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Thursday, January 24, 2008 

Indifferent to rhyme or reason.

Jacqui Smith must tonight be thankful that Peter Hain's falling on his sword didn't come a moment too soon. The fallout from his forever delayed but inevitable resignation has managed to firmly cover today's horlicks from both her and the government over the decision to continue to push for 42 days detention without charge for "terrorist suspects". Brown's promotion of James Purnell and Andy Burnham, both witless Blairites like Smith herself, the latter of which was responsible for this vacuous, impenetrable garbage in the Grauniad only a couple of weeks ago, only magnifies again that his real aversion was never to Blairism, but just the way Blair practised it.

Brown's hand is almost certainly also behind the continued execrable obsession with extending the detention limit. Smith's heart certainly isn't in it, to go by her performance on the Today programme:

If in the future, in exceptional circumstances, a case could be made that there is an operation, an investigation, a number of multiple plots, a really difficult situation in which the police and Director of Public Proscecutions want to be able to apply to a judge to decide whether or not they could hold somebody for longer, that we need to find a way to facilitate that in those circumstances.

To be fair to Smith, she's probably got fed up with making the same tedious points over and over again. I know I am, having argued against first 90 days, then the Brown government's ever decreasing numbers of 56 and now the magic, meaning of life affirming figure of 42. The number of individuals and newspapers that support it can be counted on one hand: Brown, Smith, Iain Blair, Lord Carlile and the Sun. That the police support it isn't a surprise: if it means they don't have to hurry themselves quite as much as they currently do, they'll quite happily go along with an extension. The only one who should know better is Carlile, who for a supposed independent reviewer of the terrorist laws seems to have become the government's chief individual supporter on both 42 days and against the introduction of intercept evidence. MI5 and others seem to have done a bang-up job in disseminating to him their most lurid intelligence.

As it is, the government's laughable attempts at reaching a consensus when it has no intention of actually doing so have created the worst possible, most vindictive law they could have come up with, so much so that you think it's deliberate. What better way to shaft those who wanted safeguards and who said it wasn't necessary, like Ken Macdonald, head of the DPP, than to force that person into authorising it when the police demand it? Could they really have thought up such a pitiful consultative measure for parliament which means that the vote on whether they agree with the extension being put into place is likely to take place after the 42 days has long gone accidentally? And indeed, what sort of MP would ever even contemplate voting down the decision to extend while the 42 days were still ongoing? The Sun and others would be campaigning for them to be thrown out at the next election for letting "terrorists" go free.

It would be difficult to turn in a more woeful argument than Jacqui Smith, but Tony McNulty, another minister who makes you wonder whether there's a lab located in the darkest depths of Sevenoaks where they create obstinate, fury-inducing, mentally challenged ignoramuses made to order, making his case to the Mirror somehow managed it. He talks of imagining the consequences of multiple attacks on the scale of 9/11 and 7/7, but doesn't seem to have gotten his thick skull around realising that 42 days wasn't needed after 7/7, or indeed, 9/11, because the perpertrators were dead. It's a little late to arrest what remains of them and lock them up for 42 days while the police gather a case against the viscera, although the way we're going I wouldn't put it past them. When you can't even scaremonger like a pathetic toad, you really know it's time to give up.

The thing is, just where is the government going to go when this gets defeated? Last time round Blair told us that he was right and everyone else was wrong and the Sun called everyone opposed traitors. Even so, once Blair was defeated for the first time in parliament and was only ever beaten once more, it was the beginning of the end. His invulnerability had gone, and unlike even on Iraq, he'd gone too far. While it's not quite as potentially chilling on civil liberties terms this time round, what it certainly does point towards is Brown's own inadequacies. Why is he trying to ram something through that will do him no favours yet looks to mean he'll have a humiliation on his record that Blair didn't have to face until 8 years into his tenure? The only explanation is that he's doing it to look tough, but the time for doing that has long gone. He just looks forlorn, opportunistic and most of all, completely indifferent to all reason.

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