2011 - Another Year for British Politics

Discussion in 'Archive: The Senate Floor' started by Darth_Asabrush, Dec 29, 2004.

  1. foofaspoon Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Jun 26, 1999
    star 2
    Branthoris its always good to debate these things with people who are more knowledgable about the law and politics than I am. I still remain unconvinced, however!

    But it's not an arbitrarily defined group.

    Well, it is in a sense, though I know what you mean. Its a nicely worded way of arbitarily defining a group ;) - It's arbitarily defining people in the sense that its taking a subsection of a population and treating them differently on the bases of hidden and 'lowest level' of evidence. Its the secrecy and suspension of normal legal practice that I object to the most. And, lets be honest, the act may not say it, but its going to be aimed at Muslims - if not in theory, in practice it will target a specific group.

    Incidentally, the law compares rather favourably with an equivalent provision in the United States

    Indeed, a similar argument is raging over there...

    Obviously the "other countries do it too" argument is an exceedingly weak one. But I have described the American law on the same subject simply to illustrate that Blunkett has displayed a far greater regard for civil rights than his counterparts in the US have

    I think we can both agree that the US has lost its way somewhat since 9/11.

    It is worth pointing out though that there is an effect very similar to that old sales trick of firstly quoting a big number, then offering a large 'discount' which 'ecourages' people to take up an offer that they wouldn't normally do... Blunkett may have a greater regard, but he still has shown a visible contempt for the 'constitution'

    Britain remains a beacon of civil rights, democracy, and the rule of law

    That we are better in most respects than many countries, its because we've constantly rejected an fought against erosions of our liberties over the years. This is no justification for lowering the standards of democracy.

    But I also think that Blunkett must be judged on his own merits to an extent, and I've seen no evidence that he bears specific personal responsibility for Britain's complicity in Guantanamo
    This is true to an extent, though I was more citing this in relation to the extradition and his adoption of arbitary detention.

    As to the emergency powers act, you provide a good coverage of the legal issues around. Nontheless, I was trying to demonstrate that a government sufficiently willining, and wielding the sorts of powers that the act gives tham, could come up with vast numbers of ways to reduce, get around, or pervert the few safe-guards left. Again, I note there is no specific safe guard protecting free speech, free assembly, freedom of the press, or the ability of parliament to prolong itself. However, we run the risk of debating specific vignettes and there feasability if I start giving examples, so I'll avoid that ;)

    It definitely has to be stronger than simply criticising, or making fun of, a religion.

    Yet what counts as 'legitimate critism or fun'? I'm not a great fan of any of the incitement laws, but religion is an idea, and a choice, and as such I don't think there is any benefit in supresing critism. There are harsh things that can be said - that need to be said sometimes - about religion, and interfering with that is counter-productive.

    Incidentaly, when talking about Blunkett interfering in Police matters, I think this just shows that he has little respect for the very concept of the seperation of powers, even if the incidents were fairly mild. The scope for political interference if the Home Secretary can dismiss chiefs is certainly increased.

    I want to make several other points. The first is that I have to acknowledge that some of my dislike of Blunkett is because I don't like him personally - I don't like his manner. Secondly, my worries concern not just the specific acts, but there aggragate effect, and that they attack every pillar - however lightly - of democracy, and that the direction, of increasing authoritarianism, is worrying, and that this government tends to react in this direction in response to al
  2. Branthoris Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Nov 12, 2002
    star 3
    DarthKarde, very true: the Parliament Act, by its terms, cannot be used to prolong the life of a Parliament. However, as I understand it, it could be used to abolish the House of Lords first--and then there would be no need for the Act at all, since Parliament would consist only of the Commons. Or alternatively, as you suggest, the Parliament Act itself could be amended, removing the restriction.

    It is, indeed, an interesting scenario.

