Thursday 12 June 2008

42 Days Detention Vote

Yet again, Parliamentary democracy fails to live up to its name. Brown lives to limp another day, but if you needed any proof of how wounded he is as PM one need only consider that the Conservatives scent such blood that they are even willing to position themselves as the party of civil liberties now, which I for one find profoundly ironic; in fact they roundly booed one of their own number for voting with the Government. Understandable given the sun shining on their collective heads, the smell of political haymaking in their collective nostrils, however not exactly a show of unity as much as a show of pure opportunism.

I do not feel the need to outline exhaustively the reasons for my opposition to this bill as the reasons are obvious and well covered. I am bewildered that nobody (with any real voice) has been making the following argument: The existing 'anti-terror' legislation has been roundly, deeply, fundamentally mis-used, even abused by security services, the police, even local Councils! It has been used to break up peaceful protests, expel aged hecklers from political conferences and spy on parents.

In light of this, how can anyone make a case for assuming greater power when experience shows beyond doubt that it will be used inappropriately. I don't believe that we are quite sleepwalking into authoritarianism but history shows that freedoms are much easier to lose than they are to acquire.

If the government wants, or "needs", something from the public it should give something back. Make it easier to protest outside Parliament for instance. Maybe we'd let them have their 90 days if MPs accepted public sector levels of pay, conditions and basic legal standards of accountability for expenses that anyone who isn't an MP has to abide by.

Maybe this article isn't as tangential as it may first appear. Why aren't the Tories screaming this (I think quite strong) argument at anyone who'll listen? Surely it is because their opposition is utterly false, that they would support this bill if in power and wouldn't oppose it so fiercely if the Government was not so weakened. They expect to be in power again soon and thus they expect to enjoy the kinds of powers the current Government is so carefully and gradually accruing.

They do not stand against excessive authoritarian powers, they stand against the other guys having them.