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

Friday 11 March 2005

House of Lords doing a very necessary job

Home Secretary Charles Clarke can bleat all he likes:

"It's been a stick in the mud response, simply trying to put heels in the sand and prevent the elected House carrying its proposals through.

"I argue that the country needs a bill which prevents terrorism and protects our people."

- but the government's bill is most certainly NOT designed to protect this country's fundamental values - democracy and the rule of law. Placing restrictions on people without bringing charges against them or bringing them before a court, or even informing them of the substance of the suspicions the authorities harbour about them, is not the characteristic of a democracy, but instead of a totalitarian dictatorship. This is where Charles Clarke and his boss Tony Blair are leading us.

In time of war, emergency procedures may be required - everybody (or at least most people) accepts this. However the threat of terror, whilst undoubtedly something we need to take steps to protect ourselves against, is being used as an excuse to ditch seven or so hundred years of our history in which we have wrenched power, little by little, away from autocratic rulers and placed limits upon their ability to (excuse the vulgarity) stick it to the rest of us. How long will the threat of terrorism exist? Ten years? Twenty years? Fifty Years? A century?

What Charles Clarke is asking the House of Lords to do is to acquiesce in the demolition of the controls which keep the Executive in check and allow the citizen to go about his or her business, within the law, without interference by the State. The House of Lords is bravely resisting this. Charles Clarke is well aware that there is broad revulsion in the HoL, amongst Labour peers as much as their Conservative, Lib-Dem or Cross-bencher colleagues, at what this government is seeking to impose upon the country. It is cheap and dishonest of Charles Clarke to continue to say the contrary.

Coupled with the government's desire to introduce other measures, such as compulsory ID Cards, the diminution in the role of jury trials, restrictions on the right to conduct peaceful demonstrations in the vicinity of Parliament, the ability to designate wide areas as out of bounds for peaceful protest (I heard on the radio this could even mean the whole of Greater London, for example), etc, etc, etc, what the House of Lords is attempting to do is vital for the health of our democracy.

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