Tom Griffin (London, OK): The Glenrothes by-election is set to go ahead on Thursday, 6th November. The timing is not a surprise, as with a US presidential election on the Tuesday, the outcome won't be the big story of the week.
In any case,with the immediate threat to Gordon Brown's premiership receding, the poll may not be the date with destiny that many had expected.
There is an authoritarian cancer in the British system that has metastasised. From the Treasury-inspired "transformational government", to local council CCTV, to the interception modernisation programme that proposes to "live tap" all electronic communication, to ID cards – you name it, it seems, and they will be onto it – an official will is at work to police, control, arrest and expel. It regards restraints, from the Human Rights Act to parliamentary scrutiny as "old thinking". And it is turbo-charged by the huge funding opportunities that "new thinking" permits.
However, I also think that even if we do not have a healthy body politic, we do have a healthy public attitude which can purge the cancer and cure the patient.
Tom Griffin (London, OK):With the Counter Terrorism Bill due to resume its passage though Parliament this week, Amnesty has launched a new petition against the provision to extend detention without charge to 42 days. The petition will be presented to Parliament if the legislation returns to the Commons, with individual MPs also being presented with signatures from their own constituents.
Such opposition may yet help to force a Government U-turn in the wake of the Lords defeat predicted by today's Times:
Gordon Brown is preparing for a humiliating climbdown over his proposal to hold terrorist suspects for 42 days after being told that it will be defeated in the House of Lords.
Ministers admit privately that there is not “a cat in Hell’s chance” of the legislation, which returns to the Lords this week, being passed into law.
The Government has decided against using the Parliament Act to force the measure through after peers reject it, The Times has learnt. That decision will effectively confine the controversial proposal — which the Prime Minister fought tooth and nail to get through a Commons vote in June — to the legislative dustbin.
Tom Griffin (London, OK): The security services are pushing for a massive expansion of electronic surveillance in the UK, in the face of opposition from the Treasury and the Cabinet Office, according to the Sunday Times:
The scope of the project - classified top secret - is said by officials to be so vast that it will dwarf the estimated £5 billion ministers have set aside for the identity cards programme. It is intended to fight terrorism and crime. Civil liberties groups, however, say it poses an unprecedented intrusion into ordinary citizens’ lives.
Aimed at placing a “live tap” on every electronic communication in Britain, it will dwarf other “big brother” surveillance projects such as the number plate recognition system and the spread of CCTV.
Pepper and his opposite number at MI6, Sir John Scarlett, are facing opposition from mandarins in the Treasury and Cabinet Office who fear both its cost and ethical implications.
Celia Hannon (London, Demos): In April 2007 charlieissocoollike, a 16 year-old vlogger from Bath joined YouTube. So did the British Prime Minister. Since then Charlie has amassed 70,000 subscribers. The Prime Minister has 5,000. These figures betray a very naked truth - young people are not flocking to listen to their presidents and Prime Ministers when they talk to them via internet videos. Instead, they are seizing power for themselves; taking on roles as reporters, distributors, commentators and artists. It seems that while their parents and grandparents won their freedoms by challenging governments, this generation of young people would rather find their ‘route-around’ existing institutions and forms of media.
Anthony Barnett (London, OK): Robert Peston has come up with a plan on his BBC blog. It is that the new pension scheme the government is going to introduce for the low paid shoul be given £50 billion to invest now in the big banks thus giving them desperately needed capital while hugely boosting the value of the pension scheme for the future.
The big point here is that for the past few years, there's been a massive widening in the gap between the rich and poor, because it's only been the rich and the super-rich who've been able to take advantage of the fabulous investment opportunities that presented themselves in the decade or so before the Crunch.
But the boot is now on the other foot. Probably only governments, through the deployment of taxpayers' money, can solve a financial crisis that was created in large part by the foolish financial risks taken by bankers and financiers whose common sense was wiped out by greed.
