Monarchy and Habeas Corpus – DT comment

Sorry, Blair, but that is so much phooey

I have a terrible feeling that, if you lift your eyes a few inches to the north, you will have a shock. An intruder has crept into the chaste domain of the comment pages.

I can almost feel his Cheshire cat grin over my shoulder. I can already hear the torrent of drivel seeping down from my columnar next-door neighbour, and I am afraid I want to throw up my figurative window and say, “Oi, Blair, shut it, mate. Some of us down here are trying to talk.”

It may be that there are some hard cases among the readership who agree with me, and who want to take their scissors and cut the article above me out of the paper; not to preserve it, of course, but maybe to use it to clean the frying-pan, or to scrumple up and put in their boots, or just to throw darts at it.

But before you do, may I suggest that you take a moment to shout back at the Prime Minister, as he lectures us there about his plan to take away our 800-year-old freedoms. Never mind that the piece has in fact been written by Alastair Campbell’s patent Blair-o-trash computer program. Blair is responsible, and it is to the Prime Minister that I suggest we all reply.

Without knowing the exact words he is using to justify his actions (I am afraid I haven’t read it yet), I propose that we begin by pointing out that he is the first peacetime prime minister to curtail the right to habeas corpus. He is giving the Home Secretary astonishing powers to decide that you or I may be locked in our homes; that our possessions may be confiscated; that we may be debarred from contact with the outside world; that we may be forbidden from using the internet or the telephone – in a word, that we may be incarcerated.

Under the Bill that went through the Commons last night, the Home Secretary (the chap with the big ears and the white bumfluff beard) will be able to inflict this incarceration indefinitely upon any British person that he suspects – on the basis of we are not allowed to know what evidence – of being involved in “terrorism-related activities”. Above all, he will be able to do this without any obligation to bring that person to trial, and there, I think, he goes too far.

We all agree with the Prime Minister that we face a new and sinister peril in al-Qa’eda. But it is worth pointing out that many British lives were lost every year in the 1980s and 1990s to Irish republican terror – far more than have been lost, since 2001, to the operatives of al-Qa’eda – and it is more than 30 years since we last tried interning IRA suspects.

Why is Mr Blair assuming these astonishing powers now? The Government says it must suspend the right to a trial, because trials would jeopardise the secret telephone intercepts of the security services. That sounds like phooey.

The Tories have offered a sensible compromise, by which a pre-trial judge would hear any sensitive evidence, and decide what needed to be screened out, without prejudicing the fairness of a full trial. Why can’t Blair accept that? As my colleague Richard Shepherd said yesterday in the Commons, there is something deeply un-British about this Bill, something profoundly ignorant of the history of this country and the rights of its people.

Of course terrorist suspects should be rounded up. Of course we should crack down hard on anyone to do with al-Qa’eda. But it must remain an inalienable principle of our law that, if the state has enough evidence to incarcerate someone, then it must have enough evidence to put him on trial.

It is amazing that the Prime Minister, who began as a vaguely Left-wing lawyer, should be stripping the British people of this right. He is casually destroying a key part of our constitutional liberties; and since we have the chance to harangue him, I suggest we now move on, and ask him just what he thinks he is doing with another ancient and valued part of our constitution, namely the Queen.

Tony Blair is Her Majesty’s First Minister, and he claims to be a fervent monarchist. He sees her every week for an audience, which he is said greatly to enjoy. Why on earth, then, have he and his Government been so breathtakingly incompetent in the matter of the wedding between Charles and Camilla?

As far as I understand matters, Her Majesty the Queen has decided not to attend the register office business, because of some hesitancy about whether or not members of the Royal Family may get married in such a service.

Some people witter on about an Act of 1836 that apparently bans civil unions for members of the Royal Family; others seem to think that the wedding is legitimated by Act of 1949. For the past week, chuckling Charlie Falconer has been issuing various reassuring noises about the celebrations, much as he once issued reassuring noises about the surefire success of the Dome.

To cap it all, the poor royals have been forced to abandon their plan to hold the event in Windsor Castle, because that would mean they would have to apply for some kind of special licence, and that would mean the wedding would be open to the entire public, and any of us could go off and get married in the castle for the next three years.

So they have shelved that and gone for the register office, with the Queen forced by the shambles into a kind of boycott. The indignity of it all! The incompetence!

But I don’t blame the courtiers, though they have their faults. I blame Blair and his Government for failing to see that it was their job to make sure that everything went smoothly. I blame him for just not caring enough about our ancient institutions.

There they are, two wonderful aspects of our constitution, the monarchy and habeas corpus, each almost as old as the other, both treated shabbily by New Labour.

25 thoughts on “Monarchy and Habeas Corpus – DT comment”

  1. You silly sod, Boris, you start off so well and then completely ruin it.
    Your article starts wonderfully, propounding the sentiments that could have been expressed by a tree hugging commie like me, only you do it so much more eloquently. Welcome to the world of the liberal Left.
    And then, just as I beginning to warm to you, you prattle on about the

  2. Liked the first bit, haven’t got a clue what you’re wittering on about with the second bit. On the one hand you appear to be saying the government is trying to extend its powers beyond its jurisdiction, then you say the government should also act as some sort of royal wedding planner.

