Michael Howard today challenged Tony Blair to demonstrate it was necessary to detain terrorist suspects for three months without charge.
In the UK the police can already hold a suspect for two weeks, I believe this period was already raised, shortly after 9/11, from a mere seven days.
Should it be enough of a justification that it will only be used on terror suspects? Ask Jean Charles de Menezes, the Brazilian shot dead on the tube this summer. Ask the Danish chapter of Greenpeace, that was charged this summer with a piece of legislation that was only going to be used to combat terrorism.
Or do we even have to ask them? Mr. de Menezes certainly isn't available for comment. Greenpeace had already received assurances, before that bill became a law, that it wouldn't be used the way to was ultimately used.
How could anyone argue for a legal system that reminds us of the worst aspects of fascism; of police practices we would expect to find in Saudi Arabia, or Yemen? At what point will the public remind these rabid lawmakers the reasons that we installed those checks and balances in our legal systems?
There were six men in Birmingham
In Guildford there's four
That were picked up and tortured
And framed by the law
And the filth got promotion
But they're still doing time
For being Irish in the wrong place
And at the wrong time
In Ireland they'll put you away in the maze
In England they'll keep you for seven long days
God help you if ever you're caught on these shores
The coppers need someone
And they walk through that door
You'll be counting years
First five, then ten
Growing old in a lonely hell
Round the yard and the stinking cell
From wall to wall, and back again
A curse on the judges, the coppers and screws
Who tortured the innocent, wrongly accused
For the price of promotion
And justice to sell
May the judged be their judges when they rot down in hell
May the Whores of the Empire lie awake in their beds
And sweat as they count out the sins on their heads
While over in Ireland eight more men lie dead
Kicked down and shot in the back of the head
- The Pogues, Birmingham Six
So, here I sit waiting for Blair to answer Howard's question. I'm not waiting for a straight answer, mind you. Why do the police need the ability to hold suspects without charging them for three months, Mr. Prime Minister? Can you demonstrate that?
It is because it often takes longer than seven days to force a confession from an innocent man? Or does it sometimes take that long for the bruises to go down and the scars to clear? If the police are given their quarter, the scars and bruises will be easy to see. They will be worn on the face of our new society. The one I thought they were fighting to prevent.