    I'll post more on other matters tomorrow. foofaspoon, sorry for the wait.
  3. Branthoris Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Nov 12, 2002
    star 3
    foofaspoon, I agree entirely that we shouldn't go down what might be called a 'slippery slope'. I definitely agree that "the danger is that if one starts to accept small erosions of liberties, the standard is lowered in a sense, and so the next time there is slightly more repressive legislation, it seems less of a burden and so on".

    That, incidentally, is one of the reasons why I hate 'arguments by analogy'--because they encourage a 'slippery slope' effect. To take one example: 16-year-olds can have sex and buy cigarettes, a government commission complains, so why can't they vote? They fail to explain, of course, why having sex has anything to do with voting--or more to do with voting than other things, such as buying alcohol, that people can only do when aged 18.

    Let me deal with your concern that "there is no specific safe guard protecting free speech, free assembly, freedom of the press". Those rights are guaranteed by the Human Rights Act, which the Civil Contingencies Act explicitly protects from "emergency regulations". Parts of the Human Rights Act can be ordered suspended in times of grave public danger, but such a suspension is subject to scrutiny by the courts to ensure it is proportionate to the threat faced.

    Because of the protection given to the Human Rights Act, it would be very difficult for fundamental rights to be abridged by emergency regulations.

    With respect to the proposed provision on religious hatred, it covers only speech that incites hatred towards a person or people on the basis of their religion (or lack of religion). I don't think that criticism (legitimate or not) could ever qualify; criticising Christianity doesn't incite hatred against Christians. Obviously, a rant about "evil Muslims" would qualify as inciting religious hatred; at the moment, that would probably be perfectly legal.

    Fair enough as regards Blunkett's manner, attitude etc.

    As far as freedom and democracy is concerned, I fully agree with you about the important of our civil liberties and the fact that we're a free country. I vaguely like Blunkett not because I don't consider those values important, but because I don't think Blunkett has done anything significant to jeopardize them.
  4. Darth_Asabrush Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    May 21, 2000
    star 5
    The Tories really don't help themselves do they. Another MP has crossed the chamber [face_face]
  5. DarthKarde Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jun 28, 2002
    star 5
    Frankly the defection of Robert Jackson is hardly a surprise. Not only is he pro-European but he was the only oposition MP to support the government on top up fees. It does annoy me though that he has been happy to remain in the conservative party all these years but defects shortly before his retirement in a clear attempt to damage the party leadership.
  6. Branthoris Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Nov 12, 2002
    star 3
    Perhaps it had something to do with the consequences of defecting in a previous Parliament (i.e., loss of seat and consequent loss of earnings/pension)?
  7. Darth_Asabrush Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    May 21, 2000
    star 5
    Isn't he stepping down at the election anyway?
  8. DarthKarde Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jun 28, 2002
    star 5
    Isn't he stepping down at the election anyway?

    Yes
  9. Darth_Asabrush Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    May 21, 2000
    star 5
    I'm surprised nobody has mentioned the Tories "big" announcement.
  10. DarthKarde Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jun 28, 2002
    star 5
    I'm surprised nobody has mentioned the Tories "big" announcement.

    The Tories have made a big announcement :confused:
  11. Darth_Asabrush Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    May 21, 2000
    star 5
    Their new "spend and cut taxes" idea - saving from waste. Not really a "new" idea. Just a few more details.
  12. DarthKarde Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jun 28, 2002
    star 5
    Their new "spend and cut taxes" idea - saving from waste. Not really a "new" idea. Just a few more details.

    You mean 'cut government waste so we can increase front line spending, pay down the national debt and cut taxes' policy?

