Friday, July 11, 2008 

David Davis and the end of Labour.

The coverage of the end of the Haltemprice and Howden by-election has been as dismal not just as the weather but also the coverage with which it began. We were told by those comforting journalists inside the Westminster bubble that this was a brave but barmy decision by a vain loner that was doomed to failure. It's ended with it being described as a brave but barmy decision by a vain loner that has failed. No doubt that makes those that began the coverage in such a way feel that they were right all along; that the public doesn't give two figs for civil liberties, let alone the human rights of "terrorist suspects", and that Davis was only one step removed from the actual loonies that fought the by-election alongside him.

The number of those that turned out in H&H, despite the weather, despite some students being away, and despite the lure of the Yorkshire show says otherwise. Turnout was at 35%, which although hardly great is not bad for a by-election, and especially one fought effectively on a single issue, as this one was. It's worth remembering that at the last election H&H was one of the Liberal Democrats' top targets, with Davis at the top of their so-called decapitation strategy. He won with a majority of 5,000, so this wasn't a safe seat until the Lib Dems stood down and cowardly Labour refused to put up a candidate. That Davis tripled his majority shows how despite all the media blathering about complaining individuals in the constituency, there was still a groundswell of enthusiasm and support for his stand, and with the Greens taking second place, on a ticket of reducing the time suspects could be held down to a single week, it showed how the debate was by no means dead. Also worth pointing out is that even on the 35% turnout, Davis received a higher percentage of votes from the constituent electorate than Labour managed in 2005, who received just 22% of the popular vote.

It goes without saying that the big question still remains: has Davis's stand changed anything? The answer to that is both yes and no. Yes because more than any other recent politician or any recent political issue, he's directly reached out to the public themselves and tried to garner their opinions and views above those situated around Westminster. He's directly enthused many that were becoming cynical about the intrinsically selfish nature of politics: giving up your job as shadow home secretary, when in a couple of years' time you're almost certain to become the actual home secretary can be described as both principled and foolhardy as it has, but it also signalled a politician not on the make or above involving the actual people who elected him in the first place. It also has inspired a debate on 42 days, although not as wide a one as some of us initially hoped, but also on civil liberties as a whole. It was clear that Davis for a time had both Labour and the "popular" sections of the media running scared: first ensuring Brown responded to Davis's charges with a speech which failed to even mention him, and secondly humiliating the Sun without him having to even mention the name Kelvin MacKenzie. One day he was "Crazy Davis", then the next week he was praised by none other than the Sun's deputy editor, which is a reverse ferret that you can't help but applaud.

As for whether Davis has seriously challenged the prospects of 42 days getting onto the statute books, the verdict is much less clear cut. The Lords were always going to reject it, but as Martin Kettle pointed out this morning, Manningham-Buller has surely killed all chances of it passing this year now. Her position is almost undoubtedly shared by MI5 at large, and they seem to be furious, not at Davis or the Conservatives for blocking the legislation, but at Labour and Brown for playing politics with an issue they believe should be above such posturing. Davis alone though was never going to end the bill simply by resigning, but by doing so he surely has helped those who were previously sitting on the fence with deciding whether they should speak out or not.

What's more, he has also certainly succeeded, whether he rejoins the shadow cabinet or not, with formulating Tory policy if they do win the next election. No way can they now attempt to introduce an extension themselves, which despite the current position was always a possibility when you have the likes of George Osborne and Michael Gove who were suspicious of Davis and a leader who is trying his best to ape Blair with his friendly attitude towards the Murdoch press.

The biggest impact however will be strangely, but completely acceptably on Labour itself. It's not just been the dealing and bribing which won the vote in the first place, promising billions to the DUP and making clear that abortion won't be introduced in Northern Ireland, it's been their attitude towards Davis and those who oppose 42 days from the beginning. The loathsome Tony McNulty was at it again today, accusing Davis of vanity and then comparing him to Homer Simpson. It doesn't seem to occur to them that this is their last gasp, that it'll be them in a couple of years who'll be the ones going "Doh!" as the results pour in. In any event, being compared to Homer seems preferable to comparing yourself to Heathcliffe.

There have been so many issues which could have completely ostracised the left from Labour, whether it be their obsession with the private finance initiative, the desire to thrust business into education as much as they possibly can, the casual stealth breaking up of the health service and eventual selling off to the highest bidder, the abominable and murderous foreign policy post 9/11 and the kowtowing to the right-wing press, but after all those things, it's been not 90 days but 42 days that has finally caused the schism. We expected that from Blair in his last mad days, but we didn't from Gordon Brown. Back in 2005, I suspect many like myself voted Labour, not because we believed in the party or in those leading it, but because we had a decent local MP that had either voted against the war or had prevaricated before abstaining, as mine did, and had also opposed the worst anti-terror measures prior to 7/7. Compared to Michael Howard, Blair still seemed preferable on those grounds. That MP has now gone, as have many others, and repeating the vote this time would be a waste, not that we're going to make that mistake anyway.

John Kampfner writes in the Telegraph that some Labour MPs are now fearing a complete meltdown whenever the next election is called, and it's hard not to see that coming to pass, at least on a similar scale to the landslide in 97 against the Tories. It's not just the MPs themselves that are demoralised, it's those that put Labour there in the first place too. It may have taken 11 years, countless betrayals and policy blunders, and it's unfair on Gordon Brown, but I think it's safe to say that most have had enough. Most of all what's put me off has been the behaviour not of those who supported 42 days, but those who were actually opposed but are so bitterly partisan and patronising to the Tories for whichever reason that they've spent the entire Davis campaign wind-bagging and mocking despite sharing the exact same opinion as him. Davis was right: this was the time to say enough was enough. Enough is enough. Labour's time is up.

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Thursday, June 26, 2008 

Davis and the other Haltemprice and Howden candidates.

Keeping with the despairing theme, it's hard not to now that we can see who's standing against David Davis, the full list of which is here.

