STEPHEN GLOVER: Porn, a police state and why I worry that the hounding of the Deputy PM has become a witch hunt
Damian Green, who is effectively deputy prime minister, has never been my favourite politician. He seems a bit wet.
So I was a little disappointed when, five months ago, Theresa May appointed her old Oxford University chum to his present exalted position.
And when he recently said he would vote Remain if there were another referendum — despite the Government, of which he is so important a part, straining every muscle to negotiate a successful Brexit — I was more than a little irritated.
But everyone, including the people who rule over us and those whom we may not admire very much, deserves justice. And it seems to me that Mr Green has been the victim of a witch hunt which has more than a few overtones of a police state.
Nearly three weeks ago, a former senior policeman made a serious allegation against Damian Green shortly after a woman named Kate Maltby had claimed that the politician ‘fleetingly’ placed his hand on her knee a couple of years ago.
If Damian Green has watched illegal pornography, he should be prosecuted and, if found guilty, sacked. But there is simply no evidence to suppose that he has been doing this
Bob Quick, a one-time assistant commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, claimed that when police raided Mr Green’s offices in 2008 (when he was a shadow Tory minister) they found extreme, though legal, pornographic material on a parliamentary computer in his offices.
Following Miss Maltby’s claims and Mr Quick’s allegations, someone called Sue Gray, who is the ‘director-general of propriety and ethics’ at the Cabinet Office, was asked to look into the accusations against Mr Green. She is casting her net ever wider, as we shall see.
Why do I talk of a police state? Partly because the original raid, which was headed by Mr Quick, was an outrageous act that would have been worthy of the East German Stasi.
All Mr Green had allegedly done — for which, if responsible, he would have deserved our congratulations, not censure — was to be on the receiving end of leaks about Labour government policy. These included a Home Office memorandum on crime figures. Shock, horror!
Mr Quick’s bully-boys burst into Mr Green’s Commons office with the permission of the highly culpable Serjeant at Arms, but without a warrant. Mr Green was held for nine hours while this office, two homes and his constituency office were searched, and computers removed by counter-terrorism officers.
It’s hard to believe, I know, but this happened in our country, where we like to think freedom is prized. And while police were ransacking Mr Green’s Commons office they discovered — so Mr Quick now claims — hardcore pornography on one of the computers.
The original raid, which was headed by Bob Quick (above), was an outrageous act that would have been worthy of the East German Stasi
The crucial point here is that no charges were made against Mr Green back in 2008, presumably because the alleged pornographic material was legal. Mr Green’s assertion that police did not tell him at the time about their discovery has not been refuted.
There seems to be little doubt that pornography was found on a computer in Mr Green’s office because we have been told that Sir Paul Stephenson, former Metropolitan Police Commissioner, was informed. But why should we treat Mr Quick’s allegation with any respect when he pops up nine years after the event?
Is it perhaps the case that he may not be motivated so much by a sense of public duty as a desire to get revenge?
Following the raid, Bob Quick’s career went downhill fast. Stories appeared in the Press, very possibly leaked by aggrieved Tories, that Mr Quick’s wife ran a wedding car hire business from their home, using one of his own cars. Details of their address were published on a website.
Certainly not the gravest misdemeanour in the world, but Mr Quick should probably have declared his wife’s business to the Metropolitan Police Authority for approval. He evidently — and correctly — regarded the revelation as damaging because he accused the Tories of being ‘wholly corrupt’ for leaking the story.
The final nail in Mr Quick’s coffin was hammered in after he arrived in Downing Street with documents detailing a counter-terror operation, which were then photographed by journalists. The man once spoken of as a future Metropolitan Police Commissioner was forced to resign.
Now, it may be that Mr Quick is a forgiving and generous soul and harbours no feelings of resentment against Mr Green. But who can doubt that his motives in raking up this ancient story are suspect? And I repeat: why wasn’t Mr Green told at the time about the alleged discovery of porn?
Surely it is beyond dispute that the original investigation led by Bob Quick was sinister, and redolent of a police state. And the way in which he has belatedly tried to damage Mr Green by his recent public accusation strikes me as pretty nasty, too.
Alas, so beleaguered is Theresa May, and so incendiary any allegations of sexual misconduct, however historic, in the present febrile, indeed hysterical, climate, that Sue Gray has been asked to pursue her official investigations. But here, too, there is a suggestion that the witch hunt is continuing.
Mr Green — who has not been accused even by Mr Quick of doing anything illegal — is now facing inquiries that go beyond the 2008 allegations. Mrs Gray has reportedly asked officials whether there is any evidence of attempts to access pornography from computers used by Mr Green after he became a minister in 2010.
Needless to say, if Mr Green has watched illegal pornography, he should be prosecuted and, if found guilty, sacked. But there is simply no evidence to suppose that he has been doing this.
I don’t imagine voters would be very happy if the effective deputy prime minister were in the habit of watching legal porn, though in our permissive age I’m not sure that’s a hanging offence. But I know of no evidence to suppose he has been doing that, either.
Yet in the absence of compelling allegations against him, his good name is trashed, and the business of government at a critical time is thwarted. Can Mr Green do any serious work while investigators are crawling all over his life, and he is having to answer so many questions? The poor man must think that he has been going through some sort of nightmare for the past nine years as he lurches from one investigation to another, and accusations are repeatedly hurled at him.
What fascinates me is that the normal defenders of liberty on the Left have miraculously forgotten their precious principles, and are saying little or nothing. (Many of these people, of course, have campaigned for years against the censorship of pornography.) If the techniques of the police state are used against a prominent Tory, that is evidently all right.
Doubtless some of them want Mr Green to be dismissed because they believe that if this happens, Theresa May will be further weakened; Brexit imperilled; and the Government will teeter on the verge of collapse. In more ways than one, dark forces have been unleashed.
Some are interpreting the time that has been spent investigating Mr Green as proof that a case is being built against him which will lead to his sacking by an over-querulous government. It would be monstrously unfair if he were fired for doing what half the House of Commons, members of the judiciary and, for all I know, even some bishops may get up to.
As I say, I have no brief for Mr Green, whom I have never met. Were he a serial groper or an inveterate viewer of illegal porn, I would like to see him step aside and sort himself out.
But there is no evidence as yet that he is. He looks to me more like the victim of a police-inspired witch hunt made more heated by the desire of his adversaries to bring down a tottering government.
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