Blogging from the Highlands of Scotland
'From fanaticism to barbarism is only one step' - Diderot

Friday 28 January 2005

Police State Britain - Charles Clarke comes clean

The Home Secretary, in an interview with Rachel Sylvester published in today's Telegraph, is quoted as saying:
"Protecting national security must come first.

"Just because somebody's wife wants to chat with her friends about going shopping that's not therefore a reason to let somebody cause a bomb explosion at Bluewater."

"I accept that an individual is different to a family but where there is an individual who is deemed to be a threat on security grounds we need the powers to stop that person engaging in terrorism.

"I'm not seeking to attack the innocent, I'm seeking to make [the control orders] work for the others."

and he criticised
"lawyers who believe that an individual's rights are absolutely paramount and that they come ahead of the need to protect society as a whole".

- one of those quotes sounds suspiciously like a reformulation of "If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear", that hoary old cliche used by dictatorships everywhere and even tried from time to time by spokespeople for our own police forces! If you believe in democracy, fought for over centuries in this country, and the danger which the Government's latest policy wheeze represents for these hard-won rights, then you should read the whole interview.

In today's Telegraph Alice Thomson has a comment piece on Rachel Sylvester's article which is very helpful in explaining the implications of house arrests both for the suspect and his/her family and friends. Where I disagree strongly with Alice Thomson, however, is her 'solution' to the conundrum which the Home Secretary faces (and I accept that he does) - she wants the Human Rights Act to be repealed; this is the same line that was being peddled in an editorial in yesterday's Telegraph, where Joshua Rozenberg, Legal Editor has his usual very balanced analysis of the risks and 'benefits' associated with this proposed new legislation.

This is all very well (or rather, it is not!), but the Human Rights Act incorporated the European Convention on Human Rights into UK domestic laws and as a direct consequence of that:
- homosexuals and lesbians may now serve in the armed forces, ending the long-standing discrimination and risk of blackmail (often followed by dismissal) which they often experienced;
- the homosexual age of consent was lowered from 18 to 16, to bring it into line with the general age of consent.

Now these 'minor' side-effects of repealing the Human Rights Act may not matter much to the Telegraph or to Alice Thomson (indeed the former opposed the Act at the time, because in part it was opposed to allowing gays to serve in the military and to equalising the age of consent), but they matter a great deal to people like me.

The solution to our problem with terrorism is NOT to destroy our democracy in the process. Nor is it to remove equality from a sector of the population, specially one which has so recently more or less gained it, for the sake of 'expediency'. Where would this end?

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