There seems to be a lot of people quite content with throwing £500 away, doesn't there? Anyone having second thoughts is more than welcome to send the cash straight to me, where I can guarantee it will be put to a better use.

With the list now known, it does seem apparent that the chance of a genuine debate over civil liberties has precipitately declined. While it's impossible to know just how many of the independents are serious candidates, the inclusion of David Icke means instantly that the whole thing is just bound to descend into instant farce: great fun for the tabloids, who'll doubtless be following him around the whole time, not so good for anything approaching a defining moment, but I suppose it's possible we could be surprised.

David Davis's decision was always going to be a risk, a noble idea that rested on Labour having the guts to put up a candidate to challenge him. There may be sound political reasons for not doing so, but the cowardice it also displays, regardless of whether the candidate would have had any chance of winning or not is of a piece with Labour's current predicament, unprepared to test the electorate's actual support for almost any of the recent policies to have emerged from No.10. After all, according to the polls the public overwhelming support 42 days, so where's the harm in taking the debate back to the constituencies themselves rather than relying upon the bribery and bullshit of Westminster? The problem is that Labour is absolutely terrified of losing anything, and the partisanship of some Labour-supporting bloggers, mocking the initiative from the beginning even if they opposed 42 days showed the contempt that has arisen over the last few years for the views of the public when not asked specific questions and giving specific answers.

Still, of the other candidates that are standing, it's good to see that the Greens have put up a candidate, which would genuinely make me think twice about voting Davis if I lived in Haltemprice and Howden. It's also good to see that Davis has made clear that he considers them the only serious opposition, which means that some good, however small, still might emerge from the contest itself rather than from the simple principle of giving up your job for something you believe in. Also serious though I would imagine are the Socialist Equality Party, who despite being a tiny far-left ultra-Trotskyist sect punch way above their weight online through their World Socialist Website. They're slightly over-the-top in already claiming that Labour's anti-terror legislation has "established the apparatus of a police state in Britain," and are as hard left as you might imagine, but judging by the apparent dearth of other serious candidates, and the failure of the SWP/Respect/Left List to stand a candidate, are most likely to pick up the few left of Labour votes there are.

After being so enthusiastic to begin with over Davis's decision, it was always likely that reality was going to bite back if Labour abrogated from defending itself. It still does mark a watershed in British politics, and one which still might yet not fall flat on its face.

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Friday, June 20, 2008 

Clarke roasts Smith over 42 days and Harriet Harman sticks her nose in.

Channel 4 News have a somewhat intriguing exclusive, namely letters between Charles "Safety Elephant" Clarke and "Wacky" Jacqui Smith, former and current Home Secretary respectively over 42 days.

Sadly this isn't Clarke deciding that 42 days was a step too far despite helming the attempt to ram 90 days through parliament, but rather instead making his concerns felt that the so-called "concessions" have actually made it next to impossible for any extension beyond 28 days to be put into place, something the police themselves briefed they were worried about. Channel 4 have helpfully providedthe letters in full (PDFs), but his main concerns are summarised as that derogating from the ECHR seems to be easier than putting in motion the process to trigger 42 days, that the legal advice needed to do so would likely to be leaked, damaging the opportunity for a prosecution, with the subsequent vote on the matter limited to a vote of confidence in the Home Secretary, and finally that the bypassing of the attorney general over the legal advice would be a "major constitutional departure".

While his claim that the ECHR process would be easier doesn't stand up, as there needs to be a "serious threat to the life of the nation" to justify such a derogation, when 42 days would require a "grave exceptional terrorist threat", and the law lords have already struck down the derogation, rightly concluding that the current threat does not even begin to seriously threaten the life of the nation*, his second concern is exactly what both the critics of the "concessions" on both sides have argued; doing absolutely nothing to alter the pernicious and poisonous extension to 42 days while making the legislation worse, with it approaching an incredibly dangerous joke, setting a precedent of involving parliament in decisions that should be solely left to the judiciary.

Smith inevitably fobs him off with the same completely unconvincing justifications that she used in the Commons. It's his final response which is potentially dynamite:

Clarke's inference is clear: he too, like the critics from the other side, thinks that this whole thing is politically motivated to show the Conservatives as being soft on terror while putting down completely unworkable legislation. The real question is just who leaked it: even considering Clarke's past record in being highly critical of Gordon Brown, this seems to go far beyond even that. Perhaps it was someone in the Home Office, disgruntled one way or another who had access to the correspondence. Either way, this is just another person formerly allied with the past attempt to get through 90 days that is deeply concerned by the shoddiness and indefensible determination to pass through irredeemable legislation in the face of criticism from all sides.

Meanwhile, Harriet Harman has been sticking her nose over gorgeous pouting Andy Burnham's comments on how David likes Shami:

Harman said that Burnham was right to question why an organisation like Liberty was supporting a Conservative like Davis.

"When it comes to David Davis, he's an unlikely champion of civil liberties and certainly when I was at Liberty, I did not support people who opposed the Human Rights Act and were in favour of the death penalty," Harman told ITV News.

Now of course that she's not at Liberty Harman just supports 90 day detention without charge, the smoking ban, ID cards and criminal exercises in Iraq. By that yardstick, there's very little to choose between the two when it comes to civil liberties. Harman however supports the motions which need to opposed right now; Davis supports ones which are unlikely to come to fruition or which at the moment are irrelevant.

In any case, Harman is just playing the (wo)men instead of the ball. She doesn't actually defend 42 days, or bother involving herself in any discussion of the measures; she just criticises an organisation which she may as well have never been a member of, while keeping the whole matter in the news. New Labour just really doesn't get it.

*Update: Phil correctly points out in the comments that it was a minority opinion of Lord Hoffman's that there was not a serious threat to the life of the nation. The other law lords ruled that:

The seven other judges who ruled against the government said the decision on whether a public emergency existed was for the state to take.

