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Tuesday, February 07, 2006 

No Trousers Charlie takes advantage of the situation.

The Labour government is never one to pass up an opportunity to benefit from public events. One advisor thought that September the 11th would be a great day to bury bad news about the railways. In the same spirit, Charles Clarke thought that it would be a ripping good idea to bring back in the "glorifying" terrorism part of the current act going through parliament:

Mr Clarke sought to use the protests to challenge opponents of the Government's Terror Bill to drop their opposition to some of the most controversial proposals including a clause to outlaw the "glorification" of terrorism, which was thrown out in the Lords. His remarks are certain to intensify the row over the Bill when it returns to the Commons next week.

Ministers appeared to harden their rhetoric after calls grew for prosecutions over the demonstrations in London, with the police accused of standing by while protesters carried banners that appeared to incite people to murder.

Mr Clarke called on the Tory leader David Cameron to drop opposition to a clause outlawing glorification of terrorism. But Mr Cameron later appeared to rule out any compromise over the plans.

Asked if he would back the law, he said: "I believe in free speech, but free speech under the law. Many of those people carrying those placards were clearly inciting violence or inciting hatred and that is against the law. It does not need any new glorification laws. The things they are inciting people to do are against the law today."

Labour rebels, who are determined to stick to their objections, are also likely to accuse Mr Clarke of using the offensive protests last week to drive through a measure which will damage civil liberties. However, it is likely that the Government will overturn the Lords defeat and reintroduce " glorification" of terrorism as a new offence.

Officials said it would enable the prosecution of Muslim clerics who have avoided directly inciting supporters to kill people, but suggested that those who carried out killings would enter heaven. Senior Whitehall sources confirmed that protesters who last weekend directly called for people to be killed could be prosecuted under the existing incitement to murder laws.

The whole "glorification" of terrorism part of the bill is still way too broadly drafted, which is why the Lords removed the whole section from the bill. Charles Clarke has previously said that it would criminalise those that call for the overthrow of governments, elected or not. In other words, someone who said that Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe should be removed from office through people power could well be prosecuted for "glorifying" terrorism. That's without even going into the possibilities of someone supporting suicide bombing in Israel, or the taking up of arms against a government which could not be removed without violence, let alone talking about the ANC struggle in South Africa, which many called terrorism for decades. The bill would be a minefield, and as the article states, is completely unneccessary anyway. Abu Hamza has just been convicted for his part in stirring up hatred. Arrests on those who incited violence on the march on Friday are likely.

As usual with New Labour, any excuse is good enough for introducing bad legislation which hasn't been properly thought through. While Blair is prepared to compromise on education, he pushes through ID cards despite the frightening consequences they and the database behind them will have on civil liberties. The Labour backbenches must not go quiet because of the probable deal on education. Without them, we are doomed to even more bad bills.

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