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Mark Oaten scandal and the Wilson Doctrine

The resignation of Liberal Democrat Home Affairs spokesman Mark Oaten, due to revelations published in the News of the World tabloid should give people who are thinking about amending the "Wilson Doctrine" administrative ban on the interception of the phone calls of Members of Parliament , plenty to consider.

"I advertise on a website and Oaten called out of the blue."


"Over the next few months he kept ringing "


"Before one session he rang several times"


"He was such a secretive man, but I knew it WAS Oaten. Whenever he rang he never withheld his number and I have it to this day."


How can the public be sure that if Members of Parliament (and therefore also their Constituents) are put under electronic surveillance for "security" purposes, that information on scandalous, though not illegal activities such as this, which would have been gleaned in the this case, could not have been used for political purposes by those in power ?

Will the Liberal Democrats still be united in their opposition to the Identity Cards Bill and the Terrorism Bill etc. after the resignations of Charles Kennedy and Mark Oaten ?


The lib dems seem to be digging their own hole at the moment.

People who become politicians should already be aware that everything they do will be under a high degree of scrutiny, including public and private activities. Rightly or wrongly many political ambitions have been prematurely curtailed by private misshaps. The media loves nothing more than a good old-fashioned moral panic or sex scandal, and once they latch on it's entirely traditional that resignations follow.

I suspect that arguments over whether MPs should be bugged or not are somewhat academic, in the manner of theologeans arguing over how many angels may dance on a pinhead. I bet that most MPs - especially front bench individuals - have been bugged by the security services for years if not decades. They will categorically deny such activities of course, but then that's what secret services are obliged to do.

Just to clarify, since at least one reader has jumped to the wrong conclusion about this blog posting.

It was not intended to imply that the Government were bugging Mark Oaten.

Since the News of the World story mentions that Oaten was allegedly identified in February 2005, why, if the "Wilson Doctrine" was not currently being honoured, was the scandal not leaked before the General Election ?

The intention of the quotes was to show that this is a current example of an MP who would have been vulnerable to political blackmail, by those with access to phone and web browsing Communications Traffic Data and phone intercepts, if the "Wilson Doctrine" is amended or abandoned.

@ Sir Arthur - if individuals in the intelligence services are doing this by themselves, without authorisation from the Home Secretary or the Prime Minister then they face a couple of years in prison.

If the Home Secretary and / or the Prime Minister are authorising surveillance of their political allies and enemies, a la Francois Mitterand, in contravention of the "Wilson Doctrine", then they will have put their careers into the hands of the intelligence agencies, the telecomms companies and individual computer and telecomms personnel who they so despise.

If proof of such activities, contrary to the "Wilson Doctrine", should ever emerge, then it would be a Resignation matter.

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