A Low Moment for Labour

damiangreen112908.jpgThough it’s easy to get caught up in slinging criticism over legal abominations in faraway countries ruled by caricature despots, it is truly all the more shocking when you can observe primary examples of these kinds of abuses in your own backyard – which currently for me looks upon the deceptively civilized landscape of British politics.

Two days ago, a senior Conservative MP from Kent, Damian Green, was placed under arrest by anti-terrorism police for alleging leaking information from the Home Office, unleashing an intense political controversy and accusations that the ruling Labour Party has taken a step toward turning Britain into a “police state.”

The apparently bogus arrest of Green illustrates just how slippery the slope have become for the Labour Party’s regular abuses of law under both Blair and Brown to beat back the Tories.  There are at least three recent cases targeting the opposition which represent nothing less than a systemic attack on the rule of law by an established political party, highlighting a trend that Labour MPs should be focused on changing. 

Labour governments have apparently become accustomed to abuses of the law, and interventions in the legal process to suit their political ends.  Take for example the suspension of the Saudi-BAE Systems investigation by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO), which the Blair government ordered to be dropped under pressure from the Saudis.  We’ve also seen the Brown administration instrumentalize anti-terror legislation in order to freeze assets in Iceland, seizing £4 billion of depositors’ assets in Landsbanki, and now, finally, this outrageous arrest of an opposition MP, demonstratingan institutional contempt for both rule of law and parliamentary privelege.

I can only suggest spending as much time as I do dealingwith Russia, Singapore, and various Latin American states, that the specter of Labour spinning itself into a police state in order toeliminate and intimidate political opponents represents a challenge tofundamental elements of the British polity.  No amount of outrage is enough to stem this tide.

At the very least, think most would agree with the Financial Times opinion that the arrest of Green “opens a Pandora’s box of political and legal issues” and the practice of whistleblowing “has long existed against a backdrop of laws and punishments designed todeter officials from revealing the workings of government.”  Nevertheless it is fundamental to regular functioning of a democracy, and this tilt toward a secretive, unaccountable leviathan state is not good news for anyone.