Not Anticipated or Imagined 9

I have just been sickened by John Reid putting his new anti-liberty proposals to parliament. “Terrible things are threatening” he gravely warned us “which had not been anticipated or imagined” when our liberties were adopted.

Just what are these “terrible things” that we can’t imagine? Reid’s flight of rhetoric is reminiscent of King Lear:

I will do such things, What they are yet I know not; but they shall be

The terrors of the earth

The point is, of course, that Shakespeare’s Lear was supposed to be illustrating his descent into madness by this crazed rambling: whereas Reid’s daft statement comes from a supposedly rational man, intent on destroying the civil liberties of our country.

What terrorism we have seen to date in this country has been, in execution, not unimaginable or even particularly surprising. This is a tough and resilient country. We saw off Hitler, we saw off the IRA, and we can see this smaller threat off too. But we can do it better without Reid gnawing at our social sinews.

Terrible things have indeed happened in this country which I had neither anticipated nor imagined. In November 2005 the British government fought a case all the way to the House of Lords, to try to reintroduce, after three hundred years, the use in court of evidence obtained under torture. I never imagined or anticipated that would happen in my lifetime.

Nor did I imagine or anticipate that, as a matter of policy, our intelligence services would regularly use intelligence obtained under torture, nor that people would be held for years in British jails without charge or trial, nor that we would introduce house arrest. I never imagined or anticipated it would become illegal to read names of the dead at the cenotaph, nor wave a copy of Vanity Fair outside the gates of Downing St. I never imagined or anticipated that a Brazilian electrician could be executed on the London Underground.

One of the more nauseating scenes in the Commons was the brown-nosing of Reid by the so-called Liberal Democrats. Reid is no fool, and he knows that under Ming Campbell the Lib Dems are New Labour’s patsy party. Ming has dreams of ministerial office in a Lib-Lab coalition after the general election. That is why, for example, New Labour and the Lib-Dems are trying to wreck any chance of Alex Salmond providing stable administration in Scotland.

So Reid buttered up Clegg by cosy ministerial chats beforehand, leading to fulsome Lib Dem support today and the suggestion that he should go further. Why not introdue plea-bargaining, the Lib-Dems suggested, so those on the fringes of terrorist plots can turn others in for a reduced sentence?

The answer to that is simple. Terrorist investigations are already a minefield of intelligence obtained from foreign intelligence agencies, often under torture, and statements by informers many of whom appear to be acting as agents provovateurs. To persuade acknowledged criminals to improve their own lot by concocting statements against others, is something to which the British legal system has always offered resistance. If in the future any of you ends up behind bars because of lies told about you by a crook trying to reduce his sentence, you will have Menzies Campbell and Nick Clegg and the so-called Lib Dems to thank for it.

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9 thoughts on “Not Anticipated or Imagined

  • NoJags Neil

    We already have plea-bargaining. I have experience of it. I was the victim of an unprovoked assault by a druggie, and the magistrates' court accepted the perp's version of events on the condition he pleaded guilty to a lesser charge. Complaints to the CPS got nowhere.

  • writeon

    John Reid personifies the "strong state" paradigme that, I fear, we are moving towards. It's a pessimistic view, but I don't see solid parliamentary opposition to this slipping and sliding down the totalitarian slope.

    John Ried is an interesting case study of a politician who has lurched from the authoritarian left over to the authoritarian right. In his student days he was known as a hard man, not afraid to get his hands dirty when dealing with the right or other leftist groups. He's a former card carrying communist, who boasted of his admiration for Stalin! Another hardliner unafraid of breaking a few eggs along the way.

    We seemed to have moved into an Orwellian world, where maintaining a constant level of fear, worry and nervousness is apparently the key to political power. But we are being duped. The "terrorist threat" isn't real, not in the way our leaders present it, however, it is useful. One only has to say the magic spell "islamic extremists" and one can more or less attack anywhere one likes.

    A lot has happened in the last five or six years, most of it hardly imaginable. Massive erosions of our cherished and fragile liberties. At this rate I wonder where we'll all be five years from now?

  • Strategist

    Sickened is the word.

    Reid is launching this bullshit, but it is Brown who will be pushing it through, and we now start to get a flavour of what the Brown premiership will be like – same faked hysteria about terrorism, same assault on civil liberties, but with more skill in the political dark arts and the greater clout of a political honeymoon period – more control over the party, smaller and less successful rebellions, more votes with only one choice on the ballot paper…

    Depressing, depressing.

    Craig, please could I ask the impossible (and distinctly distasteful), and ask you to step inside the cesspit that is John Reid's mind, and tell us what you think is going on in there?

    Are you of the view that:

    (a) the terrorism stuff is a conscious fake pretext to get some legislation through to remove civil liberties – stuff that the establishment would quite like to have rid of for possible wider use in a future crisis? or

    (b) this stuff is really aimed at what they claim it is aimed at – that the establishment has fallen for its own propaganda and really is scared stiff of Islamist terror in UK? or

    (c) the whole thing is a load of bollocks to get some good headlines in the tabloids and they don't really care about the actual proposals at all?

    Or something else entirely?

  • Craig

    a) and c) a bit of both, definitely. For me b) is the really interesting one. I was talking to a psychologist who suggested that this is a game construct. They immerse themselves in the propaganda so that world seems real to them, just like playing an addictive video game. They emerge from it briefly sometimes and have periods of brief self-knowlededge, but the fighting terrorists fantasy is so addictive they can't wait to get back into it – especially as they make a living from it.

  • John Lancaster

    I am deeply disturbed by the whole issue of the "terrorist threat". I have been assured by someone who should know that it is very real, however, as Strategist points out the countermeasures are being introduced like propoganda or as if it were part of of video game. HL Menken, I think, said that politicians first create the fear, so that they can be seen as leading the way to safety. Reid is expert at this. Remember, it was Milosovic that first created the lie about Kosovo Serbs being in danger from the Albanian majority, just so he could appear as the saviour. And we know where that led! I am all for using the full force of existing laws to undermine the perceived threats from whatever quarter, but the path to the Orwellian world must be resisted. Politics should not be about fear. We have the security services, let us give them the tools to be effective and use them properly. That does not include creating a power base for Reid and his cronies.

  • Craig


    the threat is real – the IRA threat was real too. But that didn't necessitate a change in our whole way of life.

  • David

    Please could someone answer the following questions for me?

    1. Why has there been only one "Islamic" terrorist attack in New York (9/11/01) Madrid (11/3/04)and London (7/7/05) respectively?

    2. Why, when we are told that there are 'thousands' of Islamic terrorists in Britain busily plotting away, have they not successfully carried out any other attacks?

    3. Given that this is the case, why are these terrorists so different in this respect from every other terrorist organisation the world has ever known (e.g. the IRA, ETA, the Red Brigades, Baader Meinhof, etc.) who, with far smaller numbers, carried out attack after attack?

    4. How is it that our intelligence services are so successful in thwarting the 'hundreds' of plots that these terrorists have planned, so much so that, apart from the single, successful attack mentioned above, the intelligence services have an unprecedented 100% success rate?

    5. Does this mean that the "Islamic" terrorists in Britain are the most useless, incompetent, and stupid terrorists the world has ever known? And yet manage to tie up our entire intelligence services 24 hours a day?

    Yours puzzled,


  • John Lancaster

    I have been watching the Adam Curtis/BBC documentary series "The Power of Nightmares" again on Google. It could have been called "The Lies that Changed the World". Do you think Reid and co. are in the same league?

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