After a short 3 month break with an all expenses paid holiday (sorry, conference) in a lively English seaside resort, our glorious Members of Parliament return to the fray. Labour MP's with a new raft of policies to rubber stamp, Conservative MP's to select their next losing leader and the Liberal Democrat MP's attempting to get reason and logic heard above the noise.
Today was Prime Minister's Questions. An opportunity for MP's to question Tony Blair on any issue of the day. Michael Howard, the out-going leader of the Conservatives spent most of his time asking Tony Blair about when he will be standing down. Clearly this was more important to our right wing Torys than Labour's draconian anti-terrorist proposals, or Iraq and the increasing influence of Iran in the insurgency, or the earthquake in Pakistan, or the blocking of a UN envoy from speaking about Dafur by John Bolton the 'acting' US Ambassador to the UN. No, when was Tony Blair going to stand down was his major concern.
The Conservatives are supposed to be the main loyal opposition. The problem is that they have no idea how to oppose, only carp and whinge and Tony Blair can play that sort of thing all day with a straight bat.
It took an intelligent question from Charles Kennedy, Leader of the Liberal Democrats, to get the Prime Minister back to a real issue, - anti-terrorist legislation. He asked about the 90 day detention proposal, and in particular what the Attorney General had to say about it. Tony Blair repeated that the Police had put forward a 'compelling' case for it, but was now prepared to '...have a debate about the strength of these proposals'. This strikes me as a softening of resolve from just yesterday. Mr Kennedy said that other offences in the new bill, such as "acts preparatory to terrorism", meant the 90-day detention limit was not needed.
I think that we are about to sleep walk into a major shake up of our hard won civil liberties, and out MP's need to wake up and question everything presently being proposed. Liberal Democrats were right about the war in Iraq, they have a viable solution to withdrawal from Iraq and they have been talking quite a lot of sense about the terrorist threat. It is about time we started to listen. The Liberal Democrats are the only major party in Parliament who are offering intelligent opposition to this increasingly authoritarian and dictatorial Government.