But they ruled that indefinite detention without trial was unlawful because it was a disproportionate interference with liberty and with equality.

The opt-out allows only such measures as are strictly required to deal with the emergency.

The seven held that the legislation discriminated against foreign nationals because there are no similar powers to lock up British nationals - the government has admitted that such a power would be difficult to justify.

This doesn't alter the fact that derogating from the ECHR, while it could be easier, would be open to even wider criticism and judicial scrutiny than 42 days, and it seems just as likely that the law lords would still rule against it when brought before them. It would also leave the potential for an appeal, were those held subsequently convicted, on the grounds that their excessive detention rendered their convictions unsafe. At least with 42 days there is a time limit; derogating from the ECHR, even if only temporarily in the aftermath of a large terrorist attack or foiled plot, would take us even further down the road to the nightmare of an all powerful police state.

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Monday, June 16, 2008 

Cowardy custard.

Can you say reverse ferret? On Friday Kelvin MacKenzie told the Today programme that he was 90% certain that he was going to run against David Davis in the Haltemprice and Howden by-election; by Monday it appears apparent that neither he nor the Sun have the stomach for such a battle over the policy which they have done the most to support and defend of any newspaper.

Some are ascribing this to the overwhelmingly positive response outside of Westminster to Davis's decision to resign and re-fight his seat on a civil liberties platform. I think that's certainly a factor, and the Sun doesn't want to be seen to be on the wrong side of public opinion, but I also think that it was a daft idea from the start. We know that this was mooted at Rebekah Wade's birthday party, attended by both MacKenzie and Murdoch himself, where doubtless all were well lubricated and tired and possibly emotional, and that MacKenzie then first let slip about it on the This Week sofa which he'd gone straight to from the party, without necessarily being given the go-ahead by Murdoch in anything beyond platitudes.

Firstly it was a strange idea because as we know, Murdoch always wants to back the winner, and one thing's for sure, MacKenzie was not going to win, and going by his completely feeble arguments on This Week on why we shouldn't be afraid of either the state or the police, no one outside of the Monster Raving Loony party circle was going to be convinced. Secondly, how MacKenzie was going to be funded was always going to be difficult: Murdoch himself can't because he's a foreigner, the Sun can't be seen to be funding any candidate, and it was always going to be something questioned as to where his money was coming from. Thirdly, even if Davis has told the Cameron tendency to sit and spin and royally annoyed them by his stand, running a candidate directly against Davis on the measure which they've opposed is not going to make them more amenable when the Sun is likely to be shortly sucking up to Dave and co as the election looms into view. Fourthly, part of the reason as to why Andy Coulson, former editor of the News of the Screws was appointed as Cameron's chief spin doctor was to attempt to woo the Murdoch press which had previously been incredibly sniffy about him. It still is, but it's hard not to believe that Coulson will have been dispatched to attempt to reach some sort of agreement with his old friends so as not for both sides to fully fall out.

More importantly, Murdoch and others at the Sun, when not thinking through alcoholic stupor, would have realised that it set a rather silly precedent. If the Sun is so certain that it is on the side of the public in all its fiercely expressed views rather than the politicians it so lambasts, why doesn't it put its money where its mouth is and formerly stand candidates at general elections? The fact is that it isn't that certain, that its campaigns which it starts and often so frighten politicians are often over-egged and given figures of support from its readers which are unrealistic, and above all, it's lazy. Running a campaign would take effort which certainly doesn't show itself in the pages of its newspaper, and what's more, there's no more certain way to annoy your readers than to keep permanently talking about how you're right and great and that you must pledge complete allegiance to the brand.

Probably most importantly, someone reminded both MacKenzie and the newspaper of that toxic word: Hillsborough. All that was needed was for any of the groups associated with that disaster to turn up at a canvassing, or a debate which would undoubtedly have been held, and all the unpleasantness of MacKenzie's refusal to apologise and the Sun's constant flagellating that will never appease the rightly aggrieved would have been brought back to the surface.

Hence there wasn't a single word published in the paper itself of MacKenzie's apparent fledgling candidacy. After the mauling which Davis received in the paper in Friday's leader, the mood completely changed over the weekend. Today the real ideological power behind the paper, Trevor Kavanagh, called him an "ego-driven maverick" but admitted he had a stuck a cord. Even more amazingly, and signalling the paper has done a full reverse ferret, there's probably one of the biggest attacks on the paper's own repeated leader line that has ever appeared within its own confines tomorrow courtesy of Fergus Shanahan, which will be incredibly handy whenever the paper reminds us again if we have nothing to hide we've got nothing to fear:

Three myths are peddled by Davis’s opponents.

The first is that if you are against 42 days, you are soft on terror.

Rubbish. I have backed capital punishment for terrorist murderers while many of those kicking Davis are against it. How am I soft on terror?

The second myth is that weary old chestnut: “If you’ve nothing to hide, why worry?” That’s what German civilians told each other as they looked the other way while the concentration camps were being built.

The third myth is that there is massive public support for 42 days.

Of course, there's the usual Sun idiocy we've come to expect about executing "terrorist murderers" when most of them will either be dead or want to be martyred anyway, but this is pretty incisive stuff for a paper which usually has no truck with any of these woolly ideals. Even more astonishing is this bit earlier on:

Davis has hit the nail on the head. We HAVE allowed ourselves to be browbeaten by fears of Islamic terror attacks into abandoning too many of our freedoms — something I have said for months. Many Sun readers agree with me.

But Shanahan's own leader line doesn't; it wants to give away even more freedoms. Although as the leader line is directly decided upon by Murdoch himself, Shanahan isn't likely to have done anything to alter it.

All these reasons for MacKenzie rolling his tanks back however though don't hide that most of all, the decision not to stand for something the Sun and he so believe in is cowardice. Davis stands up to be counted, and the Sun sits down. If this really is a victory for the overwhelming opinion being expressed online, then it's something worth celebrating and cherishing. New Labour and the Sun: united in their weakness.

