The balance of power
I don't know the details of his contract and obligations, but, if the combined response of the Tories, Lib Dems and some Labour backbenchers is anything to go by, the mark has definitely been overstepped. It also brings to light the conflict between duties - if, as a minister, he comes by information which he truly does believe is in the public interest which has not been released, which is the greater duty, that to his contract or that to his constituents? Look at the leaks mentioned:
- The November 2007 revelation that the home secretary knew the Security Industry Authority had granted licences to 5,000 illegal workers, but decided not to publicise it.
- The February 2008 news that an illegal immigrant had been employed as a cleaner in the House of Commons.
- A whips' list of potential Labour rebels in the vote on plans to increase the pre-charge terror detention limit to 42 days.
- A letter from the home secretary warning that a recession could lead to a rise in crime
The middle 2 are perhaps spiteful and risky manoeuvres, but the first and last are most definitely in the sphere of knowledge of public interest. Though it also raises the question of whether he would wish to die by the sword as well - by uncovering information this government wishes to keep secret, he (and Cameron through his endorsement) loses any right to the moral high ground should the same thing happen under a Tory government.
Regardless, it seems an extremely excessive and heavy-handed way to deal with the situation. The obvious overreacting comparison is 1984, and we're not there yet, but it is a step on the way...