Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Terrorism Laws

The war on British liberty continues. I'd hoped that when the deadful David Blunkett left the Home Office, old lugs here would be more emollient and prove more willing to compromise. He has, I suppose - but not always to the good.

The legislation under which terrorist suspects were being held at Belmarsh prison without charge, trial or legal representation - having been declared "discriminatory" by an 8-1 ruling by the Law Lords is to be "modernised" in true New Labour fashion: this government's drive to promote "social inclusion" means that the discriminatory nature of the old legislation is to be updated; now British subjects too are to be detained without trial, if this Home Secretary gets his way, on the say-so of the team that brought us the WMD dossier. But its ok - this incarceration will now be done in the comfort of your own home.

There's a couple of constitutional-anoraky points to make. Firstly, having scraped through the Commons last night, the best chance for this legislation being thwarted lies with the undemocratic House of Lords - a reminder that democracy and liberty should never be conflated.

The other is that this disgrace is an example of this government's supine attitude to the dark forces of bureaucracy. The police and intelligence services always press for more draconian legislation. Hitherto, previous governments have at least given the impression that they are acquainted with the now dreadfully passe documents like Magna Carta.

An example of this relationship with the bureaucracy can be drawn from education: according to Ken Livingstone, his old pal John Major said that he couldn't believe that this government had caved into pressure from civil servants to introduce tuition fees; he claimed he always told them to sod-off when they tried to get him to do the same.

The government were reported to be unpeturbed by the rebellion in the Commons, believing that the public largely backed these terrorism measures.

I'm concerned that they're probably right about that.

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