I even like her new Rod Stewart hairdo, and her lipsticked Liverpudlian sassiness
…we are eroding free speech, we are dispensing with habeas corpus, and as for the rule of law, I take my cue from the great Lord Steyn, the law lord. In detaining 500 people without trial in Guantanamo Bay, the Americans have taken their democracy into a legal black hole
The Blair law that could send his wife to prison
I know this is regarded by my chums as being bizarre to the point of fetishism, but I have a soft spot for Cherie Blair.
No, when I say a soft spot, I don’t mean a bog in the west of Ireland. I mean I kind of like the look of her. I even like her new Rod Stewart hairdo, and her lipsticked Liverpudlian sassiness. Unlike so many of my Tory pals, I have no desire to see her locked up.
The trouble is, the way things are going, I can increasingly envisage the circumstances in which the Prime Minister’s wife could be banged away for quite a while.
Yesterday in Israel another 20 people were killed or wounded by a suicide bomber, a poor deluded wretch who is encouraged by his political masters to believe that this disgusting act is the only way he can protest, and that he will thereby additionally obtain heavenly bliss in the carnal form of 72 virgins.
In their rage and their grief, one can imagine that Jewish relatives, some of them undoubtedly living in London, may look around for those who have in any way glorified or given encouragement to such behaviour.
It seems likely that they will be studying old quotations, and scouring the new Terrorism Bill, yesterday being debated in the Commons, to see what redress it provides. Has anyone been so mad or so foolish as to say anything to encourage the suicide bombers, or to make them believe in the justice of their actions?
There was Baroness Jenny Tonge, who seemed to think that the blame for these wackos lay entirely with Israel; but then no one is going to bother to prosecute her, since she is a Lib Dem, and it might be difficult to convince a jury that her words would be influential in the West Bank.
I am much more fearful for Cherie, who went to a fund-raiser for refugees not so long ago, and said: “As long as young people feel they have got no hope but to blow themselves up, you are never going to make progress.”
You will recall that as soon as the words were out, all hell broke loose; she was being denounced in the Knesset; Israeli diplomats were on the blower to Downing Street, and it was only with some effort that Tony smoothed everything over by pointing out – entirely reasonably – that whatever his wife had meant to say, she did not mean to encourage terrorism.
And surely no one sensible thinks she did. Some may claim her words were irresponsible, since they could be taken to mean that young people in the Occupied Territories find their position so hopeless that they have no option but to blow themselves up, and that in trying to explain the circumstances in which terrorism arises, she was somehow justifying it; and that in justifying terrorism, she was encouraging it. Of course that would be grossly unfair on Cherie, because that was certainly not her intention.
But the trouble with Clause One of this Bill is that it says nothing about intention. It simply seems to prohibit the utterance of anything that could be taken as an encouragement to or glorification of any act of terrorism, past, present or future.
Where, you might ask, does that leave the innumerable college JCRs that have renamed themselves the Mandela Room? Are they all going to have to rebaptise themselves the Charles Clarke Room, in case they are seen to be condoning the terrorist actions Mandela unquestionably – and rightly – supported? What about those who resist tyranny around the world?
What about those who oppose Mugabe, and use guerrilla tactics? As my colleague Douglas Hogg said yesterday in a brilliant speech to the Commons, the law would seem to demand the locking up of Gerry Adams, a man who endlessly hails the “heroes of the IRA”. This might be cheering in some ways, but is not exactly coherent with the policies of successive British governments.
Many of us would like to hear the pillow talk of Tony and Cherie, the two über-yuppy Islington lawyers, and many of us wonder how the Prime Minister justifies his ill-considered measures to his formidable barrister wife. My guess is that she gives him a considerable wigging, after which he bleats, “But darling, we’ve got to do something”, at which point I hope very much that she belts him with the bolster and sends him off to the sofa.
This Bill is bad because it is so unnecessary: there is already plenty of good statute against incitement of all kinds, and as for the new powers to detain people without trial for 90 days, the Home Office website proclaims that it is already very rare to detain people for the maximum of 14 days.
So why are we going for 90? Because that is what the “intelligence” services want, say Blair and Clarke, and it is hard to think of a feebler justification.
Who gives a damn what these intelligence charlies want, and what business is it of theirs to be telling Parliament what to do? These are the klutzes who were so pathetic that they could not get a single credible agent into pre-war Iraq, with the result that Parliament and the public were told a load of old cobblers about the state of Saddam’s WMD.
There is no reason to believe everything they say; there is no reason for either of these provisions, not least since Labour feels so guilty about their impact on ethnic minorities, especially Muslims, that the Government has been symmetrically obliged to come up with an even worse measure, namely the Racial and Religious Hatred Bill, thankfully felled by the Lords.
They must be busting their pants with laughter, the al-Qa’eda boys, as they look at the contortions of the British Government. The difference between an Islamic theocracy and us is that we are supposed to have free speech, habeas corpus and the rule of law.
We are eroding free speech, we are dispensing with habeas corpus, and as for the rule of law, I take my cue from the great Lord Steyn, the law lord. In detaining 500 people without trial in Guantanamo Bay, the Americans have taken their democracy into a legal black hole.
Not only are we now unable to criticise America for what it is doing. We are following the Americans into the abyss.