So, before I get accused of avoiding the main issue of the day (tho' I bet someone is typing furiously at this very moment...) I had better give my two pennyworth on the arrest of Damian Green, although it has already been covered so extensively elsewhere in the blogosphere I'm not sure anything I can say hasn't already been said. But... my thoughts....
(a) If Ministers are saying they were not informed before the arrest, I believe them, because it would be suicidal to pretend they hadn't if they had, especially when it had already been made public that David Cameron, the Speaker and Boris had been told. And I agree with those who say that people would be jumping up and down and getting very excited if the police had sought a Minister's permission, on what is obviously an operational matter, first.
(b) Phil Woolas on the Today programme was obviously constrained in what he could say because this is a matter under police investigation, but he did hint that the word 'conspiracy' was crucial, which I have taken to mean that the arrest was not simply to do with receiving leaked documents from Home Office officials, which is not exactly unprecedented (as clips of a young and rather cheerful GB on Newsnight tonight have proved), but something more serious. But it doesn't mean the allegations will turn out to have any substance (a lawyer writes).
(c) I think there is a difference to be drawn between genuine whistle-blowing, where a civil servant is so concerned by what is going on that they believe leaking documents is in the public interest, and politically mischievous leaking, i.e. where the information might be embarrassing to the Government but has no great significance beyond that. One of the many things that Labour doesn't get credit for (along with the much-loved and oft cited Freedom of Information Act) is the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998, which protects whistleblowers in a variety of circumstances. It is probably, along with the FOI and the relaxation of the rules on forced killing of grey squirrels, counted amongst those heinous 26,000 laws....
(d) Damian Green is hardly Aung San Suu Kyi.
(e) But even if I'm right to suspect something more than a simple leak is at the heart of this, I can't see why on earth it takes 20 counter-terrorism officers (or any counter-terrorism officer, as opposed to some ordinary cops) to carry out the arrest. Especially when, it seems, the arrest was not under any terrorism legislation, but under common law "on suspicion of conspiring to commit misconduct in a public office and aiding and abetting, counselling or procuring misconduct in a public office".
(f) I know some suspicion has been cast on the timing of this, after Parliament has just prorogued. I suppose the police might have wanted to wait until Parliament wasn't sitting before they raided his office, just because it would allow them to carry out the search without disruption. But it's ludicrous to think the Goverment would have wanted it to happen right now. The Cabinet has been in Leeds today, with all the associated media planning surrounding such a trip. That's what they wanted on the front pages, not this.