    Pitiful really, no one will believe it.
  13. Pelranius Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Apr 25, 2003
    star 5
    From the way I see it in Taiwan, Labor will form another government barring an upset victory by the Lib Dems. Frankly, the Tories make the Democrats and Pan Blue look as organized, determined and unified as the Bolsheviks of the Russian Revolution (according the Economist, which I admit is my primary source of info about the domestic happenings in the UK).
  14. DarthKarde Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jun 28, 2002
    star 5
    Since we are only 95 days away the expected election I think it's time to get some early predictions on the record. I for one think that the tories will do a little better than many people expect them to do. Although the opinion polls are not encouraging they paint a far more rosy picture than they did in the months before the 1997 and 2001 elections. More importantly I simply do not accept that Labour can do as well as they did last time after such a divisive event as the Iraq war. So may prediction is

    Labour - 352
    Conservative - 195
    Lib Dem - 70
    SNP/PC - 10
    Independant - 1
    N Ireland seats - 18

    Labour Majority of 58


    The labour figure includes Michael Martin re-elected as speaker while the Independant is Dr Richard Taylor who I expect to retain Wyre Forest. Although the hospital campaigners have lost support in recent years and no longer control the council Dr Taylor has been quite a popular MP. George Galloway will give Oona King a good run for her money but I think victory will be beyond him.



  15. Darth_Asabrush Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    May 21, 2000
    star 5
    Karde,

    As promised. My predictions for the General Election in 2005. Shall we have a little wager on the outcome? ;)

    Labour - 354 (not including The Speaker)
    Conservative - 199
    Lib Dem - 74
    SNP/PC - 8
    N.Ireland Parties - 19
    Independent - 2
    Other - 2
    + The Speaker

    Labour Majority - 49

    I think I've done the Maths right.

    I'll expect Blair to go if my numbers are anywhere near correct. Although I'd be the first to say I'm not holding my breath!

    I'm also going to put my neck on the block and say Southampton Test will return to Tory control after a brief Labour "love affair" of 8 years. [face_laugh]
  16. DarthKarde Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jun 28, 2002
    star 5
    Shall we have a little wager on the outcome?

    Sure, what do you suggest?

    Not that our predictions are much different ;)

    You may want to alter your prediction a touch to take into account the reduction of Scottish seats from 72 to 59 which brings the overall number down to 646.

    You also seem to have allocated an extra seat to Northern Ireland, there should only be 18 (the retiring tory MP for Basingstoke, Andrew Hunter decided to finish his time in parliament as a DUP MP)

    Also the speaker should be included as a government MP (when the deputy speakers are selected there will be two speakers from the government and two from the opposition thus cancelling each other out).

    I'm also going to put my neck on the block and say Southampton Test will return to Tory control after a brief Labour "love affair" of 8 years.

    Sure why not?

    It only needs a swing of 13.5% which translated nationwide would give the tories a three figure majority.


    There was a very depressing poll in the The Times today which had Labour at it's highest level since May 2003.

    Labour - 41
    Conservative - 32
    Lib Dem - 18
    Others - 9

    That puts support at almost exactly the same level as the 2001 election. The one saving grace is that traditional polls have underestimated conservative support at the last 3 general elections. There is no reason to think things have changed. The last YouGov internet poll made for better reading but YouGov's credibility is widely questioned.

    Labour - 35
    Conservative - 33
    Lib Dem - 23
    Others - 9
    />
  17. Darth_Asabrush Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    May 21, 2000
    star 5
    Karde, will amend where necessary although I'm not counting the Speaker as Labour as he does stand as "Speaker" even though that makes very little difference.

    When Major won the last Tory election Southampton Test was Blue and that majority wasn't that big. So it could happen......

    Anyway, I'll post my updated predictions by the weekend. To be honest with you I didn't really take much interest north of the border even though Labour loves to allow their MPs to do so on purely English matters [face_plain]

    As for the poll. Depressing? Yes. But I think there's hope yet. The problem is that anytime the Tories come up with a plan Labour changes the law ala immigration to counter any Tory gain.......
  18. DarthKarde Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jun 28, 2002
    star 5
    When Major won the last Tory election Southampton Test was Blue and that majority wasn't that big. So it could happen......

    Trust me I would love to see it but I can't see the tories overturning a majority of above 5,000. To turn over a majority of 10,000 plus looks an impossible task.

