Another animal discovered in the Westminster Menagerie …
Anyone who needed a lesson in how to say nothing in the most polite and apologetic fashion should have watched the performance of the mandarin of mandarins at the HoC Select Committee on Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs yesterday afternoon. A clutch of MSM reporters watched, and so did I. It was quite interesting to observe how the various professionals reported on this and which points were being emphasised by the MSM this morning.
First of all, I have to confess that I’m not made of the stern stuff of professional MSM reporters. They watched the whole thing to the bitter end whereas I, I’m sorry to say, lost the will to live after the MPs and Mr Case switched from the ‘leak inquiry’ to ‘who paid for Carrie’s redecoration scheme’. I’m sorry but compared to the various costs incurred by Labour grandees redecorating their abodes, from Cheri B to Lord Falconer, the No 10 sum is piddling. Nobody however seems to be exercised about that, certainly not Labour. Perhaps it’s not sleaze when we taxpayers are made to pay for it?
The MSM, going on about this ‘money’ scandal, are also focussing on BJ allegedly having said that he didn’t care if bodies piled up – here is a non-paywalled report. Apparently our TV stations said BJ did say it, so it must be true! The DM also came up with news that BJ actually texted Cummings to tell him he was ‘in the clear’ regarding that ‘chatty rat’ leak (link). Sadly, they omitted to say who told them this nor when that text message was sent. That article also reports on the Case performance, so if you must, enjoy this non-paywalled read.
And so to that Case Performance. I watched for the 40-odd minutes where the MPs tied to drag information out of Mr Case, taking minutes. I have to hand it to Mr Case – he is surely on track to become a Lord in the not too distant future. He stonewalled the MPs questions about the ‘chatty rat’ leak in a fashion which deserves several Oscars. Not only did he say nothing at all, he did so in a way that was both courteous and apologetic without cringing. I take my hat off to him! Also, stars should be handed out to the various MPs who tried their best with varying questions, getting nowhere. The old saying about the impossibility to try nailing jelly to a wall certainly applied.
Still, some answers by Mr Case were forthcoming which I think were important. Amidst the welter of ‘I can’t say anything about this – I am constrained’ we learned that for example he and the administration would neither confirm or deny that MI5 was and/or is involved. So – who leaked this piece of info to the MSM? Surely this was against their own civil service rules? Intriguing also were other admissions which our intrepid reporters didn’t seem to have noticed.
For example, Mr Moyle MP asked: “Do you think the leaker has broken any laws? Are we discussing embarrassment or lawbreaking?”, to which Mr Case answered: “This leak did not meet the threshold of offence of the Official Secrets Act and was not an offense of misconduct in public office.” – “If that is the case, why can’t you answer in more detail to our questions?” Ah, Mr Case answered, it’s because “just because something isn’t a criminal offence doesn’t mean the methods of investigation aren’t classified”. And so we were back to why dear Simon can’t answer.
This went on and on – for over 40 minutes. Nobody banged a fist on their tables at home – yep, ‘twas a mostly zoomed ‘event’ again. The mutual politeness was astounding. Then we came to the crucial answer of who had told Mr Case not to reply “because: constraints”. Turns out this was an entity called “Government Security Group” which ‘collaborates with Government security who owns this process’. It was this secretive Group which told Mr Case not to answer the MPs’ questions. I’d never heard of such group so I went to the interwebs to find out. Turns out this group is attached to the Cabinet Office … and who chairs the Cabinet Office? A certain Mr Case.
The MPs didn’t ask questions about this rather important entity. To me, naive observer of all things Whitehall, it looked as if Mr Case might have ordered himself not to answer any questions since he was following rules of constraint which he himself had laid down. While we did learn that this inquiry won’t be able to name anyone guilty of this ‘chatty rat’ leak which might go on for some more weeks, there was one other important point made which also hasn’t intrigued the intrepid MSM reporters and sketch writers.
Mr Case told the MPs that all the information on the leak inquiry was given to the Speaker of the House, under ‘Privy Council terms’. The last time this was done was two weeks ago. Ah. ‘Privy council terms’ means ‘in camera’, that is: in secret. So how come all those ‘sources’ and ‘Westminster insiders’ knew already that Mr Case wouldn’t say anything and told the MSM so yesterday? Didn’t that constitute a leak? Far be it from me to suggest that the ‘senior insider’ might have been the mandarin of mandarins himself … but nowadays, who can know for certain!