    What about children’s parties and Bar Mitzvahs? Sort yourself out man.

  3. And yet Labour still lead in the polls. I can’t understand how. Booo Labour, yaay I don’t know yet.

  4. i agreed with the first part of the article, but I also couldn’t understand what Prince Charles had to do with it. There are many things I expect our elected representatives to do, but “smoothing the way” for a society wedding isn’t one of them. Surely Tony should have his mind on higher things than Hello! style trivia like this.

  5. Excellent article Boris. Well said.

    “Blood sucking throwback parasites”? I think not Vicus Scurra. They are personally richer than many, but not all in this country, which I’m sure anoys some. However, whilst some might consider thier lot enviable and easy, I wonder what price you’d put on freedom? We own them. All thier lives, every day, everyting they do and everyone they sleep with. All held up to public judgement. Whilst you may not want to be stuck in a lift with some of them, the monarchy as an institution is valuable to us. Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.

  6. Jaq, if the monarchy is that valuable, why don’t we privatise it, let it earn it’s way, pay it’s taxes, and give back the property to the state that is not needed for it to carry out its duties.
    I would give them:
    1 London residence
    Windsor castle
    either Balmoral or Sandringham
    the rest – Highgrove, St James, Kensington Palace etc to be returned to public ownership.
    I am sick of paying for the buggers.
    And I don’t want to own them. I want them to disappear from public view.

  7. They can’t disappear from the public view, because they are actually constitutionally quite important. You can’t really have an invisible head of state. The alternative is to have a President, but they are invariably more expensive, despite usually only being 1 person.

  8. I am sure all of us here oppose detention without trial and support Boris’s position. We have to think hard and use our imaginations to work out where exactly our politics are going. The Germans failed to do this in the 1930s and paid the price. I don’t wish to equate New Labour with the Nazis, however we, like the Germans in the late 1920s and early 1930s, have a seemingly unshakeable confidence in our way of life, which is surely not justified by the facts.

    The lesson of history is that when the people willing surrender their rights, they suffer for it later. On my own blog, I wrote: [detention without trial] changes the fundamental relationship between the government and the citizen, and the implicit �contract� which binds us together in a peaceful and tolerant society.

    As for the monarchy, Boris may be right but who cares about the royal wedding? If I had been Mr Johnson with his great flair for juxtaposing issues, I would have chosen the resurfaced issue of the Attorney-General’s advice about the legality of the Iraq war. This still has considerable damage potential for Blair.

  9. yes, on cost grounds I can’t condemn the monarchy – how much do they cost per person per year? approx 1p?

  10. I used to be an excitable Royal Basher in my youth. But recent years have taught me that it’s either the Royals, or like previously mentioned a president. If the latter should occur then we would all be [Shudder] paralysed by American style queeziness at any show of dissent towards the leader; the head of state. [/Shudder]

  11. Victus Writes:

    ‘I am sick of paying for the buggers.’

    Victus you don’t pay for the Monarchy. In fact the Monarchy hands over all the income from the crown esates to the goverment, and then is given a payment back from the civil list. And to be honest the crown esates pay more to the government then the Monarchy get from the civil list. In fact it’s a very good deal for the public of this country.

  12. Nick, Jaq, Phil et al…

    The real truth about the monarchy is that nobody cares any more. They’re tabloid fodder, on a par with the Beckhams and the ex-members of Atomic Kitten. The Queen could perform a useful constitutional role, as titular Head of State, but there’s no reason on earth why they should continue to enjoy their wealth simply because we don’t want the bother of electing a President. Other European countries have monarchs who show up when needed for State occasions and do as they’re told in return for a reasonable sum of money. Why can’t we do the same?

    Because we’re addicted to class, I suspect. Look at the way fox-hunting gets everyone’s knickers in a twist, when it could not be less important compared to the real issues facing the world.

    Of course it might be a bit draconian to suddenly deprive the Windsors of all their lovely homes and cash. Personally, I’d give them the choice: take a salaried job as head of state, with one palace and a holiday timeshare at Balmoral; or take the money you’ve got and live as ordinary if wealthy citizens. We could even offer to buy Buck House to give them time to get used to work and taxes and having to hail a taxi in the rain like the rest of us.

    Meanwhile, please can we all stop whining about how hard they work and what a lot of pressure it must be. Showing up at a few widget factories and feigning interest in what the employees do is a small price to pay for Balmoral, Klosters, Windsor Castle, the Civil List, and a staff of hundreds.

    Show me the royal who’s had to make the minimum wage stretch far enough to feed the kids more than sliced bread and chips at the end of the week. That’s pressure: the rest is bullshit.

  13. It is an understatement to say that the end of habeus corpus or detention without trial (whatever one chooses to call it) is a very grave matter. So is the the potential terrorist threat to this country. However I am not convinced that the latter is justified by the former, and the more so given this government’s disgraceful record of spin and manipulation. So Boris could hardly have raised a more important issue.

