I’m a worse bastard than the fucking shite that I am, and that’s saying something

Finally, we have the best possible argument against the dire Counter-Terrorism Bill. Unfortunately, it’s one that by definition we couldn’t have had before last week’s pornographic nightmare of a vote. It’s a sort of recursive critique. Think about it – by far the worst feature of the damn thing is the awful “concession” that Parliament gets to vote up or down on the detention of individuals. It was bad enough when this was meant to be a sop, only becoming active after the poor devil had already been in the clink for weeks, but the text the Commons passed foresees that the vote would have to be taken in a timely fashion. It would actually have practical consequences.

This is a constitutional obscenity – the legislature pretending to be the executive (deciding how much of a terrorist threat exists) and the judiciary (deciding on a case of habeus corpus). It’s also almost self-refuting; the whole Government line on this has been that we need to pass some draconian and hopelessly ill-thought out legislation motivated by panic now, so we don’t do it after a major terrorist incident. Originally, they argued that the bill was as it was because, in the event of its use, it might not be practical to convene Parliament quickly. Which makes a degree of sense, after all, if somebody just blew it up. But now, the bill intended to deal with the case that Parliament could not act requires Parliament to act.

Then there’s the question of evidence – the whole point is that the police would supposedly not have enough time to gather the prima facie evidence required to charge the suspect, but the Bill requires the government to put evidence it won’t actually have, all other things being equal, before the House. Which could also have bad consequences for the chances of any trial that resulted. And what if the evidence was the special secret sauce of SIAC?

And the horror of putting someone’s essential liberty in the hands of politicians concerned with re-election, on what would probably turn out to be a party-line vote, shouldn’t need explaining. But all this is a bit theoretical.

Since last week, however, we can say – how could anyone trust the people responsible for passing the Counter-Terrorism Bill to decide on whether some poor fool is locked up or not? Robert Spink MP? The Reverend William McCrea? Nigel Dodds, who appeared on the radio before the vote to state that he considered it a matter of principle, but he hadn’t made his mind up yet? Shaun Woodward, who continues to deny he offered the Paisleyites a deal, although Mark Durkan says Woodward offered his SDLP colleagues one? Whoever it was who offered Diane Abbott the Governor-Generalship of Bermuda, and Keith “Are you still here?” Vaz a knighthood? Geoff Hoon? I tell you, it’s the perfect argument.

I wonder, in the event of the bill being activated and some bewildered Dewsburyite’s fate riding on the vote, what
precisely the Government whip would be willing to pay for a vote for continued detention? An ambassadorship? Access to the Government Art Collection? Straight to the Lords? An audience with Jacqui Smith? No, that would surely be reserved for the waverers. If not the suspect themselves. (Note: I’m indebted to Viz‘s Eight Ace for the title.)




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