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Friday, June 13, 2008 

On the media's response to Davis and the Sun's entering of the fray.

The overwhelming response of the media to David Davis's decision to resign and fight a by-election on 42 days and civil liberties seems only confirm the increasing disconnect, not just between politicians and the public, but also between the media and the country outside the Westminster village. Almost universally, Davis has been insulted, slurred, accused in some cases of succumbing to mental illness, and disparaged. The Guardian, while being sympathetic to his decision, variously throughout its pages calls him an "oddball", "egotistical" and a "loner", suggests his campaign may turn "quixotic" and has "Sir" Michael White saying that "such unpredictability unsettles the trade". At the other end of the spectrum, the Sun is even more vitriolic, headlining its leader "Crazy Davis", asking rhetorically whether he's "gone stark raving mad", and then goes on to declare that his stepping down was an act of "treachery", that he's a second-rate politician, serially disloyal which "provides further evidence of a deranged mind", that this is "petulant grandstanding" and finally, that he's "loopy". And this is before it's even launched its likely campaign for Kelvin MacKenzie.

All of this would be very well if the fourth estate was only catering for the Westminster village; this is almost undoubtedly exactly what they think of Davis and his very different to Ron Davies' moment of madness. The bloody man's resigned over a principle! We can't have that sort of thing going on here! The Conservative front-benchers have been completely flummoxed because they can't get their heads round how someone could do something that so endangers his actual career prospects. When you're as focused and ambitious as some of the filth that passes for the next generation, like Michael Gove and George Osborne, to potentially ruin your chances of getting your hands on the power to run the country seems akin to stripping naked, smothering yourself in butter and running around the houses of parliament with a gag in your mouth and a hedgehog up your backside. They're agog and aghast at the embarrassment and most of all, the difference to what is routinely expected of them. Forget 42 days and terrorists, to them this seems a far more dangerous outbreak of independent thinking and action.

Outside of that prism, even if they don't necessarily agree with Davis over 42 days, most ordinary people seem to respect him just because his decision was both so unexpected and outside of the norm. The online response to it seems to have been mostly positive, apart from those who have voiced their more than valid concerns that Davis is a social conservative rather than a true libertarian, which dulls his stance to an extent. This though seems to me to miss the point. For all those who have suggested that it'll turn into farce, today's coverage does generally seemed to have towards the issues itself rather than the personalities involved, and Davis, pledging to make the case and attempt to turn public opinion over 42 days in a way in which the wider political class has failed to do so is more than admirable, it's essential. At the moment we're stuck in the rut of this being framed as a vital measure that is needed by the police just in case; what it actually is just the most vivid example of the slow dilution of essential liberties which have in some cases, but not in all, been taken away without the slightest of comment and consultation, or where there has been, under the pretence that it's needed because our security demands it and not to do so is to be either irresponsible or "soft" on either crime or terror.

This view could be not more crystallised by the quite brilliant decision by Rupert Murdoch, Rebekah Wade and Kelvin MacKenzie to involve themselves. Never before has there been such a great opportunity to puncture the Sun's claimed stranglehold on the public mood and to make clear that rather than speaking for the people, it tells them what to think in coalition with whichever current politician has made a pact with the Prince of Darkness himself. The Sun doesn't represent the traditionally small-c conservative view on liberty, or the liberal-statist view on liberty as espoused by the Guardian, it represents the chuckleheaded, moronic, complacent and acquiescent view of it. Witness the great oaf of a man, who still can't bring himself to apologise to the people of Liverpool for publishing the most vicious of lies about how they behaved in the aftermath of the worst football tragedy this country has ever seen, telling everyone that he doesn't care whether terrorist suspects are locked up for 420 days, about CCTV cameras or ID cards, not because he actually believes they will make things any better, but because he simply is Kelvin MacKenzie. It doesn't affect him because no one's going to accuse him of terrorism, or follow his movements and spy on him, or attempt to steal his identity, because he's a middle-class opinion-former that's more than comfortably off and has the ear of one of the richest and most powerful men in the world. He doesn't have anything to hide because he couldn't really do anything lower than he's already managed in his tabloid career.

Here's the paradox of the Sun's position on civil liberties and the state. Murdoch and his papers believe in the smallest state achievable, the lowest taxes and the most business friendly environment for himself. When it comes to the actual power of the state over the citizen rather than faceless corporations, then he and his papers are all in favour of it. Give the police what they want! Constant CCTV surveillance! A DNA database containing everyone's fingerprints and blood samples! As tough on crime and thugs and yobs, regardless of the consequences as feasible! You only have to read the shopping list of demands that the Sun drew up in co-operation with the "mothers in arms" to get an inkling of what the paper in its wildest dreams would like the state of civil liberties in this country to look like: everyone a suspect, everyone assumed guilty until proved innocent, and you being strung up in public by the knackers for looking at a kid the wrong way. I exaggerate slightly, but only slightly, as it doesn't support capital punishment; castration of paedophiles, well, that's another matter.

The Sun's arrogance was exposed on Question Time last night. The paper's political editor, George Pascoe-Watson, was going through the usual routine of rather than giving his personal opinion instead using every opportunity to give the paper's view, and to plug it at the same time. Hence he made much of the Sun's "help for heroes" campaign, but came unstuck on one of the later questions when he began with something along the lines of "Well, as you know we on the Sun..." to which David Dimbleby interrupted with "Not everyone reads the Sun, you know", to which the audience heartily applauded. The Question Time audience is hardly representative, but what it did show was that the Sun's positioning is nowhere near as popular as it imagines, even among its readers which devour the sport and the celebrity but couldn't care less about its atrocious politics. This is exactly what Davis's campaign should pick up upon if Kelvin MacKenzie does stand, which will be incredibly interesting purely because of where his funding will come from, considering Murdoch is barred from donating as he's not a British citizen. No doubt some convoluted structure will be found that will be allowed. Instead of listening to people, what the Sun does is decide upon a line and then dictate it, regardless of what anyone else says, and if anyone suitably outspoken comes along and challenges it, then the smearing commences. Its cynical use of those that don't support it, such as the head of the British Muslim Forum, who said the opposite of what the Sun said he had on 42 days, and the completely misleading interpretation of MI5's statement are prime examples.

