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Can't help wondering

Posted by Helen Wednesday, June 11, 2008 , ,

Astonishingly enough, I find myself in agreement (almost) with Simon Heffer's article in today's Daily Telegraph. As a matter of fact, I find the issue of the proposed 42 day detention of considerable importance and not merely a trivial "clever-dick" story.

Mr Heffer opposes the idea, as do I, for very good reasons. The complete destruction of Habeas Corpus, something for which previous generations of political activists (some centuries ago) fought for, is not something one should support. The argument that the "police want it" cuts no ice with me. The police would, wouldn't they.

Furthermore, I agree with Mr Heffer that the police have not really explained why it is that they think that they will be able to build a case in 42 days, as they cannot in 28 days or why they do not want to change the rules about continuing to question and investigate after charging somebody. That would be much simpler and there would be fewer arguments against it.

Can we even be absolutely certain that the police will use their new powers against terrorists and suspected terrorists?

Needless to say, I fully agree with Mr Heffer when he suspects that both Prime Minister's Brown support for the measure and the Labour MPs' opposition to it have more to do with internal party politicking than with the need to protect this country and its people.

Where I disagree (phew!) is in Mr Heffer's routine and completely ignorant anti-Americanism. According to him

But anyone who visits America now feels instinctively that he is in the middle of a serious over-reaction. It would not be helpful to our security, our freedoms or our sense of ease as a society if we were to emulate America.
Naturally, I have no idea when Mr Heffer last visited America and what his experiences may have been. I can speak only from mine.

I have visited that great country on the other side of the Pond several times since 9/11, staying in New York City and Washington DC on each occasion. I was amazed by the lack of security, used as I am by the neurosis exhibited by our police and others all over London and, particularly, in the centre of it and, even more particularly, around Westminster. I suppose, Mr Heffer means our old friend Gitmo, whose ex-inmates, when released, routinely blow themselves and others up in Iraq and Afghanistan, if they are not arrested in time by other countries, such as France.

The same newspaper carries the news that 69 per cent of those questioned in a YouGov survey support the 42-day pre-charge detention. Entirely possible. I am sure one would get the same figure if one asked people if they thought these people should be locked up without trial and the key thrown away. I doubt if YouGov bothered to mention such minor details as Habeas Corpus and with no history being taught at our schools, few people know about it.

I would be more impressed by the government using that poll for its own purposes if it paid some attention to other polls that consistently tell us about the overwhelming majority of this country wantint a referendum on the Constitutional Reform Lisbon Treaty. Some opinion polls are more equal than others.

Finally, the Telegraph has a ridiculous little piece about HMG spending only £116 on the promotion of St George's Day. Well, that is £116 too much as is the undoubtedly larger sum spent on the promotion of St Patrick's, St Andrew's or St David's Days, or Diwali Festivals or whatever else the DCMS might come up with, quite apart from the £51,838 of taxpayers' money it has deemed necessary to squander on official entertainment in 2007-08.

None of these events should be sponsored by the government. If individuals or organizations want to spend money on celebrating St George's Day, so be it. Let them raise the money directly. The same goes for any other "celebration" one may care to think of, apart from a few official events, such as Remembrance Day and Trooping the Colour.

What I found puzzling was the fact that the fuss was being raised by Andrew Rosindell MP, supposedly one of the few small-state Tories in the House of Commons. Clearly, I was wrong about him.