The politely frustrated Mr Moyle MP stated that: “The Speaker is not in charge of the functioning of the civil service, this committee is”, and Mr McDonald MP asked: “Why is it, if this investigation is ongoing, that spokespeople can talk about this to the press while MPs cannot be informed?” Answer there came none.
We were told though that this oh-so classified investigation, undertaken by ‘professionals’ using the latest technology and pursuing every thread to the bitter end, won’t be able to identify that leaker in the end anyway. No – don’t ask how this is even possible, given that they’re so professional. Don’t ask if this is because Whitehall is waiting to see how to spin the outcome for maximum political effect, protecting themselves rather than the PM who is now having to battle against that ‘bodies piling up’ remark.
Regarding that remark, MPs asked if this shouldn’t also become a leak inquiry and should be investigated, painstakingly? Mr Case answered that an investigation hasn’t started and that he’ll have to discuss this with the PM. Answering Mr Mcdonald MP who asked if he, Mr Case, had the authority to instigate such a leak inquiry himself, he answered that “it’s very unusual to instigate an inquiry without first talking to the PM”, adding, after more waffling, that he’d talk about this with the PM.
In conclusion, Mr Case, softly spoken, said nothing at all, didn’t let himself be sidetracked from his initial stance that he couldn’t say anything because of security constraints, that it was ‘complicated’ but that he ‘painstaking professionals’ will follow every single thread until they’ve run out of things to follow. Of course he couldn’t say which ‘security’ people were involved because the Cabinet Office never denies or confirms these things. Every time he spoke he apologised for not being able to answer. He did say a few times that the Speaker was and will be informed ‘in camera’, i.e. in secret, of the ongoing investigation.
That leaves me with the disquieting impression that in the end, we’ll never be told who that ‘chatty rat’ was – not just because the investigators couldn’t find anything but because the Speaker won’t tell. Thus the MSM can happily go on denigrating people who cannot defend themselves because this ‘secret’ won’t be ‘leaked’ for security reasons.
I wonder, again, who it was that leaked the story about MI5 being involved, fingering Cummings as culprit. All the MSM reporters writing about the hearing have let that one drop like a hot potato. However, shouldn’t this qualify as a security leak and should therefore be investigated?
What about the ‘sources’ talking incessantly to the MSM? No leaking there, is it? I wonder who it was who told the MSM that Mr Case would reveal nothing at all at this hearing. ‘Tis surely worthy of a leak inquiry, right? It would of course be unthinkable to infer that perhaps someone in the Speaker’s office leaked these particular ‘titbits’, wouldn’t it. After all, Mr Case is extremely unlikely to ‘leak’ those pieces of info himself, isn’t he …
The take-home message is that there are even more secretive entities, such as that ‘government security group’, for example, and indeed the Speaker receiving information ‘in camera‘ which by rights ought to be made available to us all because of ‘transparency’. What chance though if even the MPs aren’t told who are elected to scrutinise government! It’s all utterly subterranean, and thus I’ll add moles to the Westminster menagerie. They do come up to the surface now and then but nothing much is seen of their work above ground except for their mole hills.
Then there’s this other animal to be added, an animal which stands for our dear MSM which rush, like slavering packs, to grab every little unsubstantiated piece of ‘news’ provided by ‘sources’ and ‘insiders’. Yes, hyenas come to mind. They are very intelligent animals, it is said.
All those ‘non leaks’ by anonymous ‘sources’ demonstrate that, for one, the MSM can’t function without leaks because they’ve forgotten how to do research themselves. It also demonstrates the political power of those leakers who can and are steering the political discourse of the Nation by determining what they can or will not leak in order to achieve a satisfactory outcome – satisfactory for themselves. Even the PM isn’t exempt as that ‘bodies piling up’ leak reveals.
We however, who are paying for all of this, cannot be told and are kept in the dark about those secretive tunnels of information management, information provided to yon slavering pack.
All in all, this hearing was unsatisfactory in the extreme. I hope Dominic Cummings will refrain from providing written testimony to the HoC Committee where he’ll testify on the 26th next month because he can be certain that such material will be leaked by those secretive moles to the MSM hyenas.