For if Davis's decision to contest a by-election on 42 days is vanity, then the Murdoch decision to oppose him is a potential disaster for both them and the Labour party. If Labour doesn't stand a candidate, and despite all the nonsense, if the Liberal Democrats aren't standing then Labour's chances will be greatly improved, MacKenzie will be in effect their candidate, making their arguments in an even more inarticulate way than they've managed in parliament, and by God, that's saying something. Gordon Brown can call it a stunt turned into a farce all he likes, but if his party refuses to stand, then it only shows them up as doing what the Sun does: taking the public completely for granted and not seeking their opinion at all, instead telling them what their opinion should be. Even if MacKenzie decides against standing and Davis is up only against a Monster Raving Loony, he's still made his point, and what's more, it just shows the contempt that those who are above the law for the civil liberties of the majority. The more I think about it, the more Davis's stand gives us an opportunity and a chance that we previously didn't have: to make the case for the rolling back of the state's authoritarian but completely ineffective incursion on the daily life of the citizen. When our opponents are either this pipsqueak or the worst the Sun has to offer, it really will be impossible not to force at the least a pause in the slow but consistent momentum towards something resembling a police state.

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Thursday, June 12, 2008 

Davis deserves and needs support.

Apart from "Aha!", the other catchphrase that Alan Partridge bequeathed us was "and on that bombshell...". I'm sure that Steve Coogan won't begrudge us somewhat stealing it to describe David Davis's completely unexpected resignation from the post of shadow home secretary and as an MP to contest a by-election entirely on the Labour government's bonfire of civil liberties.

Let's get the sniping and conspiracy theories out of the way first. Numerous sources are alleging that this was Davis going nuclear: either because Cameron wouldn't commit to repealing 42 days if it reaches the statute book should the Conservatives win the next election, or because he was fed up with the Cameron clique muttering behind his back over his stranglehold on home affairs policy, doing things that were not going down with the all so important Murdoch press, despite the Sun being almost in a minority of one in Fleet Street in supporting 42 days. Others still are suggesting that this is to carve out a niche for the old-school hard right, or even the first step towards Davis launching a bid for the leadership.

It would be naive to dismiss the possibility that it could be all or any of the above, and certainly foolish to not realise that they must have played some role in his decision to step down. What is also clear however is that Davis has been for a while now completely aghast at the casual, crude and populist way in which our ancient liberties have been abused, diminished and now finally, with 42 days, almost taken away entirely. As others have written, Davis doesn't care much for liberties which have been won partially thanks to Europe, such as the Human Rights Act, which despite its shortcomings still offers some protection, but rather out of a patriotic sense of disgust at ancient, uniquely British liberties being sold on the open market and for short-term party political gain. For him, 42 days has been the final straw.

Reading the dismay, in some places verging on despair posts that have been written across the whole spectrum of blogs in this country, many of those online, although hardly being representative, feel exactly the same way. 42 days has been a wake-up call beyond what 90 days was for many because we all knew that not even Blair could possibly get away with such a constitutional outrage. 42 days however is meant to be more reasonable; just look at the safeguards, look at the judicial supervision, looking at us bending over backwards so far that the powers are almost worthless! None of this alters the fact that being held in a police cell for six weeks, only to then be possibly released without charge is quite simply unacceptable in any democracy worth the name. The bottom line is that we don't trust the police, we don't trust the security services and we don't trust the government to use such a power responsibly, only when it is needed and only against those that they say it will be targeted against. All three have lied to us time and time again, all have exaggerated the threat and all are motivated, not out of this benevolent desire to protect the public but out of their own self-interest.

This isn't to suggest that David Davis isn't at least being partially motivated by his own self-interest. If he wasn't, he wouldn't be human. Unlike those in the government however that are pretending to be just that, he is at the very least standing for what he believes in. While legion after legion of Labour MPs yesterday passed through the lobby, not because they believed in the legislation but because they had either been bought off or to support the Supreme Leader, the principled few stood up and said that abandoning civil liberties to those who would remove all our liberties were they to have their way is not just wrong, it is bordering on the actionable.

If this is then a stunt, then it's a stunt that deserves not just applause and praise, but that deserves the most ardent of support. Yes, David Davis is a Thatcherite. Yes, he's a social conservative rather than a genuine social libertarian. Yes, he supports capital punishment. All of that however pales into inconsideration when he makes his case so clearly and so singularly against this shabby Labour government:

But in truth perhaps 42 days is the one most salient example of the insidious, surreptitious and relentless erosion of fundamental British freedom.

And we will have shortly the most intrusive identity card system in the world. A CCTV camera for every 14 citizens, a DNA database bigger than any dictatorship has, with thousands of innocent children and millions of innocent citizens on it.

We have witnessed an assault on jury trials, a bolt against bad law and its arbitrary use by the state.

And shortcuts with our justice system, which will make our system neither firm nor fair and a creation of a database state opening up our private lives to the prying eyes of official snoopers and exposing our personal data to careless civil servants and criminal hackers.

The state has security powers to clamp down on peaceful protest and so-called hate laws to stifle legitimate debate, whilst those who incite violence get off scot-free.

This cannot go on, it must be stopped, and for that reason today I feel it is incumbent on me to take a stand.

