Damian O'Loan (Paris): The government, shamed by the criticisms in yesterday's coroner's report labelling MoD failures "lamentable", was perhaps only too aware of the attraction of dropping the idea of secret inquests from the failed Counter-Terrorism Bill. As ever though, they will revert to another piece of legislation to implement what is clearly neither wanted nor needed. If, as noted by Tom Griffin, the Conservatives continue to base their opposition on the needs of British service personnel only, it is possible that the general public will be at risk.
Secret inquests, along with internment without trial, formed part of the draconian Special Powers Act 1922 that failed spectacularly in Northern Ireland. The government claims the need to protect vital security information trumps the relevant human rights concerns. The concern is that if the state is involved in a death, it could use this legislation to conceal evidence, and prejudice the right to effective remedy. As we have seen in Northern Ireland with infiltration methods, and Britain with the de Menezes muder, there can be no certainty that this is an outlandish proposal.
Mike Small (Fife, Bella Caledonia): Last week's lost cause is this week's cause celebre. Mr Bean - virtually laughed out of office two weeks ago - is this week's giant of fiscal rectitude bestriding the world stage like a colossus of economic management. Inconvenient truths like the role New Labour played in the deregulation of goods and services, the 'liberation' of the Bank of England or support for the policy of basing your economy on spiralling housing prices, are swept aside in the glib wave of back-slapping that is sweeping the political commentariat.
The media is fickle, not feral.
Gleefully Jim Murphy the new Scottish Secretary mocks the SNP with reference to the 'arc of insolvency', a reference to the 'arc of prosperity' that the SNP have used to describe Iceland, Ireland and Norway. The problem with Labour's new found chutzpah is that they are treading on thin ice. The markets are faltering, the terrain unpredictable. Just as the SNP's original triumvirate of Ireland, Iceland and Norway was a too-convenient set, it equally fails as an example of why Scotland must be held to the Union. Norway is doing fine in the financial crisis, Iceland is not. The scale and impact of crisis has little or nothing to do with the size and constitutional make-up of the country involved.
Clare Coatman (London, oD): Jacqui Smith's speech on counter-terrorism, which she gave to the ippr on Wednesday, has attracted a fiercely critical response from both the media and the opposition parties (you can read the speech in full here). Chris Huhne described the plans for a central database of all mobile phone and internet traffic as "Orwellian" and Dominic Grieve made a strong case that there is no justification for "such an exponential increase in the powers of the state."
Along with OK's Guy Aitchison, I sat in the audience for the speech which was held in the luxurious offices of the law firm Clifford Chance high up in Canary Wharf. Smith started off with a brief history of terrorism in the UK which she described as having two phases. "Phase one" terrorism purportedly spanned the 70's and 80's and was characterised by clearly focused objectives in specific geographical locations; attacks by non-nationals and the lack of a public narrative or use of religious language. "Phase two" terrorism, or 'new terrorism,' is characterised by domestic recruitment; a public narrative; a well defined ideology often expressed in religious language; the willingness to use WMDs to inflict mass casualties and the use of sophisticated technologies.
Guy Aitchison (London, OK): The following remark by Geoff Hoon, which was directed at Lib Dem MP Julia Goldsworthy on tonight's Question Time, lays bare the moral and intellectual bankruptcy of the Government's case for the database state:
If they are going to use the internet to communicate with each other and we don't have the power to deal with that, then you are giving a licence to terrorists to kill people
So now, it would seem, not only are opponents of the Govenment's draconian laws "ignoring" terrorism, as Jacqui Smith claimed following the 42 days climbdown, they are actively giving "licence" to "terrorists to kill people"! If this rhetorical turn tells us anything it's just how low the Government is prepared to stoop to bully these measures through.
Update: I'm currently watching News 24 where a Fabian Society apologist is attempting to justify Hoon's outrageous remarks. So far her arguments - "I don't mind if the Government knows if I phoned my son this afternoon" - have failed to convince...
See also UK Liberty
Guy Aitchison (London, OK): The fight against the Counter-Terrorism Bill must not end with the Government's humiliating climbdown over the 42 days proposals. There's still loads of nasties left in the Bill, not least the powers to confiscate a "terrorist's" property - including their bank accounts, vehicles, computers or even their house - without trial and potentially on the basis of secret evidence. There's more listed here in an excellent post by David Mery:
Radhika Balakrishnan and Diane Elson: The U.S. financial crisis, and the $700 billion rescue plan, even as amended by the Senate and the Treasury Department, do not simply involve huge monetary costs. Both the crisis and the proposed bailout involve violations of the human rights of millions of Americans. Any short- and long-term solutions to the problems must take human rights into account and ensure that the banks are fully accountable to the American people
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, crafted under the leadership of Eleanor Roosevelt in the aftermath of the great depression and the Second World War and signed by the U.S., declares that everyone has inalienable political and civil and economic and social rights. Governments have obligations to respect, protect and fulfill those human rights, which include the right to an adequate standard of living, the right to housing, and the right to education, as well as the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.
But Canada may actually have more things to teach us about are own political future than you think. When Stephen Harper the Conservative PM called the election the polls predicted that the Conservatives would be returned with an absolute majority. Instead Canada is waking up today to another hung parliament and its third minority government in a row. It looks like, in the midst of an economic storm, Canada decided it did not want any one party in total control.
