Monday, February 27, 2006

Tony Blair: Liar or Ignoramus?

It's an article that has attracted a lot of blogging attention. But the contribution of our Dear Leader to the debate on civil liberty and the role of government deserves that little bit more.

There is a charge, crafted by parts of the right wing and now taken up by parts of the left, that New Labour is authoritarian, in particular, that I am. We are intent on savaging British liberties, locking up those who dissent and we abhor parliamentary or other accountability.

As others have said: good summary.

At one level, the charge is easy to debunk. But on another level, there is a serious debate about the nature of liberty in the modern world.

He says this here, but doesn't, during the body of the article, attempt to debunk it - he merely tries to justify the increase in state power.

This government has introduced the Human Rights Act...and the Freedom of Information Act, the most open thing any British government has done since the Reform Acts of the 1830s. We have devolved more power than any government since the 1707 Act of Union introduced transparency into political funding and restricted the Prime Minister's right to nominate to the House of Lords. In other words, I have given away more prime ministerial power than any predecessor for more than 100 years.

Taking these sequentially then: the Human Rights Act has made almost no direct contribution to British freedom in the 8 years or so since its creation. All it has done is add an extra 'why the hell not' element to every appeal of every case in every court. Got evicted from your flat for setting fire to the garden and killing the neighbour? Try the HRA, you might as well. Freedom of Information - unless it's not in the public interest to know what HArold Wilson gave Kruschev 30 years ago. All it has been used for is dishing dirt on the opposition. Tony Blair has created more peers than any Prime Minister since Lloyd George. How dare he try to make out he's restricting power here.

In other words, I have given away more prime ministerial power than any predecessor for more than 100 years.

So, giving away a degree of control over the 2 million Welshmen and 6 million Scots is a greater surrender of control than Atlee granting independence to India? 300 million people over there in those days. Macmillan granting independence to the African empire? Malaysia? In what way can this be presented as the truth? It's nonsense on every level. Blair's Government has been centralising and controlling to a degree that makes Thatcherism look cosily localist. Merely denying it doesn't change that fact.

But the 'rules' are becoming harder to enforce. Antisocial behaviour isn't susceptible to normal court process. Modern organised crime is really ugly, with groups, often from overseas, frequently prepared to use horrific violence.

So anti-social behaviour isn't amenable to law? And they're organised in gangs, using violence? How awful! Hasn't he heard of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861? If people use violence, or even threaten it, they are breaking an existing law. What has changed is that the law is no longer enforced. Rather than invent a new law not to enforce, why not try and see if enforcing the old ones work?

The question is not one of individual liberty vs the state but of which approach best guarantees most liberty for the largest number of people. In theory, traditional court processes and attitudes to civil liberties could work. But the modern world is different from the world for which these court processes were designed.

I'm sorry but that is flatly wrong. The best gurantee of providing most liberty for most people is not compatible with a system that grants ever more power to the state to correct ever more trivial offences. A system that allows penalty fines for calling a police horse gay, or using the word 'fuck' in a private conversation has crossed a definite line in the relationship between citizen and state. The question is, and always is, individual liberty vs the state. To say otherwise is to begin the intellectual march toward totalitarianism.

People should be prevented from glorifying terrorism. You can say it is a breach of the right to free speech but in the real world, people get hurt when organisations encourage hatred.

People who say 'in the real world' should be put up against a wall and shot. Repeatedly.

On ID cards, there is a host of arguments, irrespective of security, why their time has come.

Great but, as Sam Leith points out, shouldn't you actually say what they are? The article manages to be patronising and offensive, bland and ignorant, meaningless and sinister: a pretty good summary of the Labour Government really.


Blogger Serf said...

Blair may be a top notch political operator, but intellectually he is a Fuckwit. He has so little imagination that he really finds it hard to understand his opponents arguments.

The sooner he goes the better.

7:13 am  

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