Monday, March 19, 2012

Chris Bryant reminds us that our liberties are not safe with Labour

One of the least creditable episodes of the last parliament was the arrest of the shadow minister Damian Green and the subsequent search of his office in the Palace of Westminster.

I discussed it in rather eccentric terms in a House Points column at the time:
Settle down, class. Open Calder’s History of England and we shall read about Charles I and the Five Members. Tompkins, you start: 
Parliament then passed a law that gave members control over the King's ministers. Charles I was furious and decided it was time to take action. On 4 January 1642, he arrived at Westminster with a great company of armed men to arrest Arthur Huggl… Hig... 
"Haselrig," you ignorant boy. 
Arthur Haselrig, John Pym, John Hampden, Denzil Holles and William Strode who were all MPs whom he regarded as troublemakers. The five men managed to escape before the soldiers arrived. 
When the king demanded to know where the Five Members were the Speaker, Michael Martin replied: "Help yourself, laddie. They are hiding in yon stationery cupboard." He then rolled on his back, waved his paws and asked: "Is there any chance of a peerage just now?" 
That will do, Tompkins. Sometimes I wonder about the Headmaster’s choice of textbooks. 
Because, of course, Charles encountered not Speaker Martin but Speaker Lenthall. And Lenthall famously replied: "May it please your Majesty, I have neither eyes to see nor tongue to speak in this place but as this House is pleased to direct me, whose servant I am here; and humbly beg your Majesty's pardon that I cannot give any other answer than this to what your Majesty is pleased to demand of me."
Green's arrest was mentioned on Twitter today by the Labour MP Chris Bryant. He is still indignant about it, but not in the way you might expect...

A reminder that our liberties are not safe with Labour. There are plenty of countries where opposition politicians do fear arrest, but we do not want Britain to be one of them.

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