If we as taxpayers are cleaning up the mess, there should perhaps be a dividend for those in low paid jobs and insecure employment, who are hurt most by the economic slowdown precipitated by this crisis.
I think this was first floated on the Marxist left by Robin Blackburn. If I recall rightly, he suggested that pension funds be used appropriate the stock exchange. But his argument was based on the idea that society needed to get control of the corporate capitalism. Peston is saying that the corporate banks need us. so we should use Buffet style terms for egalitarian purposes. It might even make the bankers feel better about themselves (fat chance). I think it is really important to welcome such proposals and blog them and build on them - and not be cynical and say it could never happen. As the great Roberto Ungar says we need political inventiveness and experimentation. We have to do better than the Economist whose leader this week somewhat defensively says that governments have to help "when markets fail".
That's pragmatism, not socialism.
Well blow me down! Peston's approach seems more attractive: if you are going to do it, be wholehearted about it. Over in the Observer Will Hutton sets out a larger, integrated case for a Peston approach.He also adds this:
There was no effective opposition. The left and organised labour collapsed as intellectual, social and political forces; there was no conviction that any alternative to this shareholder value-driven, financial, 'securitised' capitalism existed, or any political muscle to support it even if there were. Mainstream culture moved away from public purpose and fairness; the new priorities were individual self-fulfilment, personal experience and loyalty to self.
Anthony Barnett (London, OK): The British Library is going to have big exhibition setting out the history of the struggle for democracy and fundamental rights in Britain. It's called Taking Liberties (not to be confused with the film, at a showing of which I first met Shami Chakrabarti). Yesterday I took in a copy of Charter 88 and lent it to Barbara O'Connor the Loans Registrar. The curator Matthew Shaw, who runs a neat blog on the progress of the exhibition carried the framed Charter through the Library complex into the strong room where Barbara guards the exhibits. There she allowed me to peer at the original copy of The Putney Debates of 1647, a great leather bound volume of the proceedings written out by in longhand from his own shorthand notes by Sir William Clarke. The exhibition will have everything from the death warrant of Charles Ist to the Good Friday Agreement; from Magna Carta to The Agreement of the People - the Leveller's historic constitutional manifesto, that I can't wait to see. It went through at least three editions, as I understand it, drafted in the main by the viciously punished John Lilburne, and was signed by proportionally many more people than Charter 88. Mutinous soldiers wore them in their hats to have them plucked out by Cromwell himself. It was, in effect, our first democratic proclamation, far more so, of course, than Magna Carta! And, as I have digressed, surely it is Freeborn John Lilburne who should be being saluted on the plinth in Trafalgar Square - there will not be democratic liberty in England until he is publicly celebrated.
Charter 88 went through many drafts, was even sent down the line digitally via a primitive modem, and then became an advertisement. So it was hard to know what 'the original' Charter 88 was. I decided to frame the great two-page advertisement that appeared in the Observer as it has not just the names of the more famous few attached to the initial appeal but also over 4,000 more from regular people who were the real founding signatories. Also, Angela Carter and Doris Lessing, two of my favoritie signatories, first appear in the Observer appeal.
Taking Liberties opens at the British Libary on 31 October, don't miss it!
Charlie Pottins (London, Justice4jean): A killing like that of Jean Charles de Menezes, shot in the head by police on a London Underground train, could happen again, a senior police officer involved in leading the operation has told the inquest into Jean Charles' death.
So far the jury has been given a crash course on police procedures, learning about "Gold" and "Silver" levels of command, designated senior officers(DSO), and the respective roles of SO12(Special Branch), SO13 (Anti-Terrorist branch) and CO19/SO 19 (Firearms) officers.
In an OurKingdom essay, Tom Nairn looks at how new forms of nationalism are challenging the established nation-states of an earlier era.
