About bloody time:
Home Secretary Jacqui Smith has said that plans to extend terror detention to 42 days will be dropped from the Counter-Terrorism Bill.
This is of course great news. But the truth is Parliament should never had capitulated over 28 days in the first place. And it shouldn’t have moved up to 14 days. Frankly, if 48 hours was good enough to combat the IRA in the 80s, it is good enough now.
There are plenty of other safeguards. A reduction in detention without charge could be a one line private members’ bill and one which, if MPs are lobbied, we can win. I can only hope the civil liberties movement can work together to deliver it.
What funny games appear to be going on in Westminster at the moment. First, Labour and the DUP redefine porkbarreling for the UK context (deny everything, smirk, smirk), then David Davis resigns – with Clegg’s backing.
In terms of the latter, I’m just confused by the whole business. It is a little moot about whether Clegg should have agreed to not field a candidate against the Tories or not on the basis that it is hard to see how Davis would have resigned if he hadn’t. I don’t think it makes the Lib Dems look particularly bad; by contrast it is the Tories who appear to be in danger of haemorrhaging over this.
But if I were Gordon Brown I wouldn’t even consider fielding a candidate. Davis is gaming the system – attempting to magic a mandate against 42 days out of a by-election. The only grounds on which he will be able to claim such a mandate is if Brown is foolish enough to fall for the trick. And of course Brown isn’t that stupid is he?
It may simply be that Davis has calculated that Brown has now so completely lost it that he would fall for something like this. For myself, I’m not so confident.
With the BNP refusing to field a candidate and UKIP indicating they might not either, this could be the OMRLP’s defining moment. In such a situation, I have to admit I would be sorely tempted to make the trip up to Howden. It would be sweet revenge on the Tories getting Howling Laud Hope elected in exchange for Boris Johnson. LOOK AT HIS FUNNEEE HAT!!! LOL!!!!
Is it me or is there a link between the government’s (possibly premature, possibly not) triumphalism about winning round the Labour rebels over the Terrorism Bill and the latest political crisis in Northern Ireland?
For weeks now, it has been well known that the Brown government has been courting the DUP with a view to persuading them to back them on the 42 days vote. If Jacqui Smith really did manage to sweet talk her own rebels last night however, then the DUP just lost their bargaining position. Cue: Sinn Fein raising the stakes and Shaun Woodward calling for devolution to be “completed“.
Obviously the arrival of Peter Robinson almost certainly is a catalyst as well, but I can’t help but feel Labour would be doing more to avoid this particular row this week if it didn’t feel confident about the terrorism bill next week.
No doubt they have also been bolstered by a breakaway group of Tories, lead by Ann Widdecombe who are planning to support the government plans. Widdecombe’s call for the act to be subject to an annual vote recalls the nonsense of the old Prevention of Terrorism (Northern Ireland) Act. Introduced by Roy Jenkins in 1974, this “temporary” measure was annually renewed until 2000 when Labour decided to drop the farce and make it permanent. That’s the problem with “temporary” security measures. You can always find “exceptional” reasons to keep them, politicians like to look tough by supporting them, and pretty soon they just become an accepted way of life.
Once again of course we appear to be looking at Cameron failing to hold discipline within his own ranks. If he calls for the vote on detention without charge to be a free vote, we know we’re really fucked. I’ve been saying this for years now, but letting your own backbenchers run rings around you like this is not leadership. I like to think that if this vote ends up being won by a small margin in which the Tory rebels are the decisive factor, the media might actually wake up to this, but I doubt it. Heaven help us if/when he becomes Prime Minister.
Finally, just a quick note to link to this letter which was published in the Guardian today. The Terrorism Bill is about a lot more than detention without charge but it looks like everything else will simply be waved through.