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Wednesday, June 11, 2008 

I love a free country.

It wasn't quite the humiliation I was hoping for, but any sort of humiliation will do in the circumstances. This fallacious, grubby, mendacious, shitty little party that makes up this country's excuse for a government can't even manage to bribe enough of its own backbenchers to win the vote on 42 days on its own terms. We were elected as New Labour and we will govern as New Labour, said the past supreme leader. That involved relying on the Conservatives at one point to pass his "trust schools" legislation. Now Brown can boast that he's gone one better than his hated predecessor: he didn't have to rely on the Tories; he just had to prostitute himself to the Democratic Unionists. To call Ian Paisley's party the antithesis of everything that Gordon Brown and Labour claim to stand for might be putting it mildly: last weekend Iris Robinson, when asked to comment on a man who was beaten up in a homophobic attack, suggested to him that he should consider therapy to "cure" him of his homosexuality, and when that understandably caused some controversy, she then said that she didn't consider the man personally to be a sinner but that he was committing a sin which could be "redeemed by the blood of Christ".

It wasn't just the DUP which were bribed. The only Tory to vote with the government was Ann Widdecombe, whom we already knew was going to rebel, and like the DUP, is to the right of Genghis Khan. Also to the right of Attila the Hun is Bob Spink, the Tory MP who jumped before he was pushed, becoming the only UKIP MP in parliament, who also voted with the government. Like both Ann Widdecombe and the DUP, he too has something against gay people, voting very strongly against equal gay rights previously. What a merry band for the Labour party to rely on. Perhaps this is what Gordon Brown meant when he promised change: no longer will we just propose policies that the Conservatives routinely find agreeable, we'll now go further and legislate the way that Dr Ian Paisley would. Our values demand it.

You can't help but get the feeling that this is almost as bad, if not worse than losing the vote, which the government won by the 9 votes that the DUP provided. If the Labour rebellion had held up, then they could have at least argued that it was the dinosaur left, the usual suspects that had voted it down, and reading the 36 Labour rebels, most of them are members of the "awkward squad". Then they could have gone after the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, accusing them of ignoring the overwhelming will of the public themselves. Instead this just looks awful. It further undermines Brown's authority, showing that despite the constant phone calls, the arm-twisting, the begging and the throwing around of money at any cause which a backbencher mentioned, even that wasn't enough to persuade a majority of his majority to lay down both their arms and their principles. It's just pissed off almost the entirety of the media, except for the Sun and possibly the Express, with even the Brown-worshipping Paul Dacre not supporting his friend; further alienated the Labour core that he needs to win back over; and it hasn't even made the police's job any less frantic in the long run because of the hoops which now have to be jumped through to activate the additional time. The phrase, applied previously to the dodgy dossier by Jack Straw of "an absolute Horlicks" comes to mind.

The real opprobrium shouldn't land on the heads of those that have gone with this all along however, but rather on those that ummed and ahhed and then were finally bought off with whatever piecemeal little promise that Brown and the whips made. Salutations then to the supposed left-wingers Jon Trickett and Jon Cruddas, members of the Compass group of MPs that decided after all their pouting and calls for Labour to turn leftwards that supporting the government on the most regressive measure they've come up with recently was a fantastic idea. Congratulations to Mohammad Sarwar, supposedly bought by the disgusting non-concession of compensation for those released without charge after 28 days, but who others suggest was in fact persuaded by the prospect of being able to choose his successor in his seat, i.e., his son. And a big round of applause to Austin Mitchell, who didn't even barter with the whips for personal gain, but instead decided to stand right behind Gordon Brown just as he goes over the top, straight into no man's land:

Labour backbencher Austin Mitchell said he had intended to vote against 42 days, but changed his mind and backed the Government in order to "save Gordon Brown for the nation".

"I support him and I think he would be on his way out if he had been defeated on this," Mr Mitchell told Sky News.


