42 Days

I’ve not said much about the 42 days debate. Suffice to say that the reasons given for extending the already inordinate 28 days don’t stack up. Indeed, this has the aura of desperation about it; of Gordon Brown determined to show that he is in charge and to hell with liberty, the rule of law and due process. What matters here is browbeating the rebels into line with the prospect of a catastrophic defeat at the polls being held before them. The government must show unity and liberty is the be the bloodied martyr, slain at the alter of the prime minister’s conceit.

John Major writes an eloquent argument in today’s Times, outlining just why this is such a bad idea. This is a man who, as with his predecessor, personally faced terror attacks. Something the present cabinet have been spared.

The Government’s legislation to permit 42 days pre-charge detention brings to the fore the wider question of civil liberties. In their response to the security threat ministers have dragged us ever closer to a society in which ancient rights are seriously damaged. I doubt this is the Government’s intention, but it is the effect.

He is being generous to a fault. They have been made aware to the point where they cannot reasonably deny it. That they continue to press ahead suggests that liberty is something they treat with contempt. There is no other conclusion to draw from their actions.

I don’t believe that sacrifice of due process can be justified. If we are seen to defend our own values in a manner that does violence to them, then we run the risk of losing those values. Even worse, if our own standards fall, it will serve to recruit terrorists more effectively than their own propaganda could ever hope to.

This encapsulates the point in its entirety; when we give up our liberty, when we alter our way of life in order to defend ourselves against the threat of terror – and, remember, there has been very little evidence of significant terrorist activity on the UK mainland, merely hyperbole and hysteria from government ministers along with mumblings about plots; plots that all too often turn out to be nothing at all – then we give those who would destroy us a victory without them having to do anything. If the 42 days detention gets the nod in parliament, the jihadists won’t need body belts made of semtex, they will die laughing.

The Government has introduced measures to protect against terrorism. These go beyond anything contemplated when Britain faced far more regular – and no less violent – assaults from the IRA. The justification of these has sometimes come close to scaremongering.

Quite so. Those who scream, shout and stamp their feet seem to forget the IRA campaign that was waged with rather more competence and ferocity than the current threat. We withstood it without giving up our freedoms. We are more than capable of doing so again. We do not need to be protected by the government. It is not their place to protect us by stealing our liberties. Much better to face the risks of the jungle than to be constrained safely in a gilded cage. Risk is a part of living. So too is dying. I would rather die free than live forever enslaved.

There is no justification whatsoever for this raid on our liberties. And, how long before the right to detain is filtered down to the local council jobsworths in the same way that Ripa was? It couldn’t happen? Really? Sure about that, are we?

Of course, John Major’s comments haven’t gone down well with Brown and his numpties.

Home Office Minister Tony McNulty urged MPs to trust the police on the issue rather than Sir John who has been “out of the loop” for the past decade.

What a stupid statement to make – but, then, this is McNulty, so what should we expect? Major may have been out of power for a decade, but that does not mean that he is not aware of the issues and that his comments don’t have validity – indeed, they do have validity. They are spot on.

But Mr McNulty, speaking on BBC Two’s The Daily Politics, rejected Sir John’s argument, saying MPs should trust the judgement of experts such as former Met Police anti-terror chief Peter Clark.

Clark has a vested interest, he is a high ranking police officer and will paint a picture to cabinet that secures his force with more powers – it’s human nature and McNulty is a fool if he doesn’t realise this. But, then, having read the drivel he came out with in defence of identity cards, I realise that McNulty is a malignant and dangerous man – he may also be a fool, but worse, he is a nasty authoritarian control freak. The sooner he is removed from his parliamentary seat, the better.

I would ask people simply to listen to and trust the Peter Clarks of this world rather than someone like John Major who has been out of the loop for about 10 years

Really? I never voted for Major’s Conservatives. I didn’t have a great deal of time for him or them. But, by God, I’ll place a damn sight more trust in his judgement on this issue than I do in the current cabinet or Peter Clark. That is because he is right and they are wrong.


  1. One of the panellists on Question Time last night (Hitchens or Shami?) said that the obsession with 42 days has nothing to do with security but everything to do with Brown’s need for some kind of success after his succession of gaffes and electoral failure. I think that’s correct and I agree with you that this is also down to the gang in office – including McNulty – being “nasty authoritarian control freak[s]”. Authoritarianism is in Labour’s genes. They’re socialists after all. What do you expect?

  2. I’ve had time to regret at leisure my former membership of the Labour party. It’s funny how hindsight gives a different perspective. I look upon John Major rather differently now than I did when he was prime minister. For McNulty to brush his comments aside in the way that he has is typical of the sneery, bullying manner with which he conducts himself. Major is the better man by far and in every respect.

    But, so too, is the dog turd I saw on Staple Hill High Street this morning…

  3. Trust, in respect of liberty and the rule of law, these same police whose Met chief is reported as follows?:

    ‘Jurors should be allowed to decide if celebrities caught on camera snorting white powder were taking illegal drugs, the Met police commissioner, Sir Ian Blair, claims today.

    Blair said: “The investigation of these cases is difficult due to there being no substance that can be forensically analysed. We are keen to explore whether there are further options that can be considered.”

    Blair said it was “reasonable” for a defendant to have to convince a jury that the substances were legal. A juror might ask: ” You convince me that you’re taking talcum powder because … that’s an unusual way to take it. My position is that a sensible jury would not expect people to be sniffing talcum powder.” ‘


    What’s next? Prove that wasn’t blood in the Communion cup, sir?

  4. Cur[sic] Ian Blair has demonstrated on numerous occasions that he is manifestly unfit for his post. With this latest statement (that people should be guilty unless proved innocent) he does it again.

    That would be an ideal candidate for jury nullification, methinks.

  5. The nearest parallel to “New Labour’s” vicious onslaught on our historic civil liberties is the infamous Six Acts of Lord Liverpool’s post-Waterloo regime. They, too, were inspired by wildly exaggerated fears [drummed up by government spies] of imminent social chaos, and this blind panic culminated in the unjustified bloodshed of ‘Peterloo’. Read all about it in Samuel Bamford’s Memoirs.

  6. Brown had to rely on the votes of sectarian fundamentalists to get his tawdry bill through. What does that say about his government?

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