Saturday, 2 July 2011

The Strange Case of Dominique Strauss-Kahn

Let us assume that next month Ed Miliband decides to visit New York to discuss the world economic situation. He stays there for a few days and goes to the airport for his return flight.

A few hours before, in another part of town, a man is found murdered. The Police interview his neighbours, On one side they advise they have seen nothing but did hear an argument the previous evening in which one of the participants had an English accent. On the other side, the neighbours had been out for the evening but, just as they returned home, they had seen a middle aged man pass them by who, keen watchers of British Prime Ministers Question time on PBS as they are, looked very like "that young man who debates with The British Prime Minister". CCTV footage confirms this and on looking into the victim's movements the police also discover that the deceased was in the Audience when Ed spoke to a Democratic Party Think Tank the previous day. Still sceptical of any link, they nonetheless are surprised to find that Ed's Amex Card has been used at an ATM near the victim's apartment the previous evening and more disturbed still when the corpse is identified as possibly belonging to the delegate who denounced him as "holding out no hope for progessive politics" at the self same Think Tank event. By this time they are thinking the unthinkable and are more alarmed still when they discover at Ed's Hotel that he has cut short his visit and proposing to return to the UK two days ahead of schedule.

Not unreasonably, they need to speak to him and alert the airport.

Now, what would you expect might happen next?

The Polis, on any view, have a prima facie case. On the other hand, their suspect is hardly likely to "do a runner" without his political career coming to an abrupt end irrespective of any ultimate outcome of the judicial process and, even then, is unlikely to escape justice for very long given that he is a pretty well kent face anywhere in the world. You might therefore expect that he be invited to remain in the USA, at an address known, with the implied threat of arrest if he indicates his preference for any alternative course of action.

Now, I mean no disrespect to Ed when I say he is hardly as well known as Dominique Strauss-Kahn, nor as certainly, or imminently, likely to be his Country's next political leader. Yet, were the hypothetical Ed to be treated other than I suggest in the circumstances I posit above, British public opinion would be outraged. And not just left wing opinion.

I have no reason to doubt that the authorities in New York had equally reasonable grounds to believe that DSK required to account for his actions faced with what appeared to be an allegation of serious wrongdoing. It is the rest of it which causes me serious disquiet.

Why was he arrested in the first place? Why then was he remanded in custody like, and I make no apology for the phrase, a common criminal? Why, when he was eventually released, was he made subject to such ludicrously over the top bail conditions? And why, when the case against him appears close to collapse, is he still prevented from leaving America to return to his home country? After all, I repeat, he is hardly likely to "do a runner" without abandoning all possible role in public life in France or anywhere else and, even then, be unlikely to be able to run very far.

I am congenitally unpredisposed towards conspiracy theories. I have no doubt JFK was shot by Lee Harvey Oswald; that Elvis is really dead and that the only reason Princess Di passed on is that she was unlucky enough to be driven in a fast car by a drunk man. Even to me however the DSK case stinks to high heaven.

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