Hell, if we're going to save Brown for the nation, we might as well get him stuffed and put in a glass case. We won't need to do the same with Mitchell; he's already got Brown up his arse, like Matthew Corbett has Sooty.

Still, what a wonderful day for democracy, and what a shining example we've just given to all those banana republics and oil oligarchies. You can almost imagine the conversation the next time the Saudis come to visit and Brown, out of the side of his mouth, mutters something almost inaudible about corruption and human rights. Sorry, says Abdullah, we're not taking any lectures from the bribers-in-chief in the House of Commons and from a country which can lock up suspects for 42 days without charge. We share the same values, don't you remember?

There is of course little chance that 42 days and the bill as a whole will get through the House of Lords, at least prior to the summer recess, meaning that this isn't going to pass onto the statute books just yet. We shouldn't have to rely however on the unelected to defend our civil liberties from such attack; and yet once again an anachronism is called upon to do just that. Every unnecessary dilution of our hard-won liberties in the face of the "terrorist threat" does their work for them, and yet only 36 Labour MPs were prepared to stand up and vote against a measure that will embitter and further stigmatise those that we desperately need to win over. Some will think that shameful. The biggest shame of all however is a Labour leader as hunkered down in his bunker, unwilling to listen as his predecessor, supporting and making deals with those he would once have said he had nothing in common with. If this isn't the beginning of the real start of the downfall of Gordon Brown, then it most certainly deserves to be.

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This is such a Pyrrhic "victory" that it's worse than a defeat. New Labour is at its nadir, bereft of its last remaining shreds of moral authority, and Brown has regressed from Mr Bean to Mr Has-Been [if he ever was]. The plots will redouble now.

And it's a pointless piece of macho tokenism which, if it ever becomes law, will be as unworkable as it is unnecessary. I am prepared to eat any article of clothing you designate if the 42-day provision is ever invoked.

And when the next terrorist attack takes place with 42 days detention doing absolutely nothing to prevent it, wanna bet we start hearing calls for 90 days, 120 days, 365 days?

I caught the result on channel 4 news. Jon Snow could barely contain his disgust (approaching fury) at the obvious bribery that's gone on. The DUP fella they wheeled out was extremely defensive about what they're getting in return for their support (at least 200million quid I believe). And the Lords may be able to stall it, but it's going onto the statute books whatever happens.
I'm surprised at just how sick I feel about this.

Actually, according to Bookdrunk the DUP get £200million, AND abortion stays illegal in NI. Hooray for democracy!

I'm an academic lawyer, working in a very different sphere from civil liberties but outraged by these actions, disgusted that a party my father has supported for over 40 years (I'm Lib Dem) has betrayed the very principles that I was brought up to respect and which have underpinned my life. As someone who has posted on this occasionally on my own blog I'd like to thank you for your consistent campaign against these measures. For those of us agin them your well-reasoned, well-argued and justifiably angry posts have expressed the disgust in the most eloquent way.

And that we now need to rely on the Lords, knowing that those I vilified as I grew up are going to be part of the batallions against the measures, just crowns things.

Scott

David Davies' resignation could blow up in everyone's face if Gordon Brown has even a shred of his reputation left.

Brown winning 42 days by rampant bribery will be forgotten, and all it will take is some right wing xenophobic voting in the by-election and Brown could sneak in for another general election win.

Another win, and more Brown grandstanding as the tough man could see that 90 day limit broken.

Nick Clegg and David Cameron really need to support Davies on this, or there could be a disaster.

In what way have the LDs betrayed civil liberties? they voted against the bill.

Sorry to spam, but dirtyleftie is now dirtyleftie.wordpress.com!

A bit of confused language here surely? I think Scott meant to say that his Labour-supporting father has been betrayed not that teh LibDems have backslid.

YEs, edis. Thanks.

My dad has been Labour for 40 years - seeing them do this to principles he brought me up to respect (and which led me to the Lib Dems) sickens me.

Scott

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