Does it matter whether or not the First Secretary of State and Minister for the Cabinet Office watched pornography on his office PC?
In truth, probably not. It was a long time ago, he was not then a minister of the crown, it was not (by all accounts) extreme or illegal pornography, and it is not unknown for men of a certain age to do just that, at work and at home.
But what now matters is whether he is telling the truth.
The Guardian leader on Friday puts it very clearly,
In the end, though, the outcome of the Green affair seems likely to come down, and should, to an even more basic principle – which of Mr Green and his accusers is telling the truth? – and to an even more important judgment: which of them should be believed?
What has struck me most is the silence: from the Prime Minister; from the Home Secretary (ultimately responsible for the Met); from the Commissioner of the Met.
Certainly there have been a lot of loud noises off – David Davis threatening, according to his friends, that he will resign if Mr Green has to go; Andrew Mitchell, himself no stranger to rows with the Met, calling on Cressida Dick “to stand up, as Britain’s most senior police officer, and make clear that this sort of freelancing by rogue officers is completely unacceptable and that she will stamp it out on her watch?”
And those keeping their counsel may properly argue that as the claims are being investigated by the Cabinet Office, speculation at this stage is unwise. Plus Theresa May has been overseas (but Mr Green is perhaps her closest political ally); Amber Rudd may not want to rock any boat (quite yet); Cressida Dick is not responsible for the former police officers who have leaked the details (but this goes to the heart of the public’s confidence in the Met).
So what about the silence?
Pure speculation of course, but consider the following,
If Mr Green goes, how long will Theresa May stay? How long can she stay? Particularly if she offers him imprudent support.
If Theresa May goes, will Amber Rudd run for leader of the Conservative party, notwithstanding the precariousness of her majority at Hastings and Rye at the last election? Might be worth a quick trip to William Hill.
What does Cressida Dick know? She will have been fully briefed on the events in 2008, which led to Mr Green’s Parliamentary Office being searched and his computers seized. And she was, in any event, a deputy assistant commissioner at the time, in charge of specialist operations.
Brexit one way or another looms over all of this. If Mrs May goes, will the grown up faction in the Government, which includes Amber Rudd, take back control?
Politicians are not always truthful – for all sorts of reasons.
The almost endless stream of news stories and articles about Trump, to say nothing of the streams of tweets from Trump, about Trump, in support of Trump, against Trump, makes for depressing reading but there is an appalling fascination in it all.
And then there are the questions. Why are the Republicans so spineless? What are the so-called Grown-Ups in the White House doing? When will the Democrats get their act together? Will Trump be impeached? Will he jump before he is pushed? What is happening to democracy in the US?
My take on it all is this.
The Republicans are doing nothing – because they are secretly hoping that Trump will blow up (possibly entirely the wrong term) before the Midterms next year, allowing Pence to step into his shoes, steady the Republican ship, and prepare for 2020. Two years is a long time in politics.
The Democrats are doing nothing – partly because they are still looking for a candidate who has a chance of success in 2020, and partly because they would like Trump to remain in the White House for as long as possible, to deny Pence any opportunity to fight 2020 as a sitting President. They also believe that the more egregious Trump’s behaviour is, the more likely that the Republicans will find themselves mired in the failure of his presidency.
The Grown-Ups in the White House are doing nothing – because of who are they are: generals, placemen, and family. The family will stick with Trump as there is no alternative; the placemen will stick with Trump as they owe Trump their position and won’t survive his departure; and the generals are the generals. For them, the habit of following orders is very deeply ingrained.
But the political calculations for both Republicans and Democrats are difficult. If the Republicans leave it too long they may find themselves stuck with Trump as their candidate in 2020, against a candidate who will be a lot harder to beat than Hillary. Equally, if the Democrats do nothing, they may find the Republicans move early, get Pence into the White House, and then they will have to unseat a sitting President.
And as for the Grown-Ups? It is probably already too late for them to do anything. They accepted the ride and the hand cart is gathering pace.
And all we can do is sit and wait and watch the reputation of the US get trashed.
There are times when it seems that the City’s great and good inhabit a parallel universe.
This thought been prompted by an article, Bank of England bosses claim Charlotte Hogg’s resignation was ‘disproportionate’, in the Business section of this morning’s Telegraph, and, in particular, that
the outcome seemed to court members entirely disproportionate to the original offence,” said the directors of the Bank in a note recording topics discussed in a teleconference which took place on March 14, the day she resigned.
Any private sector boss making the same mistakes would not have had to quit, the board said.
To which one might respond, #Headinhands, “Up to a point Lord Copper.”
Most observers were surprised that Hogg took so long to resign.
There is no doubt that the Bank regretted her resignation. But ‘disproportionate’? Surely not.
A more considered view was that of the Treasury select committee, whose unanimous report concluded that Hogg’s “professional competence falls short of the very high standards required to fulfil the additional responsibilities of deputy governor for markets and banking” and whose chair Andrew Tyrie offered a much more considered view than it appears the Court held,
This is a regrettable business with no winners. Ms Hogg has acted in the best interest of the institution for which she has been working. This is welcome.
The photograph on the masthead of this blog is pretty much the same view – but this was last week, at about 19:45. A falling tide and the sun setting. One of my favourite London views.
For a politician – of any age and any party – there is a narrow line to tread between national treasure and embarrassing elderly relative.
Think Ed Balls.
It may be a little premature to call him a NT but he is staking his claim. First “Ed Balls Day” on twitter, then Gangnam style on Strictly and now his recent Dream Dinner Party on Radio 4 and underpinning all this froth, listen to him talking about his stammer.
But the last few days have also seen a couple of the elderly relatives escape their minders.
First up the moist eyed wet lipped Michael Howard, attempting to conjure the shade of the Blessed Margaret with an ill-concealed warning to Spain (or as he probably sees them, Johnny Dago). Or perhaps he had just misread the Lynton Crosby playbook on dead cats.
And not to be outdone, we now have Labour’s own elderly uncle, Ken Livingstone, bleating that he was “just stating the truth” – something to which I fear he may be a stranger.