The Labour Defence Team NewsnightMichael Crick and Newsnight did a smear job on Friday on the Government’s abuse of power in arresting Damian Green, in a programme flagged up by John Reith spins in his grave in the comments.
Crick begins his report (20 mins into the BBC broadcast ) by talking of the “mystery” of Damian Green’s leaks, and how this may run and run. Of course, the question (not mystery, as motives are not lacking) of why he was arrested and held for questioning for 9 hours at all is one which needs to be fully and swiftly explained, but this angle the BBC ignores. They wish to imply that the Government’s actions are above suspicion.
At the beginning of the item we are treated to a sinister close up of Green’s eyes- the suggestion being that there must be some sinister underlying issue. We were given a short clip of David Cameron’s response to the arrest, and a short clip of Clegg doing the civil liberties bit, and then we were fully into the Nu-Lab love in. Jacqui Smith worded herself carefully in claiming that the arrest was not authorised by ministers (how about “suggested”, with “suggested” guarantees, Jacqui?). The fact is that the Government is answerable for the actions of the police, and in this case more so than usually, but this angle too was lost. Martin Salter (Lab) backed up the action, making great play of the wording of the accusations against Green of not just receiving but “actively conspiring” to get the leak. This follows Crick’s own use of the word “procuring”. But what does this mean? These locutions are simply smears- leaking is active, and information must be gained. Does it mean the information was paid for? Are they talking of bribery (bribing a public official)? If so, they had better say so. The BBC not only lets a Labour politician smear Green, it participates in advancing that smear.
Then Crick segued into a historical perspective. It seems promising when a young Gordon Brown is shown in archived footage defending his own mole in the then-Conservative Government. Crick though immediately cuts to another Nu-Labour figure, Geoffrey Robinson. Robinson refers to Winston Churchill getting (or procuring?) leaks from Chamberlain’s hapless administration! Genius. Brown and Winston in the same breath- it’s a running BBC joke played on the public.
All the time that they build this picture of noble leaking- to Brown and Churchill- however, they are carefully implying that there is more to it in the case of Green. Crick’s final comment seals it:
“last night it looked like it [the Green arrest] could badly embarrass the Government, but tonight it is less clear, with some Labour sources saying the Home Office leaks didn’t just go to Damian Green, but to other Tories too”
How does it alter the situation that colleagues of Green were involved? In fact it would make it even more likely that the leaks were conventional if they were shared among Green’s colleagues (I don’t know what an unconventional leak might be, actually, but I am sure the BBC/Nu-Lab can come up with something). To the viewer however it suggests conspiracy, and dark forces at work (maybe the vast right wing conspiracy?) in the Green “mystery”. There’s something they’re not telling us, the BBC imply, warming to their theme. But surely it is for the Government (not the Conservatives, or Green) to answer for its arrest of a Member of Parliament? The BBC (and Crick) forgets its place, if it ever knew it.
It’s necessary to reiterate the real issue: Green was arrested over an apparent leak. This was a wholly exceptional response to a normal state of affairs in which many politicians have participated. The question is why this Government is so authoritarian, why it holds such antipathy towards its political opponents, and, for us, why the BBC is so wedded to the Government’s point of view. Smith, Salter, Robinson, and Crick himself are all Labour loyalists (Crick joined Labour aged 15 and intended for many years on a career as a Labour politician)- Crick wheeled out his comrades to peddle a Government perspective. The BBC is biased.