    I had my form through today to renew my party membership. It contained a very nice letter signed by Liam Fox (party chairman) which thanked me for making a donation, in addition to the membership fee, last year. It then went on to suggest that an "appropriate donation" this year would be double what I donated last year. Cheeky gits :mad:
  19. Darth_Asabrush Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    May 21, 2000
    star 5
  20. Branthoris Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Nov 12, 2002
    star 3
    Having reserved judgement until now on Charles Clarke's proposals for dealing with suspected terrorists, and having now had the opportunity to read the Prevention of Terrorism Bill (which was published today and is available here), I am wholeheartedly against the measures unless they are seriously amended during their passage through Parliament. I take this view for several reasons.

    First, judicial scrutiny of the imposition of a "control order" imposing constraints (i.e., anything less than house arrest) that do not implicate the right to liberty will be very minimal indeed. Under s1(1)(a) of the Bill, the Secretary of State, to make a control order, need only have:

    "reasonable grounds for suspecting that the individual is or has been involved in terrorism-related activity".
    And on an appeal to the High Court against a control order, by s7(7) the court must:

    "apply the principles applicable on an application for judicial review".
    The scrutiny applied on judicial review is a highly deferential one. The court does not ask whether a decision was right; it simply asks whether the decision was so unreasonable and irrational as to be unlawful.

    Therefore, to have a control order overturned by a High Court judge, a suspected terrorist would have to show that the Secretary of State could not reasonably believe himself to have reasonable grounds to suspect the person of terrorism. A double dose of 'unreasonableness' would have to be demonstrated. The person challenging the order would have to show not only that the (itself very lenient) standard of "reasonable suspicion" had not been met, but that the Home Secretary could not reasonably consider it to have been met.

    With such a deferential and lenient standard applied to the Secretary of State's suspicion, a suspected terrorist would have virtually no chance at all of having it overturned. The Secretary of State would require less evidence to sustain the order than the police must have to justify arresting someone in the first instance.

    The Bill must, at a minimum, be amended so that on an appeal, the judge reconsiders the Secretary of State's decision--that is to say, decides not whether it is rational or unreasonable, but whether it is correct. Even with that, the Home Secretary would still only have to show the court "reasonable suspicion"--a very low standard indeed. As the Bill is written now, he would not even have to show that.

    That is the first reason why the Bill is unacceptable as it now stands. The second is that it provides no clear definition of just what requirements a control order must include. In s1(3) it includes a vast number of possibilities, but these are expressly said to be only for the purposes of illustration. A control order may impose:

    "any obligation on the individual against whom it is made that the Secretary of State considers necessary for purposes connected with preventing or restricting further involvement by that individual in terrorism-related activity".
    Read literally, of course, this could authorise almost anything--including commitment to prison. If the Secretary of State determined it to be "necessary" to have a person confined to Belmarsh, he would seem to have every power to do so under the Bill.

    Clearly, such an open-ended power is entirely unacceptable. The requirements which a control order may impose should be clearly and precisely defined.

    Thirdly, the Act make special provisions for control orders which interefere with the right to liberty under Article 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights. (This is not likely to include anything less restrictive than house arrest, however.) To issue such an order, the Secretary of State would have to be (s2(1)(a)):

    "satisfied, on the balance of probabilities, that that person is an individual who is or has been involved in terrorism-related activity".[/blockquote
  21. DarthKarde Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jun 28, 2002
    star 5
    From The Guardian

    Tories gain ground on Labour

    Labour's opinion poll lead has been cut to only three points in the last month as the Tory pre-election campaign gains momentum, according to the results of this month's Guardian/ICM opinion poll published today.

    With the expected date of the general election only 72 days away the poll results will alarm Labour election strategists who fear Conservatives could use the intensive "phoney war" campaigning to close the gap between the parties.

    Tony Blair effectively launched Labour's campaign a fortnight ago with his helicopter tour, the six pledges and the party's spring conference. He even attempted to bypass the Westminster media with a special meet-the-voters day courtesy of Channel Five.

    But despite all this effort the ICM survey, which puts Labour on 37%, shows the government's lead over the Conservatives is down four points in the last month and has fallen from nine to only three points since December.

