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The Damian Green inquiry isn’t really about porn

4 December 2017

10:24 AM

4 December 2017

10:24 AM

From the beginning, there’s been a whiff of the police state about the treatment of Damian Green. Free societies do not allow detectives to burst into an MP’s office because he or she has been embarrassing the government.

That bad smell has risen to the level of a stench. The now ex-police officers, who claimed they had seen pornographic pictures on Green’s computer, raised the prospect, however fleetingly, of an authoritarian future. The police failed to find evidence that Green, then an opposition MP, had engaged in a ‘criminal conspiracy to solicit leaked information detrimental to national security’ when they raided Parliament in 2008.

Not that it bothered them. Because Green and his friends fought back hard, he had to be punished. Retired officers declared last week that Green must resign. If the pornographic images they claim to have found on his computer were illegal (and I should say Green denies their existence) the Met would have prosecuted him. It didn’t, so we can say with some certainty that the pictures were legal, even if we grant the police the favour of assuming they were there in the first place. The police, or rather the retired officers, want to use legal but shameful behaviour to destroy their target.  In Russia, Putin’s agents send women to lure opposition activists into honey traps, then post sex tapes on the web. Our police seem too close to their colleagues in Moscow for comfort.

I don’t watch porn at work – old fashioned of me, I know, but there you are. Perhaps you don’t either. But are there somewhere in your system disparaging remarks about your bosses, evidence of an affair or potential affair, discussions of sickness or financial difficulties? I am sure an eager detective could find something to discredit you. Everyone has legal but potentially shameful secrets, and if you do not, you are too good for this world.

 

It is outrageous that British police officers think they can get away with behaving like blackmailers, say journalists and politicians. David Davis is threatening to resign if the PM sacks Green. Commentators of all colours are flocking to his cause. He seems to be in the clear.

You can see why they are clambering astride their high horses. But before they saddle up they should remember that the inquiry into Damian Green’s conduct has nothing to do with computer pornography real or imagined. Green is accused of the sexual harassment of Kate Maltby, a women 30 years his junior, and a family friend to boot.

I am told on good authority that it is not just Maltby’s story the inquiry is  hearing. Other women have gone to Sue Gray, the director-general of propriety and ethics at the Cabinet Office, to tell stories of their own.

Before they raised legitimate protests about the police, Green’s defenders said that all Maltby was complaining about was a hand on the knee. Outraged that a young woman could threaten a Tory grandee over such trifles, the Daily Mail ran a two-part character assassination, which was as sinister as anything the police have attempted.

Unnamed ‘Friends of Damian Green,’ poured out their hatred of and contempt for Maltby. An unnamed ‘friend’ of the Maltby family (the Mail is British journalism’s equivalent of Alcoholics Anonymous) said her parents ‘will be absolutely aghast by what Kate has done’. The opposite is the truth. As Maltby said, her parents have broken all contact with Green, and ‘given me loving, unstinting support’. What parent wouldn’t?  Particularly after the Evening Standard alleged the man they once considered a friend was combining advances to their daughter with a job offer.

If the character assassination aimed not only to blacken Maltby’s reputation but to make other women fear that they would receive the same treatment if they spoke out, it has failed. They are speaking out. And it is not the behaviour of the police they are discussing.


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