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.