Welfare 6 June 2012 Of lynch-mobs and witch-hunts How powerful people see opposition. Print HTML The Justice Secretary Ken Clarke has dismissed those scrutinizing his colleagues Jeremy Hunt and Baroness Warsi as a “lynch-mob”. Not long ago, a well-known tabloid journalist attacked those investigating newsroom excesses as conducting a “witch-hunt”. Of course, what is going on is nothing like a lynch-mob or a witch-hunt. Really, it is not. There are no terrified vulnerable people being persued down country lanes by vigilantes or hooligans with cruel violence on their mind. There are no ropes thrown over branches nor any stakes placed on bonfires. There is no bloodshed. Indeed, such stale but extreme language tells you a great deal about the mentalities of those who employ it. So unused are certain people of not getting their own way - either individually or as a class - that they can think only in terms of mobs and witch-hunters when the prospect is raised of any genuine but unwanted accountability. So, as usual, the most revealing thing about a powerful man or woman is how they view those who can check them. For them, the sound of awkward questions being asked is the noise of breaking glass. One should not be surprised by their responses. Yes, politicians from time to time may lose office; but the greater number of those who exercise actual power - civil servants, judges, police officers, and media proprietors and editors - will be quite untouched by mere elections. They are settled in and do not like the “instability” of being confronted and challenged. For a citizen to even directly tell a Permanent Secretary, a High Court judge, a Chief Constable, or the owner of a tabloid, that they may be wrong and culpable and should answer questions is almost unthinkable as any practical matter. Such things do not happen, and there are various means in place to stop such impudence from occurring. As we observe the Queen’s diamond jubilee, it is clear that the United Kingdom has fashioned a polity where many individuals who exercise power never are really challenged. › The growing Lib Dem revolt against Clegg Tory politicians: off to the gallows? Photo: Getty Images David Allen Green is legal correspondent of the New Statesman and author of the Jack of Kent blog. His legal journalism has included popularising the Simon Singh libel case and discrediting the Julian Assange myths about his extradition case. His uncovering of the Nightjack email hack by the Times was described as "masterly analysis" by Lord Justice Leveson. David is also a solicitor and was successful in the "Twitterjoketrial" appeal at the High Court. (Nothing on this blog constitutes legal advice.) Subscribe More Related articles Watch: The evidence Nigel Farage said money sent to the EU should go to the NHS Live blog: Jeremy Corbyn hit by shadow cabinet revolt Hilary Benn has been sacked. What happens now?