Rejection of 90-day terror detention

A night in the cells gave me a different view of the cops


I don’t know whether my old chum Matt D’Ancona has ever been incarcerated without charge. I do not suggest that he should be. I merely wonder whether I could briefly enter the woeful testimony of a man who has. There will be many loyal readers of this paper who will be appalled that any of its writers could have had their collars felt, no matter how fleetingly. I want to stress that it is a matter for shame.

All I will say in my defence is that it was very late at night, I was about 19, in exceedingly high spirits, and apart from anything else, m’lud, I was plastered. Some events took place that might charitably be described as high jinks. I remember something to do with a bicycle, and dark deeds involving plastic cones. And letterboxes – though I wish to stress that nothing approaching criminal damage took place. It was all deeply pathetic.

At any rate the party ended up with a number of us crawling on all fours through the hedges of the botanical gardens, and trying to escape some police dogs. We were eventually rounded up and put in Oxford police station, about six to a cell. I didn’t so much mind the cells, with their slashed bunks and ominous smears. What got my goat was the trick the cops tried to pull. At about 4.30am, as the skies were starting to lighten through the bars, a couple of officers came in.

By this stage I am afraid that the Bullingdon Club was very far from the proud phalanx of tailcoated twits that had set out for dinner the night before. Some of us were beginning to whimper for our mothers. Others, half-asleep, groaned the names of their nannies. Some of us were brave enough to lie on the bemerded floor. Others stood up, streaked and dishevelled, and tried to sleep on their feet.

This was the scene when the coppers came in, grinning from ear to ear. All night long they had harangued us through the bars about some act of destruction they had found on their patrol; and though we were undoubtedly guilty of being drunk, disorderly and otherwise objectionable, we were fairly certain we were innocent of this particular crime.

But I got the impression that the police wanted to charge someone with something, and they needed a witness. Now, they announced triumphantly, they had found one. They had been talking to the six lads in the cell next door, and guess what.

“They said the blond fellow did it!” said the cop. I was stunned, outraged, and then a little fearful. To my dying day I will refuse to believe that any of my chums could have tried to fit me up, even after five hallucinatory hours in the cells. But I was suddenly conscious of the immense practical power of the state, and its ability to make my life hell. The police invited my cellmates to agree that I was the perp in question, and much to my relief they did not. Right, said the fuzz. They were going to keep us there until someone coughed. Then the officers vanished for a couple of hours, and I waited there with growing apprehension. Was I going to be charged? What had I done? Had someone really grassed me up? In the end, of course, they had to let us go.

Chastened and shaking, we all filed out, and I think back to that weird moment of shock – when I realised the cops were capable of making something up – and I rejoice that Tony Blair was defeated last night. I am glad that the Labour Government was thrashed in its attempt to extend detention without charge to 90 days.

I am glad because it was a bad measure, ill-thought-out, and had nothing to do with security, and everything to do with party politics.

We have already discussed the ludicrous provisions against “glorification” of terrorism, by which Cherie Blair should in theory be banged away for her apparent sympathy for Palestinian suicide bombers.

No one in his right mind could believe that Britain will be a safer country as a result of this erosion of free speech, and the same point can be made about the Labour plan to keep people in the clink for three months – the equivalent of a six-month jail sentence – without even charging them with an offence.

The entire objective of the measure was to outflank the Tories on terror, and to secure from distinguished conservative commentators such as Matt D’Ancona the kind of column that appeared here yesterday.

Mr Blair knows full well that there is a host of good people who are very frightened by the possibility of terrorist attack, and whose general view is that the security services should comb the mosques and detain, indefinitely, as many worrying-looking Muslims as they can. That is why the Sun and other papers report overwhelming support for his measure.

As it happens, neither the police nor the Government envisaged anything so draconian. The 90-day detention would have applied to only a handful of people, they say.

Indeed, the figures show that of the 357 people arrested under the latest Prevention of Terrorism Act, only 11 were held for the full 14 days, and of these all were charged. If the numbers are so tiny, why do we need this programme of incarceration?

No one could object to the minutest surveillance of such characters. Let us by all means bug them and watch them for 24 hours a day.

But if we have enough evidence to incarcerate someone for three months, then we should have enough evidence to put them on trial. That we have extended detention to 28 days is bad enough, but it was the best compromise available.

Blair’s only objective was to divide the Tories – now likely to make a resurgence under David Cameron – and make himself look tough. He failed. He may last another 90 days, but the charges against him are opportunism and incompetence, and the trial is coming up.

49 thoughts on “Rejection of 90-day terror detention”

  1. Boris,

    You – and 321 other Members of Parliament- have been called a “traitor” today by The Sun. That’s pretty serious stuff and rather damaging to your own personal reputation, don’t you think?

    So, what are your thoughts on the UK libel laws as they stand today? Not that I’m implying anything, naturally.

  2. As Michael Howard said in PMQs yesterday in response to jeering from Labour backbenchers:

    Mr. Michael Howard (Folkestone and Hythe) (Con): Every Member of the House is united in a desire to take effective action against the new terrorist threat that [Interruption.] There are people on the Benches behind me who fought terrorism on the streets of Northern Ireland and that response is disgraceful.

  3. The 90 day time frame had nothing to do with party politics and everything to do with the amount of time required to research terrorist activities.

    It takes time to decode encrypted information etc.

    The smug assertion that that if there is enough information to keep someone locked up for 90 days there is enough information to take a person to trial is disingenuous.

