Friday 22 December 2017

The same rules must apply to MP's as the rest of us

There seems to be a continuing debate as to whether Damian Green had to go and whether he was treated unfairly. As far as I am concerned, he has only been treated unfairly if we accept that MP's are a priveliged elite, beyond the law and beyond the normal rules of justice and behaviour. Before writing this, I checked the Parliamentary code and I was absolutely shocked to see how little reference there was to personal standards of behaviour, how MP's should treat staff and members of the public and how they should conduct the business of their office.

As an MP, they have access to all manner of private information in the course of their casework. As a minister, Damian Green presumably has access to state secrets and classified information. One can only presume that as such, the information on his work computer is potentially sensitive. Mr Green has transgressed on four accounts. Lets just consider how these would be dealt with in a normal working environment.

1. Sexually inappropriate behaviour with junior members of staff. It is quite clear that Mr Green's behaviour with Kate Maltby was inappropriate. If I was in a senior position and a junior member of staff reported such information to me, I would take the manager aside and give them a formal verbal warning. I would make it quite clear that if they did it again, they would be subject to formal disciplinary sanction and may be dismissed. I would also invite them to formally apologise to the person, in my presence. I would hope that this would be the end of the matter. If it was a genuine misreading of signals etc, I would hope that the shock of a warning and having to apologise would be the end of the matter. If the party offended against was satisfied with that, it would be the end of the matter. As it appears that Mr Green's sins against Ms Maltby were a fleeting touch of the leg and an inappropriate text message and she said she only wanted an apology, it would seem to me that this is fair. For what could be construed as a sexual assault, dismissal would be the only reasonable sanction. If Mr Green worked for me and he took the line he is taking, that he "didnt recognise the behaviour", I would be highly concerned.

2.  Downloading porn on a work computer. This shows a complete lack of professional behaviour at work. Everywhere I've worked, that would be a sackable offence. There are two reasons for this. One is that most companies have an IT policy that stipulate company resources  must be used for business and company purposes. There are three very good reasons for this. Firstly people surfing dodgy websites and downloading iffy material put the whole network at risk of viruses and trojan horses. It is clearly irresponsible. The second is that you are meant to be doing work, not looking at porn when you are at work. The third is that not everyone is that thrilled to look at porn. If it is a shared computer, which Mr Green states, then it is more than possible people will see offensive material that may upset them. I am not a prude, but I don't see why anyone should expect other people to have to be subjected to their sexual tastes. There is no reason why MP's should not be subjected to the same rules as every other person in a position of responsibility in a major organisation has to conform to.

3. Lack of controls on a shared computer. We already discussed how people in Mr Green's position have access to all manner of sensitive information. If he allows all and sundry to have access to his computer, with no controls at all, then it is quite frankly negligent. Hillary Clinton was subject to a whole inquiry as she had important emails on a private server. The reason this was bad is because the data is vulnerable. If there were no controls and audit logs of who accessed what on Mr Greens computer, then it is clear it makes the data vulnerable. Mr Green claims the porn was "nothing to do with him". He is the boss in his office. It is his responsibility and if he hasn't put controls in place to ensure that the system is safe, it is entirely his fault. If it was one of his staff, he should be able to identify who. If he'd said "It was a member of my office and it has been dealt with as a private disciplinary matter and is now closed" that would be fine. All he has said is "nothing to do with me, guvnor".

4. Lying to parliament. Recently Christine Keeler passed away. She was famous for bringing down Profumo. His crime? Lying to Parliament. Green is no better. If someone is dishonest, they are dishonest. Trust is the key issue. If we can't trust minister, then democracy is at risk. Whatever siren voices may tell you, this is important.

If I was Theresa May, I'd look at the whole case and say that his behaviour has consistently fallen below what the British public should expect from a minister.  I listed these in order of importance, the knee touching was relatively minor. The downloading porn was potentially dangerous, however if Parliament doesn't have rules on such things, I suppose you could make a case that it wasn't a sackable offence, assuming that Green sorted the issues out. The issue of allowing access to sensitive material by anyone with no controls and audit at all is highly stupid. Again probably not a sackable offence on its own, but there is a worrying pattern of incompetence. However number four is a clear sacking offence. I've heard some (mostly Tory) commentators saying that the issue was not important. My view is that if a man lies in small matters, he can be trusted with nothing. If he can be trusted with nothing, he should have nothing worthy of trust in his domain.

That really is the end of the story. This does not just apply to Mr Green. It applies to all MP's. It is one of the reasons I quit the Labour Party. Our then local MP, Andrew Dismore record with expenses was one that lead me to conclude I could no longer support him.  I emailed Mr Dismore and his response simply didn't convince me.

As I thought Dismore was a good constituency MP, it was a bit of a shame. The point is that being an MP is a privilige. They are paid far more than the average person earns. We deserve better.

1 comment:

John S said...

I agree on all counts, but what concerns me as a person that has no reason to love our police force, is why is Theresa May and the Tory party gunning for the two police officers.
Greene implied they were liars, and to defend their integrity and reputation they released the information to qualify who was lying.

Are they saying MPs have the right to dishonestly destroy the reputation of long service police officers, and those officers have no right to defend themselves.