David Davis and a string of other Tory MPs have rallied behind Damian Green, the effective deputy prime minister, after a former detective came forward with fresh allegations about pornography on Green’s Commons computer nine years ago.
The Brexit secretary let it be known that he would resign in protest were Green to be forced out solely on the basis of allegations by former Met officers, although he accepted that other factors could lead to Green having to quit as first secretary of state.
In a BBC interview on Friday, Neil Lewis, the detective who examined Green’s computer in 2008, said he had “no doubt whatsoever” that it was Green who accessed pornography, and not someone else in the office.
Lewis said: “The computer was in Mr Green’s office, on his desk, logged in, his account, his name. In between browsing pornography, he was sending emails from his account, his personal account, reading documents … it was ridiculous to suggest anybody else could have done it.”
The former officer said the images were not extreme or illegal, as earlier reports claimed, and featured no images of children or sexual abuse. Previously the man who headed up the 2008 investigation into Green, Bob Quick, had only said pornography was found on a computer in the MP’s office.
Green’s future has been in the balance since Theresa May ordered a Cabinet Office inquiry into allegations he made improper sexual advances to Kate Maltby, a Tory activist 30 years his junior, in 2015 and 2016. Green strongly denied the allegations, but the inquiry was subsequently expanded to take in claims that pornography was found on his Commons computer when it was raided in 2008 as part of an inquiry into Home Office leaks.
Conservative MPs leapt to Green’s defence, saying evidence obtained in a police raid, which did not expose illegality, should not be used to undermine a politician in this way.
Davis, who was Green’s boss as shadow home secretary for a time, is said to feel so angry about the way that his friend has been victimised that he could resign.
“David has made it clear that he will not stand idly by if as a result of wrong behaviour by the police then Damian is forced out,” said a close ally of the Brexit secretary. “The police are using tactics straight out of the mafia playbook.”
Former attorney general Dominic Grieve said the actions of the retired officers in leaking the allegations against Green had “the smack of the police state”.
“This can’t be right. They are in flagrant breach of their own code of conduct and practice,” he told BBC Two’s Newsnight.
“Eight years later they choose to put material that an ordinary citizen would be prohibited from acquiring under data protection rules into the public domain on their own judgment ... I find it very worrying. We give the police powers that other people do not have. They are not and must not be allowed to abuse those powers.”
Backbencher Jacob Rees-Mogg said the police “behaved disgracefully as a political arm of the then government” when they raided Green’s office in 2008, adding that they should not be “using information obtained improperly to damage a politician”.
And in an article for the Guardian Crispin Blunt said: “I am deeply concerned by the way in which the people we need to protect us and help safeguard our democracy felt free to smear the reputation of a fine public servant.” Blunt also said Lewis’s account of how pornography was supposedly viewed on Green’s computer for long periods was “wholly inconsistent with the normal pattern of an MP’s parliamentary life”, when they would not have time for such activity.
The threat by Davis to resign would only come into play were Green to be forced out on the word of the police, according to Davis’s friends. If the Cabinet Office inquiry were to prove that Green had lied, or other misconduct, then Davis accepts May would be entitled to act.
Green issued a brief statement of denial about the Lewis claims on Friday. “I’ve maintained all along, I still maintain – it is the truth – that I didn’t download or look at pornography on my computer. But obviously while the investigation is going on I can’t say any more at the moment.”
Downing Street has confirmed that the Cabinet Office investigation is primarily looking at possible breaches of the ministerial code, even though the pornography allegations relate to a time before Green was a minister.
The inquiry is being carried out by Sue Gray, head of ethics at the Cabinet Office. A claim that her report was already with May was swiftly denied on Friday, and No 10 has refused to say when it would conclude. The final decision about what happens to Green will be up to May.
The 2008 leak inquiry led to no charges against Green. Lewis now faces a Scotland Yard investigation into his decision to go public. The Met responded to his intervention by saying: “Confidential information gathered during a police inquiry should not be made public.”
A spokesperson said the case would be examined by the directorate of professional standards.
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