The partisan Labour hacks think they've got the most wicked wheeze to respond to Davis's stand: don't stand a candidate at all, and let him stew in his own embarrassment. It is indeed a good position to take; that it is politically bankrupt and therefore typical of New Labour is almost superfluous to mention. If Labour decides not to stand a candidate against Davis, then all it will show is that it is simply not prepared to go to the public and have a one-on-one debate about where it has taken us, with in most cases the slightest of public consultation but with the full support of the most authoritarian parts of the "popular" press. If it declines to defend the obscenity of the cost of £93 for an worthless piece of plastic, to support the notion that innocent members of the public should permanently have their DNA and fingerprints stored on a database simply because they were once arrested, and a system by which individuals can be followed around the country that has been completely built by stealth, and instead presents Davis's stand as a lone individual barking at the moon, then it truly deserves to be absolutely trounced at the next general election. If I lived in Davis's constituency, I would be voting Conservative for the first and probably last time.

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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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Tuesday, June 10, 2008 

Brown should not just be humiliated, he must be humiliated.

42 reasons to mock the Sun.

The reading and voting on the 2008 Terrorism Bill has finally begun. It's been mentioned before, but it really does seem the mooted extension of detention without charge has been being discussed and debated now for years - because it has. As soon as Blair suffered his first humiliation in the Commons, an extension beyond 28 days was back on the agenda, and it's been evident from then that Gordon Brown isn't just going through with it now because it's a hangover from the Blair era: he's going through with it because he absolutely believes it is needed. Whether he's convinced himself of that in order to attempt to wrong foot the Conservatives is open to question, but there's no doubt that he has always supported an extension. Any attempt to claim that he doesn't and is going through the motions is wishful thinking, as are similar rumours that "Wacky" Jacqui Smith feels the same way. Her contempt for the opposition arguments, once greeting David Davis as he walked in the room after a requested meeting with, "So, you're still a 42-day denier then, are you?", as if his crime was someway similar to Holocaust denial, has always been obvious, as it has with the other irredeemable Labour minister, Tony McNulty.

The 42-day extension isn't the only truly objectionable part of this latest bill, as Judith Sunderland reminds us. Post-charge questioning was first suggested to help negate the need for a further detention without charge extension, but is now in the bill despite that, to doubtless be used and abused by the police for any advantage that they see fit, regardless of the familiar "safeguards" of judicial supervision and recording of all interrogations. Unlike in pre-charge detention, the bill makes clear that if someone who's been charged refuses to answer questions post-charge that it will be potentially held against them in court, limiting the right to silence. Considering that as Peter Clarke made clear in his recent Torygraph article supporting an extension that many "terrorist suspects" opt for silence, this seems to be yet another way of increasing the chances of a successful prosecution, helpful when so many arrested under the Terrorism Acts have previously failed to be charged.

Perhaps logically, the bill also creates another new register for those convicted of terrorist offences, to add to those for sexual and violent offenders. Of concern will be whether those convicted of "lesser offences", such as the heinous crime of downloading "material that may be useful to terrorists", which can apply to almost anything that the prosecution puts its mind to, will fall under this definition that will almost certainly prevent someone from doing almost anything with their lives without being under constant suspicion. Most of those found with material downloaded from the internet have received generally lenient sentences, such as the infamous "lyrical terrorist", who had a 9-month suspended sentence handed down and Abdul Muneem Patel, who served 6-months for having a US army explosives manual under his bed, but the case of Mohammed Atif Siddique, who although took it the next level, received an astonishing 8 years (Abu Hamza, by comparison, for radicalising numerous individuals and preaching murder for years got 7) shows that not everyone who just might be inquisitive is going to get off so easily. Just what is such a register going to do except further embitter those who need to be won over rather than endlessly persecuted? It may well be justified for those sentenced to over 10 years, but the case has not been made for lesser sentences, and unless the proposal is modified to be considered on a case-by-case basis it ought to be rejected.

Then there's the other really objectionable part of the bill. Just get a load of this:

The bill would allow the home secretary to let an inquest take place without a jury if it would involve "the consideration of material that should not be made public in the interests of national security, in the interest of the relationship between the United Kingdom and another country, or otherwise in the public interest."

In other words, the government could more or less never have to let another potentially damaging inquest take place in public again. So broadly is this drawn that it wouldn't just cover the obvious, such as the embarrassing truth that the United States military doesn't give a shit about us and little things like "friendly fire" where they accidentally kill our servicemen or where the police accidentally kill Brazilians who get in the way when they're hunting terrorists, but also inquests into the deaths of those killed in terrorist attacks themselves, where the security services might be embarrassed by how some of those involved slipped through the net, right up to inquests which are required under Article 2 of the Human Rights Act, where a public inquiry is a necessity if there is significant evidence of wrongdoing by agents of the state where someone has lost their life. It is entirely open to ministerial interference and abuse, and desperately needs to be either substantially amended or defeated completely.

Desperation is once again wielding its ugly head. As legal adviser after legal adviser comes out against 42 days, the latest being the Scottish Lord Advocate Elish Angiolini, with the former holder of the post also supporting her, journalists on both the Sun and Times (spot the connection) made wholly spurious claims that MI5 had actually come out in favour of 42 days after reports stating the fact that it had not requested any further extension. All the statement by Jonathan Evans in fact does is repeat that it has not adopted a position on the matter. After obtaining the amazing support of Sir Hugh Orde, chief of police in Northern Ireland, the Sun is now bigging up the fact that the head of the British Muslim Forum also supports the government, claiming he's the country's "top Muslim", which must be a highly sought after position. His point that Muslims are just as likely to be victims of attacks as the perpetrators is a sound one, but to be victimised twice over as the extension of time will almost certainly blots out any benefit to the Muslim community which it might bring. As Anthony Barnett writes in a lengthy but brilliant post which I think is the best summation of all the reasons to oppose 42 days which I've come across, of the studies that have been undertaken into how legislation and radicalisation affect Muslim communities, all have concluded that such measures are only likely to make things worse, with the trust factor which is so important in disrupting future plots being unnecessarily affected.

