My seven day absence since my less-than-dramatic return to the blogging sphere hasn't been because I've been testing out the Government's powers of detention without charge but because I do find it tricky, once out of the blogging routine, to get back into it. Nonetheless, I hope this week to begin the long slog to get you all back to this blog.
The consequence of my hiatus, however, has been that I haven't covered as I should Blair's big defeat. Now, the rant that I was going to post about some of the disgraceful attacks on any and all opponents of the plan by the Government would seem very passe, particularly as much of the voting which took place seems to be on a pragmatic basis anyway. I was particularly piqued, however, by this article from Matthew D'Ancona last weekend. While the argument that the absence of sufficient powers of detention could lead to loss of life in terrorist attacks is undoubtedly accurate it is not a reason for 90 days at all. The only thing it does justify is indefinite internment. I was truly angered that somebody, for whom I had previously had great respect, could trot out an argument such as this, for if there is any limit at all it is always possible that somebody may slip through the loop, have to be released by reaching the limits of their detention, and go on to commit an atrocity.
This argument actually reveals so much about how people really value liberty. It is about balancing how much one values liberty against the costs that upholding it brings. What makes the question here so difficult is that it is lives at risk as a result of respect for liberty. Nonetheless, in so many areas of life we make trade-offs where we accept possible loss of life as a reasonable consequence of a good we value. We take our lives in our hands by driving cars, we risk being bitten by a snake when we have a picnic in the country and we drink despite the risks to our livers. It is up to us and our representatives to balance these goods against the risks and reach a conclusion. Different views will, of course, be possible. What is shocking is that Mr Blair values liberty so little, at all but nil, that he cannot countenance any respectable basis for reaching a conclusion different from his own.
"After July 7, it took a fortnight to gain full access to the sites of the explosions and a further six weeks to complete forensic examinations. What if those investigations had yielded intelligence indicating imminent attack by an associated cell? What if the police had detained suspected members of that cell, but been unable to thwart the plan within the present limit of 14 days? Encrypted codes, global conspiracy, fiendishly complex forensic tasks: these are the realities of 21st-century counter-terrorism."
Odd, then, that Mr Blair and his police are the only ones with the foresight to realise that we would be making ourselves guilty of assisting the next terrorist attack without 90 day detention. I am sure he will be very frank with Mr Bush about how he is betraying America's national security next time he meets him. After all, the Tories' 28 days makes them responsible for any terror attack and these are the stats:
LENGTH OF TIME TERROR SUSPECTS CAN BE DETAINED WITHOUT CHARGE
UK, as a result of the "Treacherous Tories" ((TM) "R. Murdoch"): 28 DAYS
USA: 7 DAYS
SPAIN: 5 DAYS
AUSTRALIA: 1 DAY
Even Israel is just 14 days. Never mind, I'm sure Sir Ian Blair will tell them how long it takes to decode hard drives soon....