Anthony Barnett (London, OK): Why can't terrorist suspects be charged rather than held - or interned - without trial? This was a question I put here and here in arguing against any further extension of 28 days, taking on the case made by Matt d'Ancona. On Wednesday both Lord Goldsmith, who was Labour's Attorney General and Ken Macdonald who worked under him and remains the director of public prosecutions gave evidence to the House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee, chaired by Keith Vaz MP. Here are some of the answers they gave from the uncorrected transcript. They seem to me to be definitive. They are long and careful as they should be. First, Lord Goldsmith
Anthony Barnett (London, OK): Gordon Brown's government of Britishness is saying goodbye to Northern Ireland. It seems that the new 'e-border' for this country, currently known officially as the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, will lop off Northern Ireland. Here is a picture of what it will look like when you go from, say, Belfast to Manchester or Edinburgh, note the iris scan announcement:
Anthony Barnett (London, OK): I'm attending a crowded symposium at Goldsmiths on the future of the news including blogs. The first public event of a five year new media research project, I'm on its advisory board. There was a dramatic opening presentation from James Curran who documented how for over 25 years now everyone's predictions had been proved wrong. So far all the speakers are saying that everything is changing very fast, yet is still strangely the same, and no one is sure how it will end it up. "They are arguing for a change in the mind-set but do not know what it should be", Tamara Witschge has just told us. Peter Lee-Wright asked if the large numbers of readers/visitors claimed by the newspaper sites and the BBC are really theirs, especially if they come via search engines and other sources. Earlier in the day Anne Spackman who moved from being Managing Editor of the Times to become Editor-in-Chief of Times Online observed that everyone seems to think this is a demotion - a fact she felt shows how it is the old media that still holds the brand value. She also added that for the first time in her life, she wants to know what the latest academic research is discovering.
Peter Emerson (Belfast, de Borda Institute): Most problems in life are multi-optional...if, that is, the question is asked correctly. Unfortunately, many politicians ask only closed, yes-or-no questions. Take, for example, the debate on Iraq in 2002. There were many possibilities: war, sanctions, inspections, and so on. On the table, however, there was only a single resolution, number 1441. This led to the crazy situation whereby France, for one, voted in favour of something it did not actually like. The outcome of that vote was therefore almost meaningless: because the question was phrased as a closed one.
Anthony Barnet (London, OK): Following on Jon's post about Catch 21 launching OK TV, I thought I'd put up this video from the US primaries. The gap between politics and entertainment closes! Once earnest researchers tried to expose and demystify the development of public life with warnings about the politico-entertainment context. Now one of the Giuliani's agents seems to have said, so that's what we are supposed to be doing! Here it is, politics as a pop song. Gordon next? [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RRODJcPq_Js]
Jon Bright (London, OK): Last week myself and Anthony Barnett were interviewed by Catch 21, a new internet TV company aimed at "invigorating an informed and politically active young electorate". Anthony is used to having cameras on him, but it was my first time, and I garbled my way through a few incoherent thoughts about the constitution, getting everything in the wrong order and sweating profusely. Whether that was enough to invigorate any young people or not is so far unclear to me! Judge for yourself here.
Since 2006, A.E. [the pseudonym of the man in question] has been under a control order that has limited his movements and affiliations, according to his lawyer, Mohammed Ayub of Chambers Solicitors in Bradford, UK. The order has made it impossible for A.E. to find work, says Ayub. So he instead sought to further his education. English-language courses went unopposed, but when in September A.E. applied to take the two science courses, the government told him he could not enrol...
Moderator: Please copy this post onto your own blog!
Phil Booth (London, NO2ID): As the HMRC data breach scandal intensifies, representatives of all parties should be demanding the immediate and permanent scrapping of the Home Office's "identity management" programme. Not just the ID card, not just the database, but also the mass 'data-sharing' that lies at the heart of government ID policy. WRITE NOW to your MP via asking that he or she demand an immediate and permanent stop to all development of ID cards and a National Identity Register. You can check how your MP voted on the ID cards legislation here.
Anthony Barnett (London, OK): What should we call a small group of retired Army chiefs? A gaggle of generals? Whatever we decide to call them, it has been a principle of British politics that they keep their beaks shut.