    Our rule of law requires that an issue can be proved beyond reasonable doubt. The rational for this is that it is better to let the bad guys go free some of the time in order to be especially sure that most of the time we don’t lock the good guys up.

    When it comes to terrorism however, I think there is a moral imperative to turn this ideal on its head. It

  4. I do not see how either side of this argument can have grounds for joy or gloom.

    Firstly: there was the question of the necessity for continuing detention of the few suspects, who might be apprehended, which would have had to be taken before the courts EVERY 7 days , where approval or refusal of permission of an extension of the detention could be obtained.

    At least we now have a bill which gives the Police some sort of leeway, in order, without unnecessary hindrance, to investigate the threat of possible terrorist acts, whilst at the same time giving the public some sort of sense of tightened security.

    Secondly , if I am not totally misinformed,
    (always a possibility), the 28 day rule now approved, might , where found necessary and advisable by a similarly convened court, be extended, in multiples of 7 days.

    This given , why was there no earlier agreement possible , citing an intermediate, acceptable number of days of detention without charge, always given that there would be the same 7 day reassessment safeguard as was mooted in the original bill?

    The majority of the public wanted the 90 day maximum, if only for the feeling of security it gave, but would , most likely, have been happy with a slightly lower figure as a compromise.

  5. The arguments put forward for 90 days were the same arguments put forward for 14 days, so why did they not ask for that then?

    The encryption angle is rubbish. If terrorists are using secure encryption then the lifetime of the universe is not long enough to break it.

    If you do not have enough evidence to go to charge then how can you justify holding someone for that length of time? So you can find the right evidence? That sort of attitude has been responsible for many miscarriages of justice in the past and encouraging it will make it worse.

    The majority of the public have not read the bill and have no idea what is needed. A feeling of security is useless, except to politicians. We need measures which will make us more secure, not posturing from politicians who are seemingly intent on destroying our way of life.

    Where was the police evidence that this is needed? I’m talking about a detailed report showing how this would help, not some cobbled together dossier referencing irrelevent cases and trying to stoke up fear?

    Yes, we should support our police, but that does not mean giving them everything they want. They are our servents not our masters.
    If the Government supports the police so much why will they not do anything about the red tape crippling police work or provide resources needed to combat the less spectacular crime which is far more likely to affect the people of this country?

    And whilst I’m on the topic of this government and their authoritarian manias: There has been some horrifying Orwellian double-speak from the government, namely “The biggest freedom is freedom from fear”
    I ask how the government plans to do this. Perhaps lock us all up because we are all potential criminals… Fear is natural, we all live in fear of something and we are incredibly bad at judging risk (driving in your car is more dangerous than most things people are afraid of).

    that feels better, and many thanks to Boris for eloquently speaking against this and other hair-brained schemes of the government.

  6. One quick question, regarding the 357 people arrested. Are there any publically available figures detailing average detention times, and how many in all of the 357 were actually charged?

  7. Well done Boris, you’ve lost my vote – now I’ve got nobody to vote for.
    Charlotte was on the right track, you however are completely off it.
    And as for T Mills argument that the encryption angle is rubbish – I assume T Mills is not speaking from a position of authority on the subject – the stupid tit should keep (his?) baseless remarks to (him?)self.

  8. Hurrah! Three cheers for the “commoners” at last Bliar gets an introspective view of himself. Your column in the Telegraph was inspired writing and I had to bring it to the attention of the people of South Shields who have Bliar’s puppy as their representative.
    However, surely, our wonderful police (lobbyists) have sufficient powers at present to detain someone for a long time on the weakest of charges, just keep going back to the magistrates to ensure that bail is not granted and add an extra more serious charge each fortnight as the evidence accumulates?
    Why fix it if it isn’t broken?

    Correct, just to strengthen Bliar’s position against Brown or Cameron!

  9. Jaq – many thanks for good wishes and it honestly does pain me to disagree. Read on!

    Well said Charlotte! Although I’ve no doubt that the arguments of most others are sincere or even valid, though with a false premise or so, do I detect an element of “potting” here? I’m all for good sport but I wonder if people have really sat back and thought it through. If you can, read Matthew Dancona’s (speiing wrong I know!) article in the Telegraph on last Tuesday or Wednesday.

    Certainly the comments about RSA are correct but I think there is a lot more than RSA encrypted stuff to sieve through and very basic police work – the stuff that the cops had to do before they were all sent on race awareness and how to fill in QA forms courses.

    So what does happen in a scenario where possibly true, possibly false, possibly vague information about a major terrorist threat comes in and there are a number of suspects but it is going to take time? Perhaps some the brain boxes out there could tell me? (Slight hint of irascablity there but no rude words Muzzie please note. Just because you are right doesn’t mean you can be rude. Chivalry in debate is important if we wish to get anyway).

    And by the way just what is wrong with picking up 20 people and then only charging one if you are investigating a serious crime?

    Is it really better that 100 guilty men go free than that 1 innocent should be sent down especially if the 100 guilty go on to murder others? Is there a maximum number of guilty that you would not be willing to let loose?

    And just for the record Boris old chap. I also have been detained without charge but this was during the investigation of a possible IRA attack. At the time, as a young leftist, I fulminated with the best of them but somehow couldn’t feel that the police were out of order.

    Is the Bullingdon club named after the road, the pub or the prison?

    Happy Friday all! I’m off to buy the Speccie at lunchtime but at this rate I may as well get the New Stoatperson. You’ve been warned Comrade Johnson!

  10. Encryption is irrelevant anyway, the police have the power to demand the encryption key from a suspect, and it is an offence to refuse. If they refuse, then they can be held on that charge until the computer is decrypted.

