Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Riding to hounds

Who is the speaker?

‘[We] oppose the government’s obnoxious proposal to extend maximum pre-charge detention . . . . The government has utterly failed to demonstrate the need for this further extension of police power, and [its] ostensible safeguards against possible abuse are almost certainly unworkable and therefore worthless.’

Must be a left-wing blogger type harping on the Obama campaign’s sensible, moderate and cleverly centrist position on national security, right? Wrong. It’s actually Dame Pauline Neville-Jones, the main British Conservative Party spokesperson for homeland security and former chairlady of the Joint Intelligence Committee. The British Labour Party’s current crash and burn is partly fueled by broad revulsion against the dismantling of civil protections for the accused, and the Blair-Brown faction continues to push for even more police latitude.

The Tory party stand on the principle of protecting suspects from abuses of police power is even more remarkable if you consider that the London subway system was the site of a terrorist bomb attack quite recently. But that hasn’t intimidated them into cowering passivity in the face of the government’s repressive measures.

The House of Lords is expected to shoot down the latest attempt to return to the Star Chamber in Britain. Would that we were blessed with an upper house of eccentric fox hunters and butterfly collectors who might feel some similar fondness for the Magna Carta and the 800 years of struggle to limit the power of the state. Or failing that, a party—any party—who could stand up to the permanent drumbeat of demagogy that equates the rule of law with disdain for public safety.

No comments: