The case against 42 days

Guy Aitchison
8 June 2008

Guy Aitchison (Bristol, OK): I blogged during the week on how Brown cannot but lose on the coming vote on 42 days detention. If the Counter-Terrorism Bill gets through the Commons it will be at the expense of party unity and the support of those who welcomed his accession last summer when it seemed like he was different from Blair. If he loses it will be another devastating blow to his authority following on from the wipe-out in Crewe and Nantwich and the local elections.

Polling data released last night by the Sunday Telegraph confirms my suspicion. It shows that although 65% of voters back his policy of increasing detention without charge, more people think Cameron has the tougher policies on terrorism than Brown. Labour continues to trail the Tories by sixteen points translating to an overall majority of around 100. Brown calculated wrongly. Most voters who support 42 days detention without charge will vote Tory, they will not vote Labour.

In an essay we published on Friday, Anthony Barnett sets out in clear and comprehensive detail why 65% of the public are wrong on the issue and why MPs should vote against a Bill that threatens democracy and the rule of law itself. (If you agree you can sign the Amnesty petition on the No 10 website.) His argument is reinforced today by two powerful articles which show the breadth of opposition to the Bill.

Writing in the Observor, Henry Porter argues that if the Bill passes it will “show a Labour party hellbent on destroying our national life”. He makes a devastating comparison:

"reading his article in the Times last week, I was struck by the disturbing echo of Blair's 2002 WMD dossier. He may be sincere, but his conjuring of nightmares, the many hypotheticals followed by solemn avowals of principle and statesmanship, was exactly the formula which took us into Iraq. He is still talking in the language of the war on terror, a campaign that turned out to be as much against the rule of law as terrorism and which has caused the death of hundreds of thousands of people, enabled torture in Guantanamo and, as the Guardian revealed last week, the unlawful detention of suspects in nightmarish prison ships."

In the Mail, Tory MP and former security advisor to Brown, Patrick Mercer, argues that “internment” will actually help the cause of terrorism based on his own experiences in Northern Ireland:

"The truth is that internment caused uproar and made things worse, not better. I lost many good and trusted friends in the violent backlash that followed.

The eventual release of most of the internees merely served to underline the cack-handedness and injustice of the situation."

Lets hope that Labour MPs are listening.

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