    In fact almost all of the police’s reasons for detaining them for any longer than 14 days were rubbish, and almost all exactly the same reasons that were used to justify the extension from 7 to 14 days a couple of years ago. There was no justification for the number 90 either, it appeared to have been plucked out of the air.

    The only reason which was valid was the need sometimes to question a suspect for longer than 14 days, since the police are not allowed to continue interviewinig a suspect once he has been charged. However, all that requires is a change to the Police and Criminal Evidence Act Code of Practice, not even a change in law; let alone this farce.

  11. Jack T – good point, well made
    T Mills – good point well made
    Jack Ramsey – disagree? Have we disagreed? I wished you happy birthday on the Ssh thread and then commented about free speech and Martin Luther King? Or was it the virtual air kissing? Sorry I’m just a warm cheerful old Hector that thinks everyone should should be showered in good will on thier birthday…especially me. (Boris, where was my virtual hug? Hmph!)

    On the 90 day detention speech – Blair seemed to emotionally blackmail by sugesting that if you don’t agree with him you are FOR terror. None of this new legislation would have stopped the bombings in London would it? Because they didn’t know who the hell these people were. Charlottes point of “Although it is desirable to maintain the legal rights of all citizens it must now be recognized that not all citizens are ‘one of us’.” must be taken into account and we must admit that the ‘Rivers of blood’ was accurate. It may not have been comfortable, but it was accurate.

    The thing that worries me about the new terror laws that Blair is making is that he is using them to subjugate the people, ALL of the people. Table banging is all very well but you’ve got to catch the buggers first and only THEN are measures that ensure expediency necessary. These measures HAVE to be balanced with the abuse the state could inflict on it’s people because of them. Some new measures in the supposed and diverting ‘War Against Terror’ are just plain wrong.

    PS: this may be my last post (plastic bugle to hand) as my PC is on it’s last legs, so keep the free speech tingling and roaring, despite the cold winds of change. Stay well y’all.

  12. Jaq

    I fear we disagreed over the 90 days thing. I am really concerned about the dangers we afce.

    Your goodwill wishes added to the general feeling of well being of being one year older, substantially offsetting the drawbacks.

    I do hope your PC does not give out as you provide an excellent point of view even if I disagree with aspects. Keep biffing away at contrary opinions like mine!

  13. I’m afraid another reason I disagree with this law is how absurd I find this whole “war on terror”. Terrorism is not a big problem for us these days, it was back with the IRA, but now, it’s not. Many many more people die due to other crimes, and in my mind many other crimes are more serious!

    I would support an extension of even up to about 50 weeks in cases of paedophilia, rape, and a shorter one for domestic violence too. However, that’s partly because I think these are worse crimes than terrorist ones, and partly because they’re far more common in our society, and I think we should be focussing on them. I guess the only reason an extension hasn’t been requested in these cases is that the police don’t need it. Or perhaps it’s because Blair doesn’t care?

    People sometimes say that terrorism is not just about the number of people it kills, it has other aspects, like preventing people from feeling safe on the tube, and attacking our way of life. Well, our way of life is freedom, and I’m afraid it’s not the terrorists who are attacking that. And what about travelling safely in the streets? Being able to not worry about your children as they go to school? Feeling safe in your own home??

    I’m sorry but for me terrorism is a relative irrelevance, and takes a back-seat in the crime stakes to at least 3, possibly a couple more, other crimes. All of which are more harmful and more prevalent.

  14. Jack Target :
    Whilst your argument for more awareness of the seriousness of other , more prevalent crimes, is relevant,, you do not take in to consideration that the ” other” crimes are against the individual , whereas the crime of terrorism is against the very foundation of our Nation society. The way of life you so rosily paint, where freedom is everyone’s right was not just born out of the indolence, either of the people , or of the powers that be: these freedoms were hard won, one way or another, and will not be easily surrendered.

    We fought two world wars, as well as numerous relatively minor battles, in defence of our comparatively liberal way of life, and those heroic efforts made then, should not be denigrated as mere Party politics, they were attempts to corrupt the British freedoms, and would have heralded a descent into a sort of slavery to an alien ideology. Then as now the Nation must be awake to the danger, and I believe that it now is, thanks to the recent attacks , and the ensuing debates about terrorism.

    The main aim of anti -terrorist measures is to uphold our, up till now, inalienable rights as British citizens to say , and do, within reason, more or less what we like without having to live in fear that some alien authority will hold us in contempt of its , to us , unacceptable rules and regulations.

    I hate the nanny State, but in this measure , the defence of the realm , I am very much pro: even if, in my opinion, the number of days in detention is immaterial, since sufficiently powerful laws are already in force to cope with extension of detention , if properly used.

  15. Jack Target – could not agree with you more. Well said that man and so true. The threat from the IRA was FAR more widespread and I’m not just saying that because I used to work in the Rotunda in Birmingham but because I’m old enough to remember what it felt like in those times. These times do not compare and the 90 day limit won’t protect us from anything really. The ambiversion, for want of a better word, of the state on matters of domestic and family rights just sucks (technical term). My case in point is the rise in closed family courts and the removal of babies from perfectly able parents on spurious grounds and the utter failure to protect those in genuine need.

    I’m sorry but in my opinion this government is COMPLETELY failing the people of this country and throwing numbers in the air for detention times is not the same as either patriotism or effective administration.

    PS: – thanks Jack Ramsey – I’d be a rubbish leftist wouldn’t I? I keep disagreeing!
    PPS: – every time I post a reply the computer crashes and Mac, email is stuffed. Oh windows 95 how I long to trash you and stamp on your grave.