    For all the frenzied activity in advance of a likely May 5 poll, it looks as though Labour's pre-election strategy - being masterminded by Alan Milburn and former director of communications Alastair Campbell - is in danger of proving a flop.

    The ICM poll also shows that Gordon Brown has replaced Tony Blair as Labour's biggest electoral asset with the chancellor enjoying the same kind of cross-party respect that the prime minister had before his 1997 and 2001 general election victories.

    The survey shows that Mr Blair's political appeal is confined to Labour's core voters who still see him as likeable and caring. But among the wider electorate the prime minister is regarded as arrogant, out of touch and untrustworthy and it appears that his hopes of rekindling his "marriage" with voters generally may prove shortlived.

    While Mr Brown gets positive ratings from Liberal Democrat and Conservative voters they now see Mr Blair as a positive liability.

    The apparent Conservative revival - they are on 34% compared with 30% in December - follows a spate of policy initiatives on immigration, pensions, health and crime upon which the Tories hope to build with new promises of tax cuts.

    Their resurgence underlines Mr Blair's recent warnings to his party not to underestimate the Tories and that they remain as dangerous as ever.

    Charles Kennedy, the Liberal Democrat leader, is the only other politician, along with Gordon Brown, who is regarded as an asset to their party by a majority of voters in all three mainstream parties.

    His party remains unchanged for the third month running on 21% and may benefit from Labour's relative decline from the 2001 election when 18% of the vote delivered Mr Kennedy's party 52 seats.

    The Guardian/ICM poll also shows that Ken Livingstone, John Prescott and even Labour's campaign manager himself, Mr Milburn, are regarded generally by the voters as, on balance, election campaign liabilities. Mr Livingstone's ratings are so bad - even among Labour voters - that it would be wise for the party's managers to advise him to take a holiday during the campaign.

    The ICM poll shows that the names of only four cabinet ministers are really recognised by the public - Gordon Brown, Tony Blair, John Prescott and Jack Straw.

    Labour's leading women politicians - Patricia Hewitt, Tessa Jowell and Ruth Kelly - also suffer from a lack of public recognition with around 50% saying they do not know whether they were any good or not. But among those who have heard of them, Ms Hewitt and Ms Jowell both appeal almost as strongly to Liberal Democrat as to Labour voters.

    Among the other parties, Michael Howard, appears to be quite well placed. His support among Conservative voters is as strong as Mr Blair's and Mr Brown's is among Labour voters and wins the respect of a significant minority of Labour and Liberal Democrats.

    As for the minor parties, the nationalists of the SNP and Plaid Cymru take half the 8% share of the vote which goes to "ot
  22. DarthKarde Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jun 28, 2002
    star 5
    Like Branthoris I am strongly oppose the Prevention of Terrorism Bill which replaces a questionable arrangement (the detention without trial of foreign nationals who are suspected of involvement in terrorism but cannot be deported) with a deplorable assualt on British liberty. To hand the Home Secretary such extensive powers is appauling and to apply such weak judicial scrutiny makes it worse.

    My only hope is that the Lords will significantly alter the bill or defeat it completely. This seems possible given that the Tories and Lib Dem's have already come out aganist the proposals.
  23. Darth_Asabrush Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    May 21, 2000
    star 5
  24. DarthKarde Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jun 28, 2002
    star 5
    It seems that the government are preparing a string of concessions to be introduced during the Committee Stage of the bill amid fears that upto 100 Labour MP's could rebel against the bill. While they will certainly do enough to bring some of them round I doubt that they will go far enough for my liking. Reading the debate from Second Reading I noted that there were some truly superb contributions made. I have linked to a couple of them

    Brian Sedgemore

    Barbara Follett

  25. Darth_Asabrush Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    May 21, 2000
    star 5
    Good speeches the both of them. I particulary like the points about the failure of other back benchers. Its these MPs that have the power to defeat stupid bills but they don't. They pander to the Government.