advice, they loyally accept their ministers’ decisions, however mistaken, and do their best to implement them honestly and effectively. This tradition is no more out of date now than any other democratic principle. It’s true that the impartial civil service has been diluted by the addition to it of openly political appointees, but these are still mercifully in a small minority.

    If Mr Galley did what he is suspected of doing (and what his solicitor seems to have confirmed that he did), the problem was not that he was an active supporter of the Conservative party but that he seems on the face of it to have put his loyalty to that party before his loyalty to his employers and elected political masters, before his contract of employment, and before his duty of trust to the senior minister in whose Private Office he worked. Government can’t work properly if ministers can’t trust their officials. Ninety-nine per cent of the time, they can, thank goodness.

    Brian
    http://www.barder.com/ephems/

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