The Sun, which did so much last time to help the opposition defeat 90 days, is just as hysterical this time round. It's produced 42 of the most ludicrous, at times hilarious reasons for why 42 days is necessary, which I'd fisk if I'd have the effort to go through such non-sequiturs and statements of the obvious masquerading as reasons. The very first, that there have been more than 15 attempted attacks since 2001 is just waiting to be ripped apart. Even if you count the 21/7 attempts as four separate attacks (also listed as a reason), then add last year's failed Tiger Tiger and Glasgow airport bombings (also listed as a reason), and Nick Reilly's "amateur-hour" attempt last month (also listed as a reason; spot a pattern here?), then you don't come close to 15. The other most laughable reasons are:
An al-Qaeda video obtained by MI5 after 7/7 identified the Queen as a potential terror target. It branded her ‘one of the severest enemies of Islam’.

Christ, if they're prepared to target the Queen they must really mean business! Better vote for 42 days just in case!

15. European lawyers argue it would breach the human rights of terror suspects and be out of step with the rest of Europe.

Yes, this really is a reason. This is the level of contempt the Sun has for the rule of law and civil liberties in general.

The above isn't really aimed at those wavering in the Commons however; it's for public digestion, and the blatant scaremongering which has been on-going for years has had the unsurprising effect that a majority (65% according to one poll, 40% according to today's in the Times, with another 35% with the right safeguards) supports banging up "terrorist suspects" for 42 days. Ask the same question but put "indefinitely" rather than an amount and you probably wouldn't get that dissimilar an answer, as ministers at the time of 90 days claimed they had up to 80% support based on similar polls. This is one of those few measures on which public opinion, while still being very carefully considered, ought to be disregarded. Many will give away liberties if they believe it will bring security, especially if they aren't personally threatened by it, but as that famous quote by Benjamin Franklin has it, those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.

In any case, 42 days will not even bring a little temporary safety. 42 days will not prevent terrorist attacks and will be unlikely to stop any potential terrorist from committing an attack that might have been prevented if he had not been released after 28. Can the police really claim that the extra two weeks will be anything other than give them extra leeway should they not be in the mood to sift through such vast amounts of material as they claim to have been? Will something pop up on the 42nd day that couldn't have been found with more rigorous investigation on the 28th?

The latest wheeze from the Labour front-benches has been to offer compensation for those held beyond 28 days who are then subsequently released without charge. All this does is again highlight the extreme deprivation of liberty that 42 days will be, while admitting that innocent individuals will be caught up in it. Is 28 days in a police cell not bad enough already? Why not save the compensation by not extending the limit and instead using it improve police resources, or to win over the very communities that will be most affected by it? This has been Labour's conundrum from the beginning. Rather than concessions and safeguards, all the alterations to the measure have done is make the legislation even worse while still not winning enough Labour MPs over to swing the vote.

Tomorrow Gordon Brown deserves to not just be defeated, but humiliated. If it means the end of his premiership, or the calling of a vote of confidence, then so be it. If it means David Miliband as the next prime minister, then again, so be it. It's only if this illiberal, draconian, unwarranted and completely unnecessary deprivation of hard won civil-rights is again defeated that maybe both the police and the government itself will finally get the message that enough is enough. If Brown wants to martyr himself, clinging to the chapter and verse of Blair before him that the public support it and he's doing what's right, then once again, so be it. Today's news that pensioner poverty, child poverty and inequality have all again risen shows where Brown's real concerns are: on attempting to bludgeon the opposition while winning over the worst of the "popular" press rather than on the core Labour support. His government is finished; tomorrow might well tell us whether he'll manage to last as long as even his beloved party.

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Friday, June 06, 2008 

42 days: the Murdoch press not speaking with one voice, and connected thoughts.


As the vote on 42 days looms ever larger, the Murdoch press is, in a very rare occurrence, not speaking with one voice. While the Sun attempts to ratchet up the tension on the Labour backbenchers, the Conservatives and also doubtless the Democratic Unionist MPs who potentially could swing the vote, the Times seems to taking the opposite view.

While some of the Times's apparent sniffy view of 42 days might well be down to attempting to balance out publishing Gordon Brown's own justifications for the extended detention limit on Monday, it seems to be going out of its way to both publish critics and to question whether now after the "compromises" that alter the chilling power not one jot that it leaves the police even more caught up in bureaucracy. Its biggest coup is getting John Major, who rarely comments on politics at all, to write an article denouncing the measure in terms just as strong as anyone from Liberty. While it was Major's home secretary, Michael Howard, that started the authoritarian crackdown which Labour has happily carried on, coming from someone who was himself targeted by the IRA but who also later started the peace process that led to the Good Friday agreement, he deserves to be listened to.

As for the police now complaining the powers will be too convoluted if they are passed, most of it appears to be objection purely for the sake of it, and also to anyone other than themselves deciding exactly how dangerous an individual "suspect" is when it comes to them declaring they need longer than 28 days. Whoever was speaking to the Times however is bang on in this instance:

"Some of what is being proposed is very worrying because it amounts to a blurring of the lines between politics and operational policing.”

Well, exactly. Requiring parliament to vote on whether the temporary extension to 42 days should continue to be in place when those are still in custody is ridiculous on at least 3 levels. No MP is going to vote against it when they'll be jumped on if they let a "terrorist" go in the process; they can't make a judgement without knowing what evidence or case is against the individual, therefore potentially prejudicing any future trial; and finally, it's something that no politician should be deciding in the first place. To be fair to the government for half a second, they're trapped between a rock and a hard place: they can't win if they were just to extend the limit to 42 days with the same system which is currently in place, but their safeguards have both made the legislation worse while not altering the fact that 42 days is simply unacceptable, and no amount of pleading by the police or ministers that they need it either because of the level of threat or because of the complexity of the cases they're investigating is going to change that.

