Douglas Murray

Who is more powerful: a backbench MP or Alan Rusbridger?

Who is more powerful: a backbench MP or Alan Rusbridger?
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Well Alan Rusbridger has certainly received a glowing review from his own newspaper for his appearance in Parliament yesterday. In a moving paen, Roy Greenslade today describes how his boss ‘was able to bat away MPs' concerns without raising a sweat, despite bluster from a couple of them who sought to suggest he might be guilty of breaching the Terrorism Act.’ Which, if it is true, says more about the MPs than it does about Rusbridger.

As it happens, I don’t know why some of the Select Committee MPs went into some of the cul-de-sacs they did. Why the ‘outing’ of the sexuality of some people working at GCHQ should have been such a prominent issue for Michael Ellis I do not know. It is possible that the MP presumed that the editor of the Guardian would be more easily embarrassed about outing someone as gay than about spreading the identities of British agents abroad. Ellis may well be right in this assumption but it did not lead him to the strongest line of questioning.

At any rate, the main charge against Rusbridger – that he and his paper scattered this country’s intelligence secrets around the globe – remains. Of course there are many who think that the whole business of calling the editor of the Guardian to account before Parliament for his war against the security service is a serious case of lese majeste. And you can see their point. Between a back-bench MP and the editor of the Guardian there is no doubt about who has the most power. Aside from anything else, if a backbench MP fiddles their expenses they can go to prison. If the editor of the Guardian encourages and participates in mass espionage and leaks against this country’s security interests then there are plenty of people in his own profession who will say he shouldn’t even be questioned on the fact.

Indeed some have even cried ‘McCarthyism’ after Keith Vaz asked Rusbridger whether or not he loves this country. I thought it a typically foolish, grandstanding, indeed one might say Vaz-ian line of questioning. But it is not a wholly empty question. After all, in its Assange-Snowden period the Guardian has done a huge amount to aid the enemies of this country, including the most totalitarian regimes of our time. And as for loyalties, it cannot be remembered often enough - although it never is - that it was only a couple of decades ago that one of Rusbridger’s colleagues at the Guardian was identified in this very magazine as a paid agent of influence of the KGB. There remain perfectly good reasons why no one should trust a list of security secrets to the Guardian editorial team, nevermind allowing them to disperse this nation's security secrets to whoever they deem their friends and colleagues.