  16. Macarnie is spot on here. The defence of the realm is the primary purpose, because without that all the other good things like freedom of speech, laws to protect one individual against another and so on become impossible. I’m one of those who regard the state as a necessary evil but we don’t need more than necessary. Obviously I think a bit more is necessary at present and most of you do not (although I am thinking more about these existing powers so maybe I am due for another of my reappraisals). Anyway I can’t remember (I’m 53 you know) who wrote it but in a book I was reading recently the author made the point that if the necessary part disappears then there is not freedom but a fragmented rule of terror by powerful individuals. Obvious stuff. But when biffing against the state perhaps it it is wise to remember that the police state is a feature of a wider danger where the state is seen as having as its first purpose the orderly perfection of human existence. Perfection being what it is, something that humans aren’t very good at, eventually it has to be enforced. The nanny state isn’t a Nazi or Communist state but the ideas motivating many of its, no doubt sincere, advocates are little different from the orginators of totalitarianism in their perception of what the state should do. Totalitarian states seem to find it easy to recruit bossy people to tell people how to live (and if they don’t how to die). Fortunately in this country those sort of people all become fitness instructors, educational advisers and those annoying people in restaurants that command you to “enjoy your meal” (I particularly dislike the last sort. If I’m paying through the nose for a meal that I could cook better I reserve the right to not enjoy it). This is bad news for education. (Since I can’t abide health clubs and stay in and do my own cooking now I’m not too worried about the others). But it may contribute to the lack of mass fascism in this country.

    On that last note Britain is the only major country in Europe to not have a mass fascist movement. If the BNP grab a couple of seats on Bingford borough council we get all in a flutter but the French National Front hoovers up mayordoms and parliamentary seats. Should we be knocking around with these characters?

  17. It’s me again!

    I have just read Charles Moore’s article in the Telegraph today. I recommend it highly. It should annoy most of you but I can’t help feeling that, whether or not you wanted the 90 day thing, his basic case is right about the role of the state.

    He has put far more eloquently than I (probably because he went to Eton or something) the concept of the “potting” tendency amongst some of our journalists and politicians. Aims such as “Get Blair” or “Anybody but Bush” strike me as rather primitive and childlike – “here is a baddy and if we get him then all will be well”.

    I read his article with something of the same intellectual (well, for me anyway) delight as I used to get from Boris’ writing but sadly some weeks recently I feel that he has sold out to the “potters”.

  18. As someone who usually has a lot of time for Charles Moore, I have lost a great deal of respect for him over today’s Telegraph article. Suggesting that the shadow of July 7th should be looming over the Commons as they decide on legislation which would take away civil liberties… I almost laughed. That to me is just utterly reactionary and not how law should be made.

    But then similarly, the editorial diatribe on the opposite page about how the police are “forfeiting the support of the kind of people who have always been their main prop” er… what “kind of people” is that then? I was obviously under the mistaken impression that the police were the instrument through which the law is enforced, and that the law was actually there to protect EVERYONE, not just whoever Mail/Telegraph/Sun readers define as a “decent, law abiding citizen” which always means law abiding in the sense that you may break a few speeding laws here and there but hey, at least you don’t do crazy things like smoke marijuana.

    Will the last right wing libertarian in Britain please turn out the lights?

  19. Sorry, I just want to make another point about Moore’s article. Your point about how childish the anti-Blair and Bush lot appear is quite true, Mr Ramsey, but Moore plays on this in his article because, I feel, he knows how people like me think.

    Two years ago, I was moved to support the Iraq war (with a few caveats- I didn’t believe the 45 minute nonsense and suspected the yanks didn’t have a proper reconstruction plan), mainly as a result of my distaste at the po-faced and flawed arguments of the Lib Dems, the behaviour of Jacques Chirac, and the repeated appearence on tv of long haired fools waving pictures of Mao etc and purporting to lecture the rest of us on morality whilst espousing a position which would see another dictator maintain power.

    However, I now see as a result of what has come out on WMD’s etc, that I was sucked into supporting the wrong position because most of the people making the right judgement were doing so for utterly wrong reasons. Charles Moore now plays on this same tendency of people who think like me, by suggesting that, out of fear, anyone who argues for civil liberties over special terrorism powers wants “to do nothing”

    This is clever, but flawed. Actually HE is fearful, quite obviously, he appears to think individual terrorist events should be immediately acted upon via liberty-threatening legislation- the message to the terroists; if you want a more illliberal Britain, keep blowing things up.

    As for people like me who want “to do nothing” he shows a PROFOUND disrespect of the country of Britain if he seriously believes that keeping the civil liberties people of this land have fought and died for over centuries is “doing nothing” against those who would threaten our way of life. But no, he wants to give them away every time there’s a terrorist outrage? Unpatriotic and preposterous.

    I have learned to look at these things with greater equanimity since my mistake two years ago. I shall strive to never again be put off from a position of principal by the motleyness of the crew who may line up with me.

  20. Joe Flynn

    You are, of course, quite right about not adopting a position because of the real positions of some adopting the same position superficially. I say superficially because, for example, the Communist Party and the SWP support class war, and they don’t mean being rude to toffs. Various Islamacist organisations support jihad. Representatives of all of these can be found in prominent positions in the anti-war movement. As far as I know only the BNP has been refused membership of the ant-war coalition.

