Alex Massie

42 Days: Gone But Not Dead

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Peers reject the notion that it's fine to lock people up for six weeks without even telling them why and how does the Home Secretary respond? Well, yet again, by impugning the motives of those opposed to granting the state these extraordinary powers: "I deeply regret that some have been prepared to ignore the terrorist threat, for fear of taking a tough but necessary decision."

And so the Labour party adopts the bullying thuggery that characterises much of the modern Republican party's approach to security issues. Power corrupts, of course and Jacqui Smith should be ashamed of herself. Curiously, those ignoring the terrorist threat included not one but two former heads of MI5, the domestic security service, who, now appointed to the House of Lords, voted against the government.

Never fear, however: despite being rejected 42 Days hasn't gone away. No, it's being kept back in reserve for that happy tragic day when it can be rushed through parliament in the aftermath of another terrorist attack.

Coincidentally, a government minister pops up today to warn that "They [terrorist threats] are now building up again. There is another great plot building up again and we are monitoring this." What super and fortunate timing! Perhaps this is true, but must the government insist upon treating us as fools? Equally, the presence of a threat does nothing to advance the argument for why the state needs more than its already all-too-draconian powers.

What else? Well, the headlines say that the appalling plan to hold inquests in secret - sans juries, sans the public, sans relatives - on "national security grounds" (a great catch-all!) has been "dropped". Except it hasn't. It's been remove from the Counter-Terrorism bill bu will be brought back in a "forthcoming" coroners bill. You can't take your eye off these people for a second.

And no, I have little faith that a Tory government would necessarily prove much better on these issues.

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

Topics in this articlePoliticslabour partyterrorism