Friday, November 28, 2008

Arresting the opposition in the UK

For the past few years, UK Conservative immigration spokesperson Damian Green has been publicising leaked information obviously passed on by Home Office officials. The revelations - including that the Security Industry Authority had granted licences to 5,000 illegal workers, but decided not to publicise it, and that an illegal immigrant had been working as a cleaner in Parliament - were highly embarrassing to the government. And now, he's been arrested for it.

The charge officially is "conspiring to commit misconduct in a public office". But passing on leaks isn't "misconduct" - it's a vital part of holding the government of the day to account. And arresting people for that is more redolent of Stalin's Russia or Mugabe's Zimbabwe than the supposedly free and democratic UK.

The UK police have really gone out on a limb here. And I don't think they can expect any mercy from the politicians if the case turns out not to involve actual, serious wrongdoing.