False Promises and False Hope

The governments plans for 42 days detention of innocent people is unpopular and the government knows this. Unsurprisingly the opposition are currying public favour and seem set against the plans, but a few Conservatives remain true to their party’s ideas. Extended detention seems a very “Tory” policy so it is strange that the Labour party are trying to implement it and the Conservatives are against it but, I suppose, that is 21st century politics – no party has a policy any more they just want to get votes by any means…

Anyway, the irritating Ann Widdecombe seems willing to stick by her “Ideal” rather than curry public favour and she is going to vote for the inhumane six week imprisonment (with altered access to legal counsel as well) of innocent people. (Do I sound biased? I hope so).

Still, Widdecombe is not so principled that she can actually be honest with the public and, like most supporters of this madness, she wraps it up in false promises and an empty hope:

Widdecombe said that plans to extend the time terror suspects could be detained from 28 to 42 days would be acceptable if there was a “sunset” clause requiring the legislation to be renewed by MPs each year.

“My reasoning is very simple indeed: it’s that if we have a state of emergency then the government should be able to ask parliament for emergency powers, as we did for example over Northern Ireland … providing that the legislation does not remain on the statute books indefinitely until somebody gets around to repealing it,” she told BBC Radio 4’s The World at One.

This infuriates me. The idea that a “sunset clause” would do anything other than give MPs something to vote on every 12 months is madness. If this shocking law makes it onto the statute books it will remain indefinitely.

If we are, as some mad people claim, in a “state of emergency,” how will we get out of it? Seriously?

Al Qaeda is not an organised terrorist group in the manner of the IRA so there will be no Good Friday Agreement. They are not a nation like Iraq/Iran so there will be no invasion then “end of combat operations” (however spurious a claim). Even if Osama Bin Laden surrenders or calls for peace, how will this affect the countless (or 200 if you believe the PM) other terrorist networks?

Our state of emergency, if one indeed exists, is permanent. The whole meaningless-ness of “War on Terror” means it falls into that never ending list of “wars” we fight since we became a peaceful nation. War on Crime, Drugs, Obesity, none will end. None can end until everyone is dead. Bringing specific “war-time” legislation on the basis of this is genuine, evil, madness.

More worryingly, go back to Widdecombe’s example. The government did, indeed, bring in special emergency powers as a result of the IRA bombing campaigns. Policemen in NI were allowed to carry weapons. Civil liberties were curtailed because of the conflict.

The conflict in NI is now officially over. The IRA / Sinn Fein want peace. The government says there is peace there now and Operation Banner is now over. However all the emergency legislation remains – in lots of cases it has got much, much stronger. The original 1974 reason for bringing in 7 days detention for terrorist suspects was the “difficulty” In prosecuting the IRA. This caused public outrage and was described as an “emergency measure” to offset the massive success the IRA were having – ten times as many died at their hands each year in the 1970s as have been killed by Islamic Terrorists in the UK, ever. It is also implicated in several wrongful prosecutions (eg Guilford Four). It seems the end of the state of emergency which allowed for 7 days detention has simply resulted in it increasing six fold.

The recent ordeal of the student who was detained for only a fraction of this time highlights how this is not something a civilised nation should ever do to its population. If I was detained for 6 weeks without charge I would certainly be close to confessing to things I have never done. Likewise, when I was released I would certainly hold a monumental grudge against the state that instituted such acts.

Another thing which really concerns me about this is: The politicians in support of this law, and the media, seem to carry the basic assumption that the person is guilty. The talk is about detaining the person while they gather enough evidence for a successful prosecution. No mention is made of the fact this person is innocent. No mention is made that an innocent person has been put in jail while the police look for evidence of guilt. We have actually gone to the stage of allowing the police to decide guilt on our behalf. Wonderful.

It is a good job we can trust the state to never make mistakes, never falsify claims and all public servants are so well behaved no one will ever misuse these powers. It is a good job because the state is certainly not answerable to the public in the Wonderful Britain of 1984 2008.

I suppose, if people were allowed to sue the government if they were detained for 42 days then not found guilty (or not charged) it would be a bit more reasonable. But, basically, you will spend six weeks at Her Majesty’s Pleasure what ever the outcome.

That can never be right.

One thought on “False Promises and False Hope

  1. Great post, TW.

    As you say, these endless wars on abstract nouns are by definition unable to end, as there is no surrender or peace agreement possible.

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