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Thursday, May 11, 2006


Pour this fuel on the bonfire of the liberties

1. Hijacking the asylum system

No, not the nine Afghan men who escaped the Taliban on a hijacked plane, but successive Home Office ministers, who refused these men asylum. And they did so, expressly in order to demonstrate how hard, rather than how decent and reasonable, this Government is capable of being.

Now, call me stupid, but I would have thought that a regime that our Government found so repulsive and dangerous it was worth going to war with the aim of securing that regime’s removal, is just the kind of regime that one would forgive almost any broken laws in the achievement of escape.

That the judiciary, that unwholesome bastion of the old establishment and privilege, is the institution that, once again, succeeds in making the correct and decent decision ought to shame a ‘Labour’ Government.


2. Making political capital from murder

BBC News 24 allows the partner of a victim of murder to repeat, every half hour, the comment below, presumably to nods of agreement across the country.

“We don’t know who’s going to be killed or stabbed or raped next.”

As opposed to that nightmare era when we were killed, stabbed and raped according to orderly rotas?

The offender in question had served 16 years in jail. That is, regardless of what anyone says, is a seriously long time. 16 years is a decent proportion of an adult life and in that time the world is utterly changed. I do not want to see a draconian system of mass, long term incarceration. To have a humane, rehabilitative system we need a system that allows people to, eventually, be released, excepting the most terrible of crimes or the most dangerous of the mentally ill. And to do this we need a robust probation service. Unfortunately, this demands an increase in the number of ‘do-gooders’ employed by the state, so it unlikely to win the backing of those who claim to be most concerned by crime.


3. Exploiting anecdotes

Both this story and the story of the Afghan hijackers have provided ammunition for those who want to roll back human rights in Britain. But whatever problems these stories present have nothing at all to do with human rights. In the case of probation, the problem is not that people have human rights but one of chronic understaffing. The guff about human rights is retrospective wisdom. If “the [probation] board had received “over optimistic” reports of Rice's progress under treatment and did not have a full picture of his previous crimes” then it was not so much that the board “gave insufficient weight to the underlying nature of his risk of harm to others”, but that the board made exactly the right decision according to the information that they were presented with. There is no need to cut away our human rights, but a need to ensure more diligent and intensive reporting on the rehabilitation of prisoners.

In the case of the Afghan men we either owe those nine men asylum or we are faced with the pressing need to imprison the Government as self-declared war criminals. It cannot be the case that, simultaneously, the Taliban are, in themselves, a causus belli, and that people fleeing the regime by stealing an aeroplane are ‘international terrorists’. I wonder if Home Office minister who described them so understood that the reciprocal damning that he heaped upon his New Labour colleagues. Probably he did, but knew that the atomised worldview of Doublethink that he presents to the electorate would not be ripped apart by the historically and conceptually incontinent media.

Further, the problem, in the case of the Afghan men, was the arrogant failure of the Home Office to follow legal procedure. Mark this when you next have a New Labour minister complain about ‘technicalities obstructing justice’. ‘Technicalities’ are the signifier of wrong-doing by those who hold power. ‘Technicality’, like ‘red tape’ is a dog-whistle word, bringing unreflective assistance running to back causes that, if considered, damage the interests of the mass of the supporters. They, like human rights, obstruct the contemptuous, arrogant fulfilment of the ambitions of the powerful.

In the case of probation, the problem is not that people have human rights but one of chronic understaffing.

Damn right! PM on radio 4 kept going on about "human rights", but the story seemed to be purely one of incompetance by the authorities. I don't know why even the BBC feels the need to editorialise in such a twisted way: it's just nonsense, but nonsense which might have the cummulative effect of making people distrust "human rights" legislation, which would be a terrible outcome.
Excellent post.

What angers me most is that Blair doesn't actually believe that crime is a major problem in this country, however furrowed he can make his brow. It's all about keeping the Tories off the front pages. That he doesn't realise how much he is hurting the country by descending to this level of populism (in the sense of playing on bigoted tendencies, not the Hugo-Chavez-because-he-actually-gives- money-to-the-people sense)

If he says 'the law abiding majority' one more time I swear that glorifying terrorism is the least I'll be doing.
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