Yesterday President (sorry, Prime Minister) Blair was defeated in the House of Commons on the government's proposal to hold terrorist suspects for up to 90 days. Instead, Members of Parliament voted for 28 days.
This defeat is significant in a number of ways, not least to his authority.
Firstly, I believe that holding anyone without charge is extremely serious and has major implications for all civil liberties. I understand that suspected terrorists are difficult to investigate, and that it can take time, but to lock someone up without charge for 3 months seems very excessive. I can live with 28 days internment, as long as there are proper legal safeguards in place. Suspects, by their very name, are innocent people, and remain so until convicted. Once charge, of course, then they can be held until trial if enough evidence exists to support that action. We tamper with civil liberties at our peril.
Secondly, Internment in Northern Island taught us that holding someone without charge for a long period of time, builds up resentment and martyrs; thereby escalating the problem. I thought we were supposed to learn from history, not ignore it.
Thirdly, Draconian action is exactly what the terrorists want. That way, they don't have to do anything to keep a population frightened. Moreover, the use of the terrorist threat by Western governments to control their populations is obscene.
Congratulations to all those who stood up for common sense yesterday in Parliament. Maybe we still have a democracy afterall. CNN has a good report about the vote.