In my interview with Nick Clegg on Sunday, I invited his views on whether it was appropriate for the Police to employ the Official Secrets Act to force a journalist to reveal their sources. This was of course a reference to the application by the Met for an order instructing the Guardian to hand over details of the alleged Police source who had informed them that The News of the World had been involved in the hacking of Milly Dowler’s voicemail
I was hoping for a resounding ’no’. Both because what the Police were doing was both inappropriate and illiberal, and because ‘Deputy Prime Minister condemns actions of the Met’ would have made a great headline in The New Statesman submission I was planning… (sorry, shallow I know, nothing if not self aware)
Sadly, (for my headline and for a missed opportunity) Nick played the ‘don’t know enough about it to comment’ card, though he did add that anything that restricts journalist from getting to the truth makes him uncomfortable.
Today, the news has broken that the Met has realised the obvious - that indeed their action was inappropriate - and have withdrawn. Which is of course the right thing to do, for all the reasons that Jonathan Freedland has written about here.
But I do remain surprised that Nick wasn’t in a position to make a more robust statement about this. People will undoubtedly say I am naïve and that the Police must remain independent of politicians influence when deciding how to investigate such matters and that the Police wouldn’t want any political influence.
And that would be fair enough.
But still. There was wiggle room for him to be a bit more robust….