Monday, 26 January 2009

On "Calling for a Police Inquiry"

There is something deeply depressing about the latest Lib Dem ploy. In response to the exposure of certain Labour peers in respect of their "consultancies", the Lib Dems have "called for a police inquiry" - see here.

The conduct of the Labour peers appears to be highly disappointing. If the allegations are true they should be disciplined by Parliament as well as their parties. The allegations are serious. Ken Clarke's demand for an urgent ministerial statement was exactly the right response.

But the Lib Dems now want to turn this into a police matter. One wonders, yet again, what part of "liberal" and "democracy" do the Lib Dems not understand? For the demands for the police to get involved may be neither liberal nor democratic.

The now-common calls for a police involvement are in fact a bad sign of a trend in modern British politics, the creeping normalization of involving the police into political controversies - the Lord Levy matter, then Damian Green (on whom, more later), the lobbying for 42 Days, even the chumminess of Sir Ian Blair and the former unlamented Mayor of London.

Outside of high level politics, it is also now a routine weapon of pressure groups and campaigners to make a complaint to the police, allowing the lazy journalist an easy introductory paragraph.

By normalizing police involvement in political controversies, the Lib Dems (and others) are slowly shifting the grounds of the domestic political process.


Simon said...

I'm not sure I agree. If the allegations are true, this is serious political corruption.

I've got a great photo on my wall of a car in New York with writing all over it. My favourite remark on it is
-"A patriot should always be ready to defend his country from his government."

So should the police. The Lib Dems should report it. They shouldn't try to influence it.

Jack of Kent said...

Hi Simon

The police can read The Sunday Times for themselves; they do not need a Lib Dem complaint. If you are right, then the police will act. By "reporting" it they are influencing it.

And why is this "serious" political corruption? No government minister or civil servant was involved. These were only boastful backbenchers.

On that point also your bold quote falls down in this case: the politicans involved were simply not members of the government.

Simon said...

Sure, you're right that the police can read The Times. Lib Dem MPs are citizens too & they have every right to report someone to the police. I support anyone reporting someone to the police for what they believe is a crime. It's part of being a good citizen.

And I also think the government would be run better if they were fearful of the law.

If a law got changed as a result of a bribe, I'd say that was very serious.

You've probably got a point if all the evidence the Lib Dems had was a newspaper report.

Also, if the Lib Dems have been responsible for the publicity following their report to the police then I would take issue with that. Reporting something that you think may be true is one thing, sending a press release out to the newspapers about it before it's proven is another.

Simon (SitP Leics)

Jack of Kent said...

Hey, Simon of Leicester, good to know it's you; but I am afraid we still differ.

As that other great Leicester Simon - de Montfort - would accept, Parliament is important and the executive (of which the police are actually part) should be kept in its proper place.

The report to the police was merely a partisan political gesture by a publicity hungry Lib Dem frontbencher. I firmly reject the "concerned citizen" line.

There is no evidence at all, even taking the Sunday Times story at its highest, that any law was actually changed or any bribe was actually paid. Serious allegations I admit; but no evidence of any corruption.

I also cannot see which criminal offence has supposedly been committed; and in this neither can the media, or indeed the Lib Dems themselves.

Your point about government being fearful about the law is, I think, wrong in two important respects.

First, as I mentioned before, the politicans involved are simply not in the government. Police involvement here has no effect on the government.

Second, I would be more fearful of a police force who regard it as soehow normal to routinely interfere in the political process, with their powers of arrest, detention, and search. (Ask Damian Green.) This is why I put this Lib Dem complaint in context with other recent police interventions. It is a bad trend.

As (I hope!) you and other followers of this Blog know, I am not a natural supporter of any Labour politician. I have in fact a very low opinion of at least one of the politicans involved for good reasons prior to this matter coming to light.

However, as much as I would like to indulge in Labour-bashing, or politician bashing generally, there is - for me - a more important issue at play: the correct role of the police in a liberal democracy.

Very best regards,

LeeT said...

Are their actions unlawful? The Lord Levy investigation cost a lot, yet ultimately proved to be a waste of time.

LeeT said...

Have they actually broken any laws rather than breached the conventions of the House of Lords? A lot of time and money was spent by the police on the Cash for Honours affair.