Wednesday, January 14, 2009 

Just another assault on civil liberties.

One of the things about New Labour and its insistent, constant apparent dedication to the slow sapping of our civil liberties is that it never knows when to stop. It's forced to back down one month, then the plans are reintroduced the next, or ever so slightly modified to make them slightly more palatable. Exactly this has occurred over the plans to hold inquests in private without a jury:

Jack Straw, the justice secretary, will today revive his plan to hold inquests that involve aspects of national security in private without a jury when the coroners and justice bill is published.

The controversial measure, which could be invoked in cases like those of British servicemen killed by American forces in Iraq and the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes on the London tube, was shelved last month when it faced severe criticism during the passage of the Counter-Terrorism Act.

Like so much else it has proposed in the past, it hasn't even began to make a case or explain why holding inquests in private might be necessary, and indeed, as embarrassing as the inquests into the death of Jean Charles de Menezes was, and as annoying as it is to be constantly reprimanded by upstart coroners over the deaths of troops, it still doesn't seem to merit holding them in private.

The question then has to be, does New Labour know something we don't? Is something even more damaging on the horizon which it needs to pre-empt? Or is this purely just in case, should the police shoot dead another foreigner while chasing suicide bombers, or the deaths in Afghanistan further ramp up in another futile war where troops are dying because of poor equipment?

That's the other thing with Labour. You simply can't work them out, even 11 years after coming to office. You can't fathom why they would put themselves through such ignominy and attacks from their own supporters, not to mention judges and opposition MPs, purely for something they might never have to use. Unlike with detention without charge, no one's going to blame them for not diluting the right to an open inquest, so what do they possibly gain except perhaps kudos from the security services or self-assurance? Perhaps they are just simply determined to cautiously but inexorably turn the country into an authoritarian state. Perhaps they're just utter bastards. Both are as reasonable explanations as the ones they're openly giving.

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