    I’m reassessing what I think about the 90 days thing. There seem to be two arguments against. (a) it destroys our civil liberties and is therefore a victory for the terrorists, and (b) everything that ir required by the 90 days can be achieved under present legislation. If (b) is true then there is no need for the 90 day thing. But if so does that not mean that supporters of (a) should be at least examining the existing laws cited by supporters of (b).

    I have no wish to curtail civil liberties. I am very much against various new and proposed laws such as the one about incitement to religious hatred. If hatred of any sort is being incited then there are, or were, laws to deal with it. If it is a matter of rudeness or insensitivity then folks just have to put up with it. You can’t legislate for courtesy although I would encourage all fellow citizens to be courteous to each other because it does make the world a better place.

    Just as I feel that the state is a necessary evil so I feel that on occasion an infringement of civil liberties is in order if there a sufficiently real threat. If the security forces has reasonable intelligence of a dirty bomb in central London and needed to round up a 100 supsects of whom only 2 might be involved with a view to intensive interrogation then what should be the case? We have two dangers (a) a dirty bomb attack planned with a potentially horrific outcome (b) the danger to civil liberties which I do not deny is real. People in authority and the security forces can get too comfortable with using emergency powers. Those powers can become non-emergency. There are a choice of dangers.

    I am no expert of terrorism or counter terrorism. I haven’t a clue what our enemies are capable of, in practical terms that is – I’m fully aware that there are few limits to what they would like to do. (The vast majority of people killed by Islamacist terrorists are Muslims so vene what seems to be their moral code is a little shaky.)

    However the scenario seems a possible one. If it comes to be the case what should be done?

  21. Well the recent bombings seem to have been due to children of immigrants that have grown up resentful of thier parents adopted country. Boris’s book was uncanny. So, if civil liberties are to be a necessary sacrifice then what about admitting our mistake, send all the immigrants back with a letter from the goverment expressing our sincere apologies but hey, you did all right for a long time and now you can all leave please as your children are blowing us up. And that would go down like a bacon sandwich at a jewish festival wouldn’t it? I think that’s called ‘ethnic cleansing’ and Hitler was a very popular leader for a very long time, after all, he was voted in remember. No, far better to sacrifice people quietly, with the minimum fuss. All for the good of the people you understand.

    You’re right when you say lets look at the laws we already have and not knee-jerk in the name of being seen to do SOMETHING.

    I think a good place to start would be controlling our borders better, sorting out this stupid topsy-turvey wave of P.C. because the laws have to be enforced by PEOPLE. What controls do we have over them and are they being used? There doesn’t seem to be any, er, oh what’s the word, sameness(?) over sentancing. One man gets two years for a parking offence and another 6 months for killing someone. Christmass seems to be banned and the Anglican church has lost the plot.

    We are so in a mess we NEED a strong, sensible CONSERVATIVE leader……and I vote Boris.

    (I’m sorry, said Eeyore, but there you are.)

  22. Having just been to church I feel I must explain my previous post a little. I’m not accusing any here of being zealots. I believe in the commonwealth and have no wish to ethnically cleanse Britain. I am against ghettos and think our established culture was worth preserving if we can remember what has largely been lost. I’ve read Hithens The Abolition of Britain and he makes some very good points, misses some and some made me laugh out loud. Most of all I like the fact he cared enough to bother.

    I’m remembering pushing my great uncle to talk about the world wars (he was in both). The look on his face and his reluctance and careful filtering of information to a child spoke volumes.

    I’m just thinking that, on this day especially, this England is worth fighting for. The culture and traditions we’ve long held dear are worth preserving. And it is high time we all worked together not to make Britain just safe, perhaps by getting lost in a european crowd? But Great, as it has always been.

  23. sorry, Hitchens not Hithens – when it comes to him I seem to go all unnecessary. I must get ’round to putting an ad in P.Eye asking for funding for therapy: Please help, urgently need funds for counselling to overcome deep and meaningful attraction to Peter Hitchens. All donations gratefully rec’d. A/C Barclays #65000

  24. Jaq

    I am now almost completely convinced that 90 days was wrong. Being seen to do something is never a good reason. Neither is being not willing to think about a new situation.

    I was trying to get across the point that there can be no absolute position on civil liberties. The last load may well have been home grown, although it would be handy to know who radicalised them. If a scenario like the one I describe occurs then I claim that we are faced with two dangers and we have to decide between them.

    It does look like “we” made a lot of mistakes and we need to regain control of the borders. Ethnic cleansing is for serious racists. That’s no reason not to move out of the PC miasma. As long as people render unto Caesar what is due to Caesar then if they’re here they can stay. Of course most non Anglo Saxon/Danish/Norman…were born here.

    Let’s take an entirely different view of the slippery slope. Two mountaineers following a path find their way blocked by an immense rock. By moving down a slippery slope of ice, very carefully, they can work round it. Will they slip? Maybe. Depends on their ice pick control. The curtailment of a civil liberty is not a light business. But I disagree with Joe Flynn about having either an entirely free society or an entirely unfree one. We have a free society with a number of qualifications. If you’re a Catholic you don’t get to marry Prince William. I suspect a fair number of civil liberties are trampled on in pursuing paedophiles. Whilst my gut reaction is “jolly good” I trust that the breach of liberties is within the law.

    I see you’ve been at the Hitch again. He’s a good one but I think Roger Scruton presents a slightly less gloomy picture in that societies can change and yet maintain what is good, that itself perhaps changing. I also recommend Robert Conquest. And Anthony O’Hear.

    I agree that today is a very special day. Being an atheist (C of E of course) I don’t attend church but shall pause by the War Memorial in my afternoon perambulation.

