November 16, 2007
30 Days More
As Yogi Bera said, 'It's like deja vu all over again.'
Just over two years ago (9 Nov 2005 to be exact) Tony Blair suffered his first and only defeat in the House of Commons. He tried to extend the period a suspect of terrorist offences could be held without charge to 90 days. Wounds licked he cracked the whip a bit harder and his MPs decided that four weeks was perfectly acceptable.
Since Gordon Brown assumed the house keys to 10 Downing Street, despite a speech approvingly quoting Locke and Mill on freedom, the Clunking Iron Fist ((c) T. Blair) has been keen to show he is no weaker on terror than his predecessor. And so it is little surprise that his Home Secretary looks to be seeking a further extension to 58 days.
The arguments are few. No-one has yet been charged after 28 days. In fact, the key argument seems to be that 'we may need it' in future. On this pretext we could invade France: they haven't successfully invaded for over 900 years but they might some time soon.
So. Though faith in liberty and liberal democracy may seem a little rich in such circumstances it is all we have. So please write to your MP using the brilliant www.writetothem.com. I'd also recommend looking up your MP's voting record - it may prove useful in how you write to them. This can be easily achieved through www.theyworkforyou.com
My letter to current whip and former chair of Liberty (yes, that Liberty) is below. I'll post if I get a response.
Dear Sadiq Khan,
Thank you for responding to my queries regarding the plight of Iraqi
employees of the British forces. I write now with a similar though
I understand that the government is seeking to extend the time people
may be held without charge under suspicion of terrorist activities
beyond the existing 28 day limit.
I would like to know your position on whether any extension is
justified and, if so, what evidence exists to suggest that it is
As far as I am aware, no suspect has been held for 28 days thus far,
and whilst I can appreciate that the nature of modern technology raises
challenges for policing in seeking evidence, surely the fact that no
other western democracy has the means of incarcerating individuals
without charge for even four weeks suggests that such evidence is hard
to come by.
I am more intrigued that as a former chair of Liberty your record
suggests that you believe that 90 days would be necessary (according to
the vote in the Commons on 9 November 2005). Could you explain why any
further curtailment of the liberties of those who are innocent until
proven guilty is necessary now when they weren't in mainland Britain
during the IRA bombing campaigns between the 70s and 90s?
I look forward to reading your reply.
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I think we may be getting some good news on that score when they vote on 58 days: the DPP and the ex Attourney General are going to say nope to the Home Affairs Committee.
And I am not at all convinced that the Committee themselves have bought the case for 58 days thing. So cross your fingers for liberty...
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