Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Dangerous Consensus

People with no understanding of the nature and purpose of politics are always complaining about politicians constantly disagreeing and arguing. But you should be far more worried when politicians from all parties start agreeing with each other, as is now happening over new anti-terrorist legislation.
It is left to a well-known human rights lawyer, Cherie Booth, to sound a note of caution about passing laws that will undermine the very 'way of life' that the terrorists apparently wish to destroy.
That she also happens to be the wife of the Prime Minister who wants to pass these laws creates an odd situation that, so far as I know, is unprecedented in British political history.
Of course, the role of Prime Ministerial spouse is unrecognised by our constitution and she is not a 'First Lady' in the American sense. There are no formal or legal restrictions on what she can do or say.

Although I agree with her recent statement it won't make me a paid-up member of the Cherie Booth/Blair fan club. For one thing, she has publicly supported the invasion of Iraq. To me, this sits uneasily with her views on other subjects and majority legal opinion around the world declared the war to be illegal. So did the Secretary-General of the United Nations. I find it hard to believe that a woman of her political views, and a leading human rights lawyer, didn't have misgivings over Iraq. Maybe Cherie Booth was opposed to the war but Mrs Tony Blair felt that she had to publicly support her husband over one of the most controversial issues of his time in office?


Can you reconcile the following facts?

1) Politicians say that new legislation is urgently needed to counter the threat from terrorism.
2) We are currently in the middle of a serious threat from terrorism.
3) The new legislation will not be introduced into Parliament until October when MPs return from their long summer holiday.

Much the same inconsistency applies to ID Cards, also claimed to be an important anti-terrorist measure. Even if the legislation is passed and implemented, they won't be fully operational for at least ten years. The earth could have been destroyed by an asteroid before then.
Not that ID Cards are much of a deterrent to suicide bombers. The 7th July bombers made sure they were carrying means of identification so their supporters could quickly claim them as holy martyrs.

One has to ask whether such a lengthy timescale to implement measures that are supposed to be vital to counter a current threat doesn't justify the suspicion that the Government has a wish-list of authoritarian and contentious measures that have been on the shelf for years, especially in the Home Office, and that terrorist attacks provide the perfect opportunity to dust them down and ram them through Parliament on a tide of cross-party consensus.

The Guardian has been told that the current 'shoot to kill' policy that resulted in the death of the innocent Brazilian includes the instruction that, if someone is suspected of being a suicide bomber, no warning should be given before shooting them in case they detonate a bomb.
Whilst one can see the logic of that, it does hugely increase the risk of innocent people being killed by the police. The most important thing to be publicly clarified is what level of certainty police officers need to have before they open fire. From what we know so far, the level of certainty in the case of the Brazilian man was set extremely low.

The Guardian was also told by a 'senior Met insider' that "when the truth comes out it is going to be horrific."
And in this case the truth probably will come out. Firstly, because there are more witnesses than for any other similar tragedy, plus CCTV footage. And secondly, because the Brazilian man's family have engaged the services of the brilliant and dogged solicitor Gareth Pierce, a heroine of our times who has exposed and overturned so many miscarriages of justice.


At 5:03 PM, Blogger cello said...

Now there's fund I'd be happy to contribute to. Presumably Ms Pearce is taking the case pro bono, in the reasonable expectation of winning a private prosecution for an unlawful killing, in which event she'll get paid. Or she may just be an angel.

At 7:31 AM, Blogger surly girl said...

isn't Gareth a boy's name?

At 8:34 AM, Blogger Willie Lupin said...

Pro bono or not, I think she's probably an angel because yesterday I was struck how she hasn't aged in all the years she's been doing this.

Yes, Gareth is usually a boy's name and a reference book I have on names makes no mention of it being used for girls. So maybe Ms Pierce is the only woman to bear this name.

At 11:37 AM, Blogger patroclus said...

Is the ten years including or not including the general botching, fucking-up, running 3,000 times over budget and years-late delivery that EDS will inevitably bring to the doomtastic ID card project?

At 3:48 PM, Blogger Willie Lupin said...

patroclus, I plucked that figure out of the air which is, I think, the standard procedure when quantifying any aspect of a Government IT project.


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