    Since 1997 this government has steadily arrogated more and more power to itself. The effect of this has been to massively reduce the sense and reality of freedom. It really does beggar belief that the opposition party which hounded the Tories on anti-terrorism legislation and (imagined) threats to civil liberties, has created (I understand) over a thousand new criminal offences. They now intend to cap their monstrous Orwellian structure with ID cards and detention without trial. That a politician in the form of the Home Secretary rather than a judge should make such decisions also beggars belief. New Labour were supposed to be the ones who were going to modernise our constitution. Indeed the propsal to reform the Lord Chancellorship and create a separate Supreme Court was defended on the grounds that it would create a proper separation of powers. But after eight years of New Labour we should not be surprised at their inconsistency, lack of principle and self-serving manner.

    Against this background the forthcoming wedding of Price Charles and Camilla Parker-Bowles appears a trifling matter to juxtapose with our liberty. But that does not mean that New Labour’s attitude to the monarchy is not an important issue because. It is. I and I am sure many others believe New Labour is merely tolerating the monarchy whilst it is in their interests to do so.

  14. > You silly sod, Boris, you start off so well and then completely ruin it. Your article starts wonderfully, propounding the sentiments that could have been expressed by a tree hugging commie like me

    Now come on, Vic. First, Communists do NOT like trees. Socialism, as we all know involves “electrification of the Soviet Union” .. and hard lines on the trees if they get in the way. Rightly or wrongly, it looks forwards not back. You make ’em sound like Tolkein/Lewis – they’re not. No Ents or Dryads in the socialist worldview – not even as symbols.

    And secondly, which communist country has EVER respected individual rights – including the right to liberty. Annoy the commissar and you’re in the pokey – or worse. We all know that.

    Boris’s sentiments are all good Tory stuff. I’d be surprised if anyone could quote any conservative luminary from Burke to Scruton who’d disagree with the sentiments he expresses.

  15. Maybe Charles and Camilla should jet to Las Vegas and get married in an Elvis* chapel? An idea more sensible and entertaining than letting New Lieboor continue with this erosion of freedoms.

    (*Headline: King marries Prince!)

  16. In the words of Anthony Aloysius Hancock

    “What about Magna Carta?”

    “Did she die in vain?”

    “NO FREEMAN shall be arrested or detained in prison or deprived of his or outlawed or exiled or in any way molested . . . except by the judgment of his peers.”
    Magna Carta, 1215.

  17. The Sun: curious coincidences and warped priorities

    You may recall that the Osbournes got robbed the last time (almost) everybody was talking about security measures and the legal advice given for the invasion of Iraq (November 22 and 23 2004) but I’m *pretty* sure The Sun doesn’t…

  18. Is it not wonderful that the Tories failed to ally themselves or help to keep the debate going on wednesday to vote against Clarkes Lockemupat’ome Bill?

    Then Boris says it’s a crying shame. But its the most right wing agenda imaginable the Labour govt is creating the mechanics of a Police state.

    Time to disappear I think before the spooks have various lefties and Tory MPs hanging by their braces from Blackfriars Bridge.

    Democracy – what a nice idea! Shame on the politicians with their reactionary repression.

  19. Yes. These are new times. With new dangers.

    But it’s not all bad news. Because it often allows us to bury… erm, something that escapes my memory.

    (PS – Can anybody please explain to me why we didn’t invade Scotland during The Troubles?)

  20. Is not a terrorist someone who uses terror (ro fear) to bring about change in society?
    “We must change the law or you risk being blown up” sounds very much like the words of a terrorist to me.

    Pass this bill and the terrorists win. ObinL would be laughing like crazy if he could see how much damage he was causing to Britain by not actually doing anything.


  21. Mark, do please pay attention if you’re going to critisise: “there’s no reason on earth why they should continue to enjoy their wealth simply because we don’t want the bother of electing a President” without thier public duties they would still be wealthy and would have none of the restrictions on enjoying it that currently come with the job, like who they are allowed to marry! Big freedom that one.

    As for houses, they can’t give back what they don’t own and what else would it be for? See comment on president.

    “Look at the way fox-hunting gets everyone’s knickers in a twist, when it could not be less important compared to the real issues facing the world” what’s important is that Labour is forcing this issue, not the posh gits or even the working gamekeeper who will loose his job now. Ask Stanley Johnson if a hunt descriminates and promotes a society addicted to class.

    Enough, you’re comments are too ridiculous. But a parting word from a single mother on income support: “That’s pressure: the rest is bullshit” Why, when we are so much richer than before are we less happy? It is because we feel no security. In the law, in the NHS, in the government. And if you think it’s easy to live under constant public scrutiny then ask Boris Johnson, or vote Labour!

    David, so true, I wish someone would echo your comment in the House…Boris?

  22. Who’s doing the listening?

    The law sometimes throws up odd situations…

    Take the issue of communication surveillance as an example. We have a law, the Regulation of Investgatory Powers Act, which ostensibly governs when, where and in what circumstances the Police and Securit…

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