October 15th, 2008

42 Days

If Gordon Brown weren't the hero of the hour, his government's defeat in the Lords over the plan to detain suspects without trial for 42 days would have been greeted as the final nail in his coffin.

As it was, it got reported well down the page.

Yet this was a more significant event than anything that's been happening with the economy. Prosperity comes and goes, but liberties, once established, are to die for. The way I read British history (I guess it's the classic Whig account, Lord Macaulay and all that) it's about the people of Britain, century by century, pushing back the power of the state and establishing their own rights and liberties. Much blood was spilt on the way. Waymarks include Magna Carta, the Peasants' Revolt, the execution of Charles I, the "glorious revolution" of 1688 and the parliamentary Act that extended the vote to women. This government- in the name of making us "safe" from the tiny threat posed by domestic terrorism- has been trying to roll those liberties back. They've lost on this particular attempt (which would have effectively abolished Habeas Corpus) but they're not going to give up. In the pipeline are Identity Cards (in spite of everything), a scheme to train primary-school teachers to spy on their pupils and a plan to create a huge data base that will hold a record of every phone call, every touch of the keyboard made by every British citizen. Even the 42 day detention bill hasn't been abolished, but salted away for use in a future emergency. What they're trying to create- with the best will in the world- for our own good, our own safety- is a police state; and this is why, in spite of Brown's achievements with the economy, it's still imperative we kick them out of office at the earliest possible opportunity.