Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Keep CounterPunch ad free. Support our annual fund drive today!

Uproar in Police-State Britain


The arrest and interrogation of Damian Green, one of Britain’s leading opposition politicians, by the counter-terrorism police (November 27, 2009) on ‘suspicion of conspiring to commit misconduct in a public office’ is an extraordinary event. Counter-terrorism officers searched his homes and offices in London and his constituency. He was questioned for nine hours and released on bail without charge, but must return next February for further questioning. The police action happened when the world’s attention was focused on the terrorist attacks in the Indian city of Mumbai.

The Conservative Party, the main opposition in the British Parliament that has been leading in opinion polls this year, is furious at the treatment of one of its star performers. In all probability, Green, a former journalist on the London Times, would be a minister if the Conservatives won the next general election. He had raised some uncomfortable questions for the Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, and his government in the past year. In November 2007, he disclosed that the Home Secretary knew as many as five thousand illegal immigrants had been granted licenses to work by the Security Industry Authority, but decided not to make the information public.

In February this year, Damian Green revealed that an illegal immigrant had been employed as a cleaner in the British Parliament and raised questions over its security implications. Then there was a letter from the Home Secretary warning that a recession could lead to an increase in crime. He confronted the British government at a time when public concern over crime was rising. The Home Office later admitted that serious crime had been underestimated in official statistics. Green further made public the existence of a list of Labour MPs who could rebel against their own government’s draft legislation to extend the period of detention without charge to 42 days.

As I have already mentioned, the arrest and interrogation of Damian Green came on ‘suspicion of conspiring to commit misconduct in a public office’. This seems to be related to information passed on to him by a whistleblower in the Home Office – an official who saw government wrongdoing and brought it to the attention of a leading opposition MP. The episode has fuelled worries over the loosely-worded anti-terror laws pushed after 9/11 by Tony Blair, the previous prime minister, and their misuse to suppress information likely to embarrass the government.

A number of senior political figures were informed about the Conservative shadow minister’s arrest shortly before it happened. Among them were the Conservative leader David Cameron, the London Mayor who is responsible for running the Metropolitan Police Force and the Speaker of the British House of Commons. The Home Secretary and others in the government have flatly denied prior knowledge of the arrest. However, an ex-Home Secretary, Kenneth Clarke, says he cannot believe that ministers did not know in advance what was about to happen.

Reports and comments on how a prominent politician has been treated under anti-terror laws are all over the British press today. The London Mayor expressed his ‘trenchant concerns’ when told of the impending arrest. David Davies, former shadow home secretary who resigned in protest at the threat to civil liberties earlier this year, has called the situation ‘reminiscent to Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe’. The Conservative leader David Cameron has described the action as ‘Stalinisque’ and said the ministers have some serious questions to answer. “If the police wanted answers from him, why did they not pick up the phone,” Cameron asked.

The timing and possible motives of what has happened are worth considering?

Politicians, especially those in power, are very good at doing questionable things when there are bigger events taking place elsewhere. Damian Green’s arrest and interrogation happened when the British public was focused on the terrorist attacks in India – attacks in which there had been hundreds of casualties, including British. There were already numerous examples where anti-terror laws had been used against people who had nothing to do with terror. Journalists and researchers are under unprecedented pressure. Academics at British universities have all but surrendered to the shifting and arbitrary interpretations by the authorities of the meaning and causes of terrorism, to save their careers and to ensure funding for their projects. The picture is bleak. It shows that when governments are able to seize too much power, they abuse it to the detriment of citizens.
Was the arrest of one of Britain’s leading politicians, possibly a future minister, aimed at sending a message to lesser people in the country to close their eyes, ears and mouths? The good news is that the criticism of the police action has been swift, widespread and strong and has only begun. As a front-bench member of the British Parliament, Damian Green has ‘parliamentary privileges’ which would be hard to challenge. His actions are in the public interest. For this reason alone, the government would be foolish to prosecute him in court. Green says it is his job as an opposition politician to hold the government to account and he has every intention of continuing to do so.

DEEPAK TRIPATHI, former BBC journalist, is a researcher and an author. His works can be found on and he can be reached at:







Deepak Tripathi is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland. His works can be found at: and he can be reached at

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine


Weekend Edition
October 21, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Wight
Hillary Clinton and the Brutal Murder of Gaddafi
Diana Johnstone
Hillary Clinton’s Strategic Ambition in a Nutshell
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Trump’s Naked and Hillary’s Dead
John W. Whitehead
American Psycho: Sex, Lies and Politics Add Up to a Terrifying Election Season
Stephen Cooper
Hell on Earth in Alabama: Inside Holman Prison
Patrick Cockburn
13 Years of War: Mosul’s Frightening and Uncertain Future
Rob Urie
Name the Dangerous Candidate
Pepe Escobar
The Aleppo / Mosul Riddle
David Rosen
The War on Drugs is a Racket
Sami Siegelbaum
Once More, the Value of the Humanities
Cathy Breen
“Today Is One of the Heaviest Days of My Life”
Neve Gordon
Israel’s Boycott Hypocrisy
Mark Hand
Of Pipelines and Protest Pens: When the Press Loses Its Shield
Victor Wallis
On the Stealing of U.S. Elections
Michael Hudson
The Return of the Repressed Critique of Rentiers: Veblen in the 21st century Rentier Capitalism
Brian Cloughley
Drumbeats of Anti-Russia Confrontation From Washington to London
Howard Lisnoff
Still Licking Our Wounds and Hoping for Change
Brian Gruber
Iraq: There Is No State
Peter Lee
Trump: We Wish the Problem Was Fascism
Stanley L. Cohen
Equality and Justice for All, It Seems, But Palestinians
Steve Early
In Bay Area Refinery Town: Berniecrats & Clintonites Clash Over Rent Control
Kristine Mattis
All Solutions are Inadequate: Why It Doesn’t Matter If Politicians Mention Climate Change
Peter Linebaugh
Ron Suny and the Marxist Commune: a Note
Andre Vltchek
Sudan, Africa and the Mosaic of Horrors
Keith Binkly
The Russians Have Been Hacking Us For Years, Why Is It a Crisis Now?
Jonathan Cook
Adam Curtis: Another Manager of Perceptions
Ted Dace
The Fall
Sheldon Richman
Come and See the Anarchy Inherent in the System
Susana Hurlich
Hurricane Matthew: an Overview of the Damages in Cuba
Dave Lindorff
Screwing With and Screwing the Elderly and Disabled
Chandra Muzaffar
Cuba: Rejecting Sanctions, Sending a Message
Dennis Kucinich
War or Peace?
Joseph Natoli
Seething Anger in the Post-2016 Election Season
Jack Rasmus
Behind The 3rd US Presidential Debate—What’s Coming in 2017
Ron Jacobs
A Theory of Despair?
Gilbert Mercier
Globalist Clinton: Clear and Present Danger to World Peace
James A Haught
Many Struggles Won Religious Freedom
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Dear Fellow Gen Xers: Let’s Step Aside for the Millennials
Uri Avnery
The Peres Funeral Ruckus
Tom Clifford
Duterte’s Gambit: the Philippines’s Pivot to China
Reyes Mata III
Scaling Camelot’s Walls: an Essay Regarding Donald Trump
Raouf Halaby
Away from the Fray: From Election Frenzy to an Interlude in Paradise
James McEnteer
Art of the Feel
David Yearsley
Trump and Hitchcock in the Age of Conspiracies
Charles R. Larson
Review: Sjón’s “Moonstone: the Boy Who Never Was”