It was particularly interesting to observe the fissures in the various sectors of the Chamber. The biggest split was among the Labour Lords. Ranged on one side were the securicrats in the form of Foulkes Of Cumnock, Harris of Haringey and Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale, with the liberal wing being represented by Baroness Malllieu and Lords Falconer and Morris of Aberavon. Former police chiefs were also divided between Lords Dear and Condon voting against 42 days and Lord Imbert who supported the proposal, though the former security service heads voted against it. Ex judges and former Lord Chancellors and Attorneys General voted against and only two Labour QCs ( Lord Archer of Sandwell and Lord Wedderburn) voted with the government. Lord Tebbit was the lone Tory dissident who voted for 42 days. Apart from the minister, Admiral Lord West of Spithead, the military top brass who turned out voted against the government. The one bishop in attendance, Southwark, voted against.
Anthony Barnett (London, OK): Among those joining the roll of shame of 118 peers who voted for 42 days are: Adonis, Campbell-Savours, Clinton-Davis, Darzi, Gould, Hollis, Kinnock, Lipsey, Malloch-Brown, Mandelson, Radice, Rooker, Soley, Triesman, Wedderburn, Whitty. You can find the full list of the disgraced here.But well done Tessa Blackstone.
I was very disappointed to see that Lord Melvin Bragg abstained. So much for the great intellectual of broadcasting!
Tom Griffin (London, OK): Yesterday's proceedings at the De Menezes inquest provide an important illustration of why the Counter Terrorism Bill deserves continued scrutiny even after the defeat of 42 days in the Lords.
An officer, known only as 'Owen' due to being successfully granted anonymity for the inquest, admitted to deleting a section of notes which would have been potentially vital evidence to any investigative proceedings.
'Owen', who was Deputy Surveillance Co-ordinator for the operation and was present in the operation control room working alongside senior officers including DAC Cressida Dick and D Supt Jon Boucher, wrote up detailed notes of his recollections shortly after Jean's death. These included details of conversations, decisions and commands given by senior officers during the final half hour of Jean's life before his fatal shooting.
Tom Griffin (London, OK): After a tellingly one-sided debate, the House of Lords has this evening voted against the extension of detention without charge, by an overwhelming margin of 309 votes to 118.
Disgraceful speech from the Home Secretary Jacqui Smith this evening, as she dropped proposals for 42 days detention without charge, yet announced a new piece of counter-terrorism legislation to contain similar proposals in response to the rout her government had earlier suffered at the hands of the Lords.
As she revealed the outline of the Counter-terrorism 'temporary provisions' Bill, she accused those who opposed 42 days detention of underestimating the terrorist threat and of taking Britain's security lightly. Opposition spokespersons were having none of it in a well-attended and stormy Commons. The SNP's Pete Wishart rightly described her performance as an act of "petulant defiance".
Rupert Read (Norwich, The Green Party): Here is a good place to start. Check out the sub-head to this piece in today’s ‘Telegraph’: "October 13, 2008 will go down in history as the day the capitalist system in the UK finally admitted defeat." These are extraordinary days. In fact, the crisis is so fast-moving now, that it would be more accurate to say: 'These are extraordinary hours'. This blogger's and then the Green Party's call for the banks to be nationalised - for no taxation without representation - have been dramatically vindicated. At last, we the taxpayers are going to get seats on the Boards of banks. At last, banks will be forced to lend to each other, and to their customers, especially small businesses, who are at the moment being either gouged or stonewalled by commercial banks. At last, the obscene profiteering of the banks will be reined in, including dividends and executive bonuses.
Peter Facey (London, Unlock Democracy): Following the resignation (or was it sacking?) of the Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Ian Blair after Boris Johnson said he did not have confidence in him, there has been a lot of talk about political control of policing.
Boris has been criticised for overstepping his authority and the Home Secretary Jacqui Smith has made it clear that she will ultimately decide who is the next Commissioner and not Boris. Just to complicate matters even further, Ken Livingstone has now come out in support of Johnson, after a fashion.
What this does is make it clear that we actually have political control of policing, it's just central control. So the question really is who should the head of London’s police force be accountable to, the Home Secretary or the Mayor and Assembly?
At the moment the present system is a mess. The Met is London’s police force but also has national responsibilities. Ultimately these need to be split with the creation of national police unit responsible to the Home Secretary and Parliament and a London force accountable to the Mayor and Assembly and ultimately Londoners. But in the meantime, why not make confirmation of the Home Secretary's nominee for the new Metropolitan Police Commissioner subject to a public confirmation hearing by Metropolitan Police Authority?
Unlock Democracy ran a series of articles about policing and democracy in their latest issue of Citizen, which can be found here (http://www.unlockdemocracy.org.uk/?p=1406).
Guy Aitchison (London, OK): On the eve of the crucial vote in the House of Lords on the issue, Liberty has published a collection of pieces by forty two of Britain's literary figures attacking the extension of pre-charge detention in terrorism cases to 42 days. They have set up a nifty little website dedicated to the collection as part of their Charge or Release campaign: www.42writers.com. It features the name of a different author in each of the forty two calendar days, illustrating quite graphically the sheer length of time the Government wants to imprison people for. It joins Amnesty's new campaign and petition against 42 Days you can sign up to here.
I spent an enjoyable half hour clicking through each of the calendar days, reading some powerful contributions from Philip Pullman, Monica Ali, Ian Rankin, Hari Kunzru and other literary big-hitters. What the authors do a great job of conveying (far better than any lawyer or political commentator could hope to) is the sheer length of time we're talking about and the intense personal trauma visited upon the innocent. I won't say much more than that because I hope people will check the site out for themselves. But I do want to quote in full the following poem by Ali Smith. By focusing on the simple passage of time, it asks the reader to empathise with the plight of an innocent detainee - a useful thought experiment perhaps for any of their lordships not quite convinced of the injustice of what is being proposed: