Sunday, November 06, 2005

Teh Terror

Tony Blair appears to be launching a new effort to remind us that he's a "pretty straight guy". He's been on Football Focus. Without a tie. See, he's a decent ordinary bloke who's interested in football. It's another Richard and Judy (yikes, pop-up ads, boo!) moment. I'd question whether it was necessary to have quite so many buttons undone on his shirt; this isn't the seventies Mr Blair. No one really buys this sort of crap any more though, do they? And doesn't he have anything better to do with his time?

Blair has been busy this weekend though. He's also done an interview with Matthew d'Ancona for the Sunday Telegraph. Oh, what fun. Let's see what he's got to say for himself on subjects he actually should be spending his time on. The interview covers a range of issues but I'll just look at two.


Does the PM think that bringing Blunkett back into the cabinet was a mistake?
I don't know, is the answer...
Well, that's a worry. The answer is clearly yes. If he doesn't know, then he isn't very bright.

He says:
I still think there is a woeful complacency about a lot of the public debate about this. The police told me, and the security services back them up, that they may have stopped two further attempts since July 7.
Hmm, if true that would seem to seriously undermine the PM's case. It appears that the police have adequate powers to combat much of "this" terrorism. Furthermore, neither the PM nor the Home Secretary are claiming that their new proposals would have prevented the bombings of July 7th. If the police are successfully disrupting many/most attempted terrorist attacks, as the PM clearly implies, then why do they need such draconian new powers?

The sad reality is that no free society can be be immune from attacks such as those we saw in London. Freedom means having the courage to look that fact in the eye and say that it's a price worth paying. It means having the courage to say that our society will not be changed by violence.*

Blair doesn't believe in that though. Instead, he launches into full spin mode to big up the threat from "this" terrorism.
There is a desire to cause the maximum loss of life - there is no compunction about it on the part of the terrorist. I find it really odd that we're having to make the case that this is an issue, when virtually every week, somewhere in the world, terrorists loosely linked with the same movement are killing scores of people.
What an almighty arse he really is. A tired old straw man? Is that honestly the level at which our PM's brain operates? No-one disputes that there are nasty, vicious, terrorist killers in the world. What is in dispute is his ability to deal with that threat. In fact, many people think that his actions so far have exacerbated the problem. For example, hyping up the threat for political purposes, reminding people of it at every opportunity, might just be useful to those attempting to terrorise the country as well. And then there's Iraq. The PM, unfortunately, is a very good illustration of the point that people in a bunker have only a very limited understanding of how their actions influence their surroundings.

Then he continues to argue for the "90 days without charge" proposal. He's sticking to his line: the police want it so they should get it. Truly abysmal. Not often I quote lyrics but Rage Against the Machine springs to mind unbidden:
Believin' all the lies that they're tellin' ya
Buyin' all the products that they're sellin' ya
They say jump and ya say how high
Ya brain-dead
Ya gotta fuckin' bullet in ya head
Quite. If a Prime Minister feels he must jump to the command of the police then we've already lost our freedom.

The thing is, there are other ways round the problem the police have highlighted. More resources to speed up all that time consuming investigation, for example. Or the LD proposal to charge on lesser charges and allow further questioning (this would need to be under tight judicial revue) as the investigations proceed. Blair's not having it though, he's made up his mind and that's that. Arse.

One thing I do agree with our great leader on. These laws are too important to let questions over Blair's authority cloud the issue. Sure, it looks like he's not going to get what he wants, and sure, this is a further sign of his slipping authority, but that's probably not as important as making sure that the "90 day" proposal never becomes law.

But it's not easy to resist highlighting yet another sign of authority slippage when his resignation is so long overdue, especially as he's brought this on himself with his woefully misguided support for authoritarian nonsense and his (once) iron fisted rule. The Observer is entirely unable to resist sticking the knife in to its fullest extent. The main issue, it looks like the 90 day proposal is now an ex-proposal (hurray!), is almost lost in the rush to explain how this weakens Blair's position. Here, that's the job of bloggers like myself, get off my patch and start reporting the facts (he joked).

I was going to write because the Observer supported Blair at the general election this is a bit odd, but if I think about it, it's actually not odd at all. I think the editorial staff are feeling guilty about that and now they're desperately trying to make amends. Fair play to them for that; we all make mistakes. The mainstream media wants to be careful though.** Too much of that sort of thing at this critical moment could be just the tool Blair needs to persuade wavering Labour MPs to back his anti-terror plans. That'd be, like, a disaster. Obviously.

At the moment though, it looks like freedom is actually going to win this particular skirmish. The desperate measures of Friday don't appear to have worked. According to the Observer, it looks like we're going to get 28 days instead of 90. The fact that people are considering 28 days to be acceptable is a measure of how extreme the government's proposals originally were.*** It looks like those proposals are now history. Three cheers for the House of Commons. Hip hip...

* And I obviously don't mean we should just let the terrorists get on with it so please don't go there.

** I won't be of course but then I don't think I've got quite the same influence on politics as the Observer.

*** For proper Tin Foil Hattery, you could argue that this was just what the government planned all along. I genuinely don't believe there's even a hint of truth in that suggestion though.

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