Hence why the Sun is now going for the only other tactic remaining: bring in the survivors, feed off "their lifetime of suffering", as the article is headlined, and make clear that the proposal must be adopted for all our sakes. When the Sun tried this method last time round, it splashed on its front page the image of John Tulloch in the aftermath of the 7/7 attacks, implying that he supported both the government and the Sun's campaign. The only problem was that he didn't, and he was livid with being used in such a way. This time the Sun's been far more careful, interviewing 2 survivors of 7/7, 2 who lost relatives, Colin Parry, who lost his 12-year-old son in the IRA Warrington bomb, and Michael Gallagher, whose brother was killed by the IRA and who then lost his son in the Omagh bomb. All of them concentrate on the police needing more time, but it isn't just about that. It's also about the effect this has on the Muslim community, and disillusioning those that are fighting against the few that do have radical views. 42 days will only increase the grievances that some already hold, and make it even more difficult to increase the flow of intelligence from within.

If the Sun had wanted to add a semblance of balance, it could have asked the views of probably the most high profile 7/7 survivor, Rachel North, who opposes any increase. It could have asked John Tulloch and apologised for its previous distortion, but it seems this is too important an issue to give an opposing view a chance. This sort of statement also needs directly challenging, whether coming from someone who's lost a relative in a terrorist attack or not:

"If the suspects are innocent then they won’t have anything to worry about. If they are guilty then why are their human rights in custody more important than the rights of the people whose lives they were going to take, or may already have taken?"

Won't have anything to worry about? How would you feel about potentially being held for 42 days in a police cell, while your life outside falls apart with you falling under the highest of suspicions even if you are completely innocent? 42 days means potentially losing your job, losing your partner, losing your standing, losing everything. We don't know anything about those who were held for 27/28 days then released without charge and how it affected them, possibly because they didn't want any further publicity, or how those previously found innocent, such as the other "ricin" plotters, were then persecuted because the case was not proved against them. Through her remarks, already Stacy Beer is judging those arrested; no one is "guilty" until they proved that they are. Their rights are not more important than anyone else's; they deserve the same as everyone else, regardless of what they are accused of. John Major in his article also directly challenges the "if you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear" view that the Sun and others have constantly referred to:

The Government has been saying, in a catchy, misleading piece of spin: “If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear.” This is a demagogue's trick. We do have something to fear - the total loss of privacy to an intrusive state with authoritarian tendencies.

We could also ask Rizwaan Sabir, someone who did have nothing to hide whether we have something to fear, as we could Hicham Yezza, the man who printed out the document he downloaded from a US government website, also held and due to be deported over completely separate immigration charges.

No one now is likely to change their minds willingly. As Diane Abbot made clear on the This Week last night, all the garbage about Jacqui Smith making a barnstorming speech that had convinced everyone was wishful thinking spun to the waiting hacks who had to quickly send in their copy to meet the deadlines. The real convincing had occurred over last weekend with Gordon repeating his cold-calling act on his MPs, with whips making similar threats and if that didn't work, resorting to wimpering begging. They want it to be changed from a matter concerning the drift of this country towards ever increasing police power and authoritarianism to an issue simply of Gordon Brown's leadership. If Brown has any courage left, he could even at this late hour admit defeat and withdraw the amendments from the bill. He would suffer further in the short-term, but his supposed moral compass and the ability to admit when he's got it wrong would in the end strengthen his leadership. Instead, if he loses, he'll be one step closer to the abyss.

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Saturday, May 17, 2008 

No compromise on 42 days.

The issue of extending the detention limit without charge under which terrorist suspects can be held has been with us so long now that the latest supposed developments bring nothing other than a gnawing sense of exasperation at how, despite comprehensively losing the argument over 90 days and now over its successor, 42, that this fundamental issue of just how far down the authoritarian road we go has still not been solved.

Politics is all about compromise, and it's all the better for it. There are however some matters, and this is most certainly one, where there cannot be one. The supporters of a further extension to the time limit, putting us under our common law system into bed with the most vicious autocracies and dictatorships both past and present, can be counted on one hand: they number Gordon Brown, Jacqui Smith, "Sir" Ian Blair, Lord Carlile and the Sun newspaper. None of their arguments are in the slightest bit convincing, especially when the latter hints darkly that those who vote against the measure when it eventually comes before parliament again will have to answer for it when there's next a terrorist attack, somehow implying that they'll be responsible for something that it is most certainly the work of others to prevent, and extending the limit will do nothing whatsoever to improve their chances of doing so.

In this instance compromise in fact potentially provides those proposing such a draconian change with a fig-leaf of respectability. The Guardian yesterday reported that there might be further concessions, bringing down the time when parliament will have to vote on the extension being authorised to 7 days, and further judicial review of the power. Both of are already concessions from the original, even harsher plans, but neither will do anything to alter the fact that there is no evidence to suggest that any extension is necessary. The parliamentary authorisation on its own is problematic because, as the director of public prosecutions has argued, it risks giving parliament's seal of approval to a case before it has even entered the sphere of a trial. Even worse is one of the alternatives being suggested in an amendment by Andrew Dismore, who proposes holding suspects on police bail past the 28-day limit. This is the worst of all worlds, keeping the suspect under perpetual investigation and uncertainty, giving the police carte blanche to obstruct and disrupt the suspects' lives over an even longer period, while also providing the window of opportunity for those who might well be dangerous to go on the run, just as the control order system is both shockingly illiberal and disproportionate whilst also being ineffective.

If the government is not prepared to back down over 42 days, which goes to the very heart of how civil liberties are being almost casually eroded while also disenfranchising and disengaging those in the Muslim community who need to be brought on side rather than belittled and onerously targeted, then it deserves to be defeated with the same, if not more ferocity than it was over 90 days. If that involves a further loss of face for Gordon Brown, who seems to obstinately refusing to back down because of his determination to both buy off the Murdoch press and show the Tories up as "soft" on terror, then so be it.

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