  25. I suspect the word you were looking for (sameness) was consistency?

    I fully agree that there has to be a balance between civil liberties and upholding the law. The reason I take such firm view on this is that I think we’re already a fair bit too far on the “upholding the law” side, and so any extra movement in that direction I am fairly confident is wrong. Any movement towards civil liberties, as unlikely as that is under Blair, I would have to look at more carefully to see if we’re swinging too far to the opposite side of my opinion of the balance.

    I’m not quite sure where religion came into this, but since it looks like there’s a good possibility that I’m going to become an Anglican priest, my religious views are fairly clear. Of course as Jack Russell pointed out, given the number of atheists in the C of E they may not be! But suffice it to say I’m a believer.

  26. Well, I didn’t actually say we had a “totally unfree” society, I said we had an unfree one, not quite the same. I don’t deny that laws may need to be changed to keep up with a changing world. However, I don’t agree that such changes to our laws should be based on justifying “special powers” to combat a certain type of criminal (known as “terrorists”). That is particularly worrying when this type of criminal is only ever going to come from one ethnic or religious community, and even more so when the whole basis of the argument is based on the assumption that we are now in a constant State of War against an enemy which no one in authority can satisfactorily define.

    That to me is still a sinister and Orwellian use of their legislating power from the State in principal, even if in practise going about things in this way does not result in any terrible social consequences immediately (of course, the police have been extremely sparing with even the use of 14 day detention according to the stats I’ve seen, so well done them).

    In the long term though, absolutely no good can come of such reactionary political behaviour in my view. I say again, 50 more outrages and 50 more laws (even if that happens over a period of the next, let me come up with a random figure, 90 years) and we would be in a genuine police state but not necessarily a genuine State of War, unless we can start really proving where the “rogue states” are and fight them properly, not just invade the places which conveniently have the dictators we happen to like the least.

  27. Jack Russell: “I was trying to get across the point that there can be no absolute position on civil liberties” and you succeeded. I hope I didn’t give the impression that I did not think about a new situation, I did and arrived at the attitude stated.

    “I suspect a fair number of civil liberties are trampled on in pursuing paedophiles” nope.

    “been at the Hitch again”? makes him sound sherry. Oh OK then, I confess he’s not my grown up David Cassidy (not that I was into D.C or D.O – it was the Duke of Westminster for me) and I don’t have Hitch’s poster on my wall. I do have a lot of time for his work though but just saying that isn’t half so much fun. Your recommendations sound interesting, thanks.

  28. Jack Target

    Good to hear from you. I merely mentioned the religious aspect in reference to Jaq’s having been to church. As I mentioned elsewhere I think that atheists are better off in Christian countries than atheist countries or those of most other religions. I wish you all the best if you decide to become an Anglican priest.

  29. Jaq: you must be the first; possibly of many females who mention,( in a feeling kind of way), Barclays and Hitchen in the same breath. Any particular reason?

    Personally, I can’t get excited about the man at all, even though we all, at one time or other , get delusions about an individual, be it in their writings or their deportment, or even,in a silly way,about their looks.

    Jack Target:please correct me if I’m wrong , but didn’t you at one stage declare you were going , perhaps , to join the Armed Forces:the Army to be exact?

    You now seem to have veered completely away from that path, and are ready to join up in the legion against Old Harry? Not that it is anyome’s business.Merely asking.

  30. Sorry , it’s me again, Ijust can’t desist:-

    As the selection process of a new Conservative leader nears its end, I would have thought that the two remaining candidates had set out their stalls in much more detail than is at present obvious. Since the wedge , in the form of the recent parliamentary defeat of Bliar, has been inserted in the overlarge tree of Government, is it not time for pressure to be applied, to hasten the felling an outmoded giant RED WOOD tree, Bliarus Sequoia ,( hopefully ), Non Sempervivens?

    Who better to wield the axe than the least worst candidate, David Davis

    Davis has shown some nous in declaring some of his proposed policies, whereas Cameron seems to be depending almost entirely on what he thinks the electorate wish to see, namely himself. He has made no real policy proposals, or at least any such are so nebulous, that no recognizable form is apparent. His one claim to fame in the head to head , was the rather rash suggestion that ecstasy should be downgraded to a class B drug, Otherwise, he performs reasonably well on stage, BUT is he merely an actor ; mouthing other people’s words, engrossed in a role, but utterly devoid of personal substantive involvement? Time alone, as it usually does, will tell.

    Surely it is time to advocate world wide policies, different in almost every way from those currently being followed, at the behest of a rampant, arrogant USA under George Dubbya? See what is being said today in South America, and in particular, Mexico and Argentina: they are not so particular as to whether Bush is upset or not. Okay ,they are not in the same position, as we are, of having troops in Iraq, but they are not afraid to show their dissatisfaction with Bush’s World Politics in general.

    Sure , the UK and the US are close allies, friends ; but even the best of friends are allowed to have differences of opinion. The UK has had a history of dealing with insurgents, and in comparison with similar situations in which the US was involved, (e.g. Nam), our record in coping was almost impeccable. There was Malaya, and then Cyprus for example, from both of which localised guerrilla wars, we emerged more or less intact.

    Given that GB Inc. is no longer in the league of world superpowers; there still lingers that certain savoire faire, resulting from all those years of seeing so much of the map of the World coloured red; and we should be making an effort to impart that knowledge to the new leaders of the gang. I propose that our Conservative leader in waiting should re-evaluate our foreign policy, and propose such changes as are seen as advantageous to the UK.