Anthony Barnett (London, OK): There is a very good post over on Political Betting about the discs and Darling. Leaving aside its reports on the growing Tory lead in the polls this story examines the correspondence released by the National Audit Office, which everyone should look at to see how we are governed. It discusses the likelihood that Darling mislead parliament by insisting that what happened was entirely in breach of procedures and no one with responsibility knew. He may have been told this. If so, he should have known better than to believe it. After all, someone senior must have had responsibility for the fact that a junior person COULD (excuse the shout but it is deserved in these circumstances) copy and burn our personal data on this scale. It seems clear if you read this - download as pdf here - that they did. Nick Robinson sees it slightly differently, highlighting the NAO bypassing senior management to ask for the data. But this leaves open the fact that it could do so in writing, ie there was not a pure breach of proceedures but a system laxness. One NAO asks, "ensure that the CDs are delivered to NAO as safely as possible due to their content". Amazing. As safely as "possible" implies that their unsafe delivery is regarded as one of those things instead of being completely out of order. It looks to me that Darling is dead. But if he fights for his life over the next few weeks how can the government start issuing statements of British values, unrolling Brown's vision, have Jack tour the country to talk about our rights, etc starting in January?
Alice Casey (London, involve): It is becoming clear that in facing the urgent challenges of issues as complex and deep rooted as public health provision, climate change, community cohesion and terrorism, top down government alone is not equipped to deliver an effective solution. There is growing agreement that progress on such issues can only be made through the willing participation of empowered individuals and communities as in formulating and implementing new solutions. Connecting people more closely, more meaningfully and more effectively with the institutions that serve them has never been more important than in today's Britain.
Tony Curzon Price (London, openDemocracy): Who you are determines what you mean. What you say can make who you are.
This dance of talking and being makes listening quite hard, and nowhere more so today than in the questions about Islam and the West.
But listening well allows us to find hopeful pluralism in positions that seem opposed. Compare these two moments in the London culture-sphere: the Guardian's argument around Martin Amis' Islamo-criticism, (the best of it here in Ian McEwan's letter) compared to Ayaan Hirsi Ali's tour of the city. (Ed Hussain and Douglas Murray on Tuesday, followed by Timothy Garton Ash yesterday)
Anthony Barnett (London, OK): Like Jon, I am not convinced that the disk debacle will lead to the government abandoning its ID schemes. But one good aspect of the disaster is that attention is now being focussed on the database state and the holding of information rather than the ID card itself. Two recent posts on the issues are by Unity in Liberal Conspiracy and also Dizzy whom Unity links to. The techies are getting cross at the superficial politicisation and blame game that is underway. Nonetheless, guys, there is a system problem. It is one the government, ie Gordon Brown and his advisors and fellow ministers, must be aware of but have not been able to confront let alone solve. This is the chronic inability of the Civil Service. Fiasco is its maiden name. Don't forget, it was a government laboratory that made and released the foot and mouth virus earlier this year because, despite the funding being available, it could keep its drains in order - while making toxic and contagious viruses!
James Graham (London, Quaequam!):
Anthony Barnett (London, OK): Good. As the battle for the Lib-Dem leadership between Nick Clegg and Chris Huhne enters the final round, with ballot papers now going out and the result announced in the 17th, the need to address the system itself moves to centre stage.
Not on Newsnight, of course, where last night Jeremy Paxman, who seems to loathe questions about how we are ruled (is he part of the problem?) failed to probe what the future of the Lib Dems might be, insisting instead that his questioning of the two candidates was "a game".
Jon Bright (London, OK): As so many people have already pointed out, the loss of the UK's child benefit database is a disaster for the government. The incompetence beggars belief. This data is so important it should be treated like the launch codes for a nuclear weapon - there is nothing indicating that people were taking it anything like that seriously.
Anthony Barnett (London, OK): A new hero has emerged blinking into the light. Professor Ross Anderson took part in the discussion on Newsnight about the discs fiasco. Could the systems be made safe? No, he explained. As he and others had been saying repeatedly, if you merge databases into a huge single system designed to serve large numbers of users then many people will have access to an increasingly valuable resource. This cannot be secure. The government must surely now take this on board and reverse the creation of a database state.