Slowly, but determinedly, our protector of liberties, the Prime Minister Tony Blair, is moving us ever nearer a police state. Today, Tony Blair has warned it would be "irresponsible" to ignore police calls to let them hold terrorist suspects for up to 90 days without charge. At his monthly news conference, he denied criticism from civil liberties groups that he was "authoritarian". But the Tories criticised Mr Blair's "aggressive" approach and the Lib Dems also still oppose the detention plans. Currently, suspects can be held for up to 14 days without charge.
Personally, I feel it would be "irresponsible" to hold people for up to 90 days. We went through all this back on the '70's with 'Internment' in Northern Ireland. It didn't work then, and it won't work now. All that will happen is that we will create even more martyrs for the terrorists to exploit.
Mr Blair said the police had provided good evidence for extending the time limit - such as the complex nature of terror cases, which involved gathering large amounts of evidence. He continued: "If they are right, then how can I responsibly refuse to something that will actually protect - as I say - the most basic civil liberty which is the right to life?"
He also decided to get a 'first strike' on the new Chief Justice in England and Wales, Lord Phillips, warned politicians not to interfere with the judiciary or browbeat judges. Mr Blair said he was not "browbeating" judges but he was in the "decision making seat." "All I'm saying to the judiciary is be aware there's a proper role for the judiciary and a proper role for Parliament," he said.
All sounds a bit threatening to me, along the lines of "...Ok, your independent, but you do what I say!"
The Conservatives, of course, who are the natural party of control, couldn't or wouldn't argue with the sentiment, but attempted to exploit the apparant differences between Home Secretary Clarke and Blair. David Davis suggested the government was not speaking be with "one voice". "The prime minister's aggressive stance seems rather at odds with the constructive approach of the opposition parties to achieve both the security and the liberty of the British public," he said. Lib Dem leader Charles Kennedy said Mr Blair had still failed to make the case for extending the detention time limit. "It would be far better to charge suspected terrorists with a lesser offence and hold them on remand while investigations are ongoing," said Mr Kennedy. For once, I'm not sure whether Charles Kennedy's responce is the right one, however, the one thing it does bring into play is Habeas Corpus, which ensures that civil rights are protected.
The draft Terrorism Bill will also outlaw indirect support or glorification of terrorism. Mr Clarke said there had been a "fantastic transformation" in the world towards democracy in recent decades, including the former Soviet Union, South Africa and Latin America. He said: "My argument is that we are moving to, and have moved to, a different political era." Labour MP Dave Winnick asked whether anyone who supported Nelson Mandela's African National Congress would have been prosecuted had the proposals been in force during the apartheid era. Mr Clarke would only reply "...that people would not have been guilty merely by not condemning the ANC."
There's a prize for anyone who can translate Mr Clarke's last sentence into something like coherent English.
I just can't help feeling that we are doing the terrorist's bidding with all this destruction of civil liberties. I personally would prefer to live with an increased threat to my life, than live in a cage. Blair is learning his lessons well from Master Bush!