    As G. Dubbya’s empire heads slowly but inexorably the same way as the Greek; the Roman, and last , but not least, the Empire on which the sun was not supposed to set,( but which inevitably did) , the British Empire, is it not time to re-evaluate what an empire is , or even was?

    Imperialism used to be the result of the desire of self-satisfied, even megalomaniac, regimes, (including our own), to spread what they thought to be a superior life style, to other, less able and developed countries, including the imposition of their own laws and tenets on the indigenous population,( whether suitable for that part of the World or not), by force if necessary.

    This unsolicited takeover technique had the advantage of facilitating the taking of the conquered Nation’s wealth, in whatever form it might exist, in exchange for the installation of basic infrastructure, and a reasonably workable and fair legal system. (Neither of these two “blessings” were necessary, nor hankered after, prior to colonisation.)

    Expanding industry in the Motherland needed a variety of raw materials not available at home, and this was seen by the colonialists as a relatively cheap and easy way to achieve continuity of supply, whilst being arrogant enough to believe that the blessings of Western civilisation were what was required by those hitherto underdeveloped countries.

    Even more arrogant were the Churches, implanting western ideas, such as organised worship of a strange bearded jealous Deity, as well as teaching false modesty, in the previously free and relatively innocent souls of the natives. This latter imposition was not because the natives were doing anything of an evil nature , but because nakedness was anathema to the Puritanical spirit innate in the missionary book of “Sins and other things forbidden”.. The ultimate in nannying, nineteenth Century style.

    Imperialism, as thus described, is nearly dead, and would be so entirely; if oil were not such an important, even crucial, part of the world economy. Some may remember the oil crisis in the early 1970s, where the oil rich Arab States held the West to ransom over oil prices. Many industrial nations went into recession. The same result is feared in today’s uncertain political climate, if oil supplies were to fail, or even worse, if the available reserves were sequestered by the Governments of the oil producing countries, and used as a weapon against Western Democracy . Today’s neo- imperialism seems to be founded entirely on the supposition that only the West is fit to regulate the World’s affairs.

    America, despite being oil rich herself; due to continuing expansion of her industries, needs increasingly more oil , year on year, because of the profligate use of all available sources of oil generated power, be it mobile or static. The United States , with only 4% of the World’s population, produces 25% of the carbon dioxide gas emitted into the atmosphere, and flatly , ( and in my opinion , totally arrogantly), refuses to compromise as to these emissions. They are big on Globalism , but even bigger on protectionist parochialism

    The result of the foregoing facts is the apparently senseless rush to gain control of other Nation’s oil reserves; if necessary, by means of illegal invasion. Even as I write, there are, or at least appear to be, moves to, “do something”, in regard to the perceived situation in Iran: once again the feared image of the spectre of weapons of mass destruction has been loosed on the World community. Will the World see the same results as with Iraq? Will the intemperate speech of the Iranian leadership be interpreted as a declaration of war on Israel and thus on the USA ? Will America, once again without UN legitimisation, choose to act against another Middle Eastern country, with a similar unnecessary, and enormous, loss of life?

    If this were to come to pass, it would surely be seen by those countries directly involved in the production of oil as neo-colonialism. Is Africa safe from the oil thirst presently afflicting America and her allies?

    Has the United Nations become even more toothless than would seem, recently ,to have been the case? If not, it must be time for the Security Council, once more to insist on the obeying of the rule of International Law: or has it now been decided that one small part can truly be larger than the whole?

    Surely, within the bounds of Global civilisation, there must be the will to co-exist, and even co-operate, peacefully; if not entirely in perfect harmony, then, in a manner allowing the free and frank exchange of views between all countries interested in any specific mutual problem. Where better to practice this than in the forum created for such a purpose: the U.N.?

  31. Oops, sorry Mac you did a longer post (above) when I wasn’t looking. Wasn’t laughing at that bit – good points well made.

  32. Jaq/Macarnie

    So blooming dry that my poor old head porridge has finally congealed! Who is this tailor blighter?

  33. There certainly is a dire need foe an amount of dessication there , I would have thought, Jaq,
    Her new baby is doing its bit in that quarter, I should imagine.

    As for the tailor, there is a story written by Jakob & Wilhelm Grimm, entitled,

  34. Many thanks Mac

    Extra education always welcome. Despite dessication I have forgotten enough to learn a little more

  35. Good story Mac. I think I may have heard it before (but being 53 am not sure). Still don’t quite see how it applies but brain cells have fallen to single figures.

    Best wishes

  36. Jack R. ( There are so many jacks now, 4 if we count Jaq).

    2 in one strike. paraphrase the tailors tale 7 in one etc….

    You mentioned that Jack Target would make a good Padre. Ergo 2 in 1: soldier and vicar.

    Perhaps my lateral thought pattern, who knows.

  37. I must confess I’m beginning to become a secret Davis supporter myself… (no longer that secret perhaps given that I’m posting it on the internet) mostly for the main reason that he has policies, and almost all of which I agree with. I am slightly concerned by Cameron’s pointing out that we stand little chance if we stay on the right, but Davis performs well too, and I think he might be able to do it. Unless anything changes soon, I will shortly be sending off my ballot paper in the Davis camp.

