Bliar defeated

Good news today, which certainly justifies an update: Tory Bliar’s proposal to lock suspected terrorists up for up to 90 days got defeated in the Commons, with 322 against and 291 in favour. 49 Labour MPs voted against the government in a vote which required cabinet ministers to be recalled from trips to Israel and Russia. Old alliances very publicly broke down, with the Sun encouraging its readers to send their appeals to the PM to support the 90-day rule, while attacking both Tory leadership candidates for opposing it.

I have to admit I’ve started to warm to David Davis although Cameron is too much of a neo-con for my liking with all his talk of a “school leaver programme” (read: conscription for all school leavers, male and female) and his interventionism, even if he is “soft on drugs”. It seems that even the Tories think New Labour’s getting too authoritarian, something further evidenced by their crazy “National Curriculum for toddlers” wheeze everyone was talking about today. I mean, imposing it on childminders? I thought childminding was meant to be between them and the parents, and was not meant as an educational experience unless the parents want it to be.

In case anyone was wondering what a 90-day detention, with or without “judicial oversight”, would lead to, Gareth Pierce, who was instrumental in gathering the evidence that freed the Guildford Four, wrote for today’s Guardian about what anti-terrorist detentions lead to already:

Where is the detainee meanwhile? I find it impossible to believe that the grim unpleasantness of the cells can be anything other than intended, especially given the costly revamp. It has left 365 hideous white tiles on the walls of each cell (as an Irishman counted some years ago). There is a hard plastic mattress on a wooden plank, with an open toilet at one end. A bare light in the high ceiling is difficult enough to read by, but the life-saving distraction of reading matter is more often than not forbidden. There is no natural light; the 14 days of detention are spent in an underworld without fresh air or proper ventilation - an inescapable part of the anticipated experience. In warm weather, heat comes from pipes under the bunk. In cold weather, unpleasant-smelling oil heaters are pushed uselessly into the corridors.

At the end of a 14-day period of interviews, lawyers themselves are often ill and exhausted. Effects on detainees are far more drastic: in a number of cases, police have had to pay compensation to innocent detainees who suffered permanent trauma after their release; one woman’s menstrual cycle was drastically altered after a seven-day detention, and her partner suffered alopecia; many students have never resumed their studies; one man succeeded in committing suicide, and many others have tried.

Given that “judicial oversight” was touted as a safeguard, perhaps people might be reminded that judges very rarely refuse ASBO applications? Has anyone forgotten that the unjust imprisonment of the Guildford Four, etc., were the result of confessions extracted under duress (such as sleep deprivation) made easier by extended detention time? Frankly the thought of spending fifteen years in jail for a terrorist attack when I’m innocent is far more horrifying than losing an eye or leg or two to a bomb. Risk is the price we pay for freedom.

As for the second and, so we’re told, final departure of the unmissed David Blunkett, I don’t think anyone need be depressed by the loss of a “role model” for disabled people. I remember the Sangatte stowaway affair, when truck drivers were being charged £2,000 for each stowaway found in their trucks, whether found at the port or on the motorway, and depending on how many stowaways there were, the fine could put the driver into bankruptcy or out of his (and his family’s) home. Plonketty Plonk showed his contempt by saying the drivers who protested were “squealing”. One might ask whether the arrogant clod was really blind, or just a cover for Bliar having a dog in his cabinet. Good riddance to bad rubbish.

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