Anthony Barnett (London, OK): It is said that Satan has an icey prick. I assume that Mephistopheles, his representative on earth has similarly chilly parts and wouldn't want to enquire further, But now that he has entered the Cabinet perhaps we can rename it the Fridge. "Let the change begin", the Prime Minister announced when he finally made it to what he thought was the top of the pole - now he has returned to his vomit, charming though it is on a good day, as you would expect. Mislead people about a mortgage, fail to achieve your trade objective as Europe's Commissioner, what better qualifications for a peerage? Some are saying that Lord M is a "big hitter". Yesterday's misser would be more accurate - out in the real world. But the worshippers of globalisation that misrule Britain have not lived there for some time.
Tom Griffin (London, OK): The Guardian's profile suggests Sir Ian Blair was a tragic figure, a reformist laid low by his own flaws. He certainly wasn't short of problems, not least the inquest into the death of Jean Charles De Menezes currently underway at the Oval.
In the end, however, it was the determined opposition of London Mayor Boris Johnson which paved the way for the Metropolitan Police Commissioner's resignation this afternoon.
It will be interesting to see how much influence Johnson enjoys over the selection of Blair's successor, especially given the potential for controversy among some of the contenders cited by the BBC.
The study by Kings College London concludes that the dynamics of Islamist militant recruitment have changed significantly in recent years:
efforts have largely been driven underground, with little overt propagation and recruitment now occurring at mosques. Prisons and other places of vulnerability in which individuals are likely to feel lost or experience tensions continue to be a great cause of concern, which urgently needs to be addressed.
A variety of actors continue to be involved in propagation and recruitment, though radical imams have lost some influence. Activists are the ‘engines’ of Islamist militant recruitment. They often draw on recruits from so-called ‘gateway organisations’ which prepare individuals ideologically and socialise them into the extremist ‘milieu’.
The latter finding may represent the most controversial element in the report:
Yet David Cameron's conference address this afternoon also contained an interesting inversion of the rhetoric of the 1980s:
For Labour there is only the state and the individual, nothing in between. No family to rely on, no friend to depend on, no community to call on. No neighbourhood to grow in, no faith to share in, no charities to work in. No-one but the Minister, nowhere but Whitehall, no such thing as society - just them, and their laws, and their rules, and their arrogance. You cannot run our country like this.
It's difficult to avoid the comparison with Mrs Thatcher in 1987:
I think we have gone through a period when too many children and people have been given to understand"I have a problem, it is the Government's job to cope with it!" or"I have a problem, I will go and get a grant to cope with it!" "I am homeless, the Government must house me!" and so they are casting their problems on society and who is society? There is no such thing! There are individual men and women and there are families and no government can do anything except through people and people look to themselves first.
Tom Griffin (London, OK): With the House of Lords set to vote on 42 day detention later this month, the Council of Europe has today raised a number of concerns about how terror suspects are being held under the existing 28-day regime.
A new report by the Council's Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment (CPT) warned:
The existing - and a fortiori possible new - provisions regarding the permissible length of pre-charge detention in cases falling under the terrorism legislation are a matter of considerable concern to the CPT. The Committee has no intention of entering into the current debate on the arguments for and against the length of pre-charge detention of terrorist suspects in the United Kingdom. However, as the CPT has emphasised in the past, in the interests of the prevention of ill-treatment, the sooner a criminal suspect passes into the hands of a custodial authority which is functionally and institutionally separate from the police, the better. Consequently, the Committee must insist that neither the existing nor any new provisions in this area should result in criminal suspects spending a prolonged period of time in police custody.
Geraint Talfan Davies (Institute of Welsh Affairs, Wales Watch): The more you look at Ofcom’s proposals for reducing ITV’s programming for the nations and the regions of the UK, the more you sense that the endgame for ITV is approaching. And it’s happening just when the clouds are gathering over our newspapers, too. These are unprecedented crisis years for the media in Wales.
Braced for some months past for a reduction in general programming from four hours a week to three hours in January 2009, shocked ITV Wales staff at Ofcom’s press conference in Cardiff last week were desperate to know when the decision was taken to reduce the requirement still further to one and a half hours. According to the Ofcom team it was ‘within the last six weeks’.