    As for me personally, Mac I’m glad to see you’re following my intended career with such avidity! I will clarify things here; those of you who care not at all are free to skip to the next post! A couple of months ago it was indeed nearly certain that I would (attempt to) become an army officer. Then I dropped out of my course at uni (was doing Maths and Physics at Warwick, really got sick of it, and dropped out at the end of the year), and am currently applying to Oxford to read Theology. About a month ago, I began to feel the call to ordained ministry in the Church of England, and it has been growing. At the moment, to me now, that seems like the most likely path for my life, but I have another 3 years or so at least before I’ll even be in a position to make the decision, and my whole life before I have to. As has been predicted, I would be very interested in marrying the two paths to become an army chaplain, but the earliest that could happen is in 10 years, and so I’m trying not to plan that far ahead… given that I’m only 19! I would be very surprised if I hadn’t changed a lot in 10 years, so things are likely to change.

    That is the reason for the apparent contradiction in my future career 🙂

  38. Whatever you decide to do Jack, I predict that you will do it with a fervour, and if , at the end of what might now appear to be an endless path, you do manage to marry the old and new ideas, I wouldn’t be averse to being in your regiment. Trouble is:-
    a) I’m way past military age , and ,
    b) I’m an ex submariner , and there was not a lot of room to spare for a padre.

  39. Jack Ramsey

    Please please can you stop going on about being 53 and therefore decrepit? You’re young enough for me to date so if you’re past it what does that make me? Shush!

    Mac –

    I remember reading Jane Austen as a teenager and the pleasure of her stories has never diminished over time. In fact, as I learned more about society I came to appreciate what superb observations the characters in her stories were and loved her work more. I read John Donne when I was about 17 and still do. My first pleasure in his work has never lessened. But what has 17th century metaphysical poetry to do with modern day journalists? OK, lets talk attractive men shall we? Now I know Boris probably doesn’t pop your cork in the top totty stakes but he’s a pretty attractive bloke and no mistake. Sex on legs! But I support him because of his work: his opinions, his actions and his attitudes, not because I find him physically attractive. Piers Morgan is a pretty boy and I’m not sure I’d follow him into a lifeboat. When it comes to Hitch I can’t claim some clever sarcastic wit because he’s not unnatractive. In the occasional photo he might look a bit constipated (and he can disapprove for England and frequently does) but who hasn’t ditched one of those photos from the album before now? If I had a serious romantic interest in Hitch, making fun of it on a public website wouldn’t be the way to attract his admiration. Apart from the fact that Mr and Mrs Hitch are together til death whether they like it or not, so it is written and so it shall be. It’s true I do have a lot of time for his work but when I’m looking for a reference book to remind us what we’ve lost in our culture, where else would I go? Lynne Truss? I suppose in my frivolous way I do draw attention to his work. Perhaps one of you might think “what the hell is she going on about, I’m gonna have to check this guy out” I haven’t got much time for newspaper columns being hijacked for personal bitchyness eg. Amanda Platell. I haven’t checked out Polly Tonybee yet but when I find her I will. Hitch has produced two very good articles recently: on Turkey and it’s inclusion into the EU and the riots in Paris. His stuff tends to be well researched and well referenced. I don’t agree with everything he says and believe me, I’ve said so. I can be frivolous and silly and I like a laugh but I’m not being paid. If I’m paying for something I don’t want to read some half-arsed, ill-conceived, emotional word-vomit that I can get for free at any bar in town. I want the journalist to do their homework and in my book, Hitch is worth reading. He’s also very well read, which I like. Eg. today he says: “Totalitarianism is comming. This is how it comes. As James Madison Warned long ago: ‘There are more instances of the abridgement of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power, than by violent and sudden usurpation.’

    Given my sense of humour, and if he ever reads this blog (God forbid) I doubt he’s my greatest fan. But like Austen and Donne and Boris, I recommend him.

    Oh and he’s done a prog on whether we should be in Europe (no) on Sat at 8pm called ‘This Sceptic Isle’ I think. Check it out

  40. Am following the recent discussions with interest –

    Go for it Jack Target (re being called to be ordained in the Church of England) – you’re young enough to make a good go of it – better now than later when you might be married with kids and there may be objections to your being posted to a curacy based on a remote Scottish isle or an inner city conurbation.

    Every blessing and joy on your journey and do please keep us in touch

  41. Happy Monday all

    Just a quick note before turfing the descendents out of bed.

    Jack Target

    Slightly sorry to hear you ditched a scientific path there because I think the CofE could do with more scientists. Alister McGrath, who I think you might encounter at Oxford, was first a scientist before turning to theology (I think he is ordained) and this seems to have given him a good position from which to give the likes of Richard Dawkins a good intellectual hiding. Dawkins is fine on biology but is a religious atheist and McGrath is very good on religious atheism. A religious atheist is an atheist pursuing his or her beliefs with religious fervour not to be confused with atheist religious people who belong to a religion but don’t believe.

    Anyway I’m sure you will rise to such challenges and wish you all the best.


    Feel suitably admonished ma’am – won’t happen again

  42. Jaq : If you were in a position where you had to follow a man , whatever his name , into a lifeboat; I fear you would not be amongst gentlemen . In my book, it is women and children first, every time.

  43. Bless you Mac, would that there were more like you.

    Jack Target –

    Best Wishes in your studies and sincerely hope you become ordained. I think the Church could only benefit by having you and it’s in dire need of good people like yourself. Trust all goes well and please keep us posted.

  44. Thanks a lot for the support guys! I will indeed to do my best to keep you posted.

    And Jack, I have a fair bit of experience with religious atheists, in fact I used to be one before my conversion 2 years ago. The scientific background helps a lot, but even though it would have given me some authority in an argument, I decided that it was silly to carry on with a course I didn’t like, probably doing badly at the end of it too. I still maintain an amateur interest in the sciences, and will attempt to keep up to date with it, but I’m far more interested in religion and politics these days.

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