If recent days are anything to go by there are now three parties at Westminster. Brown’s Labour, Cameron’s Conservatives and – a new party of old principles – the Parliamentarians. Only the Parliamentarians seem sure of their ground.
The Conservatives stand by their man, while declaring for the Parliamentarians. Their righteous indignation, and justification of the leaks, suggest that they have examined their man and found his story solid – anything else would surely be suicidal. For Conservatives, the innocence of Damian Green is underlined and amplified by the breach of Parliamentary supremacy.
For Gordon Brown and Jacqui Smith - Parliamentary supremacy is theoretical – applying only in the unlikely and distant event of Damian Green’s innocence. It can, they say, be temporarily suspended for “Police operational reasons” in the same way that Alistair Darling disposed of Prudence at the PBR. To many this will be the most sinister utterance of the story so far, but to Gordon and his spin doctors, so long as the poison and innuendo are allowed to work their magic, February can’t come slowly enough.
The Parliamentarians – and I am among them – believe that regardless of what Green has or hasn’t done, it is the intrusion on supremacy which matters most. That is not to suggest that Green is immune, but that (if the facts merit it) he should be called by the House to answer for his conduct and – if guilty – impeached. It is axiomatic that an MP accused of misconduct in office should be indicted only by Parliament itself – because, whatever Jacqui Smith might say, as long as elected Politicians can be detained and hindered by her policemen in the course of their duties - we are by definition a Police State. To a Parliamentarian, all else pales beside this simple fact.
So what is to be done?
As I said on Thursday, Damian Green must examine his conscience, take close and stringent counsel, and decide whether there is any aspect of his behavior which could undermine the approach his party is taking. He owes to his party and to the Nation – If there is anything seriously prejudicial, then he must resign his position at once and defend himself, leaving others to stand up for Parliament.
And if his conscience is clear? - he must wait no longer. He should go, along with his supporters, and petition Parliament to avenge this constitutional wrong without further delay. Submitting himself, he should demand that all others are called – policeman, politician, or civil servant – to make a full account of themselves on pain of imprisonment for contempt.
Parliamentary supremacy is the rootstock upon which all our hard won freedoms are grafted. Time and again, since the civil war, the British people have sacrificed their lives first to enshrine it at home and then to promote and defend it abroad. On Wednesday when Black Rod seeks entry to the Commons during the state opening, we will commemorate it once more.
What transpires between now and then will decide whether this is an empty historical charade, or a vivid re-assertion of the Democracy we claim to support.