For the second time in a week, the Government dragooned enough of its MPs into the "aye" lobby to reverse key amendments introduced to security legislation by the House of Lords. On Monday, the Commons voted in favour of registering all holders of bio-metric ID cards on a national computer, even before the cards become compulsory. Yesterday, MPs reinstated the clause in the Terrorism Bill that would make "glorification of terrorism" a specific criminal offence.
These might seem mere points of detail' they were, after all, minor elements in much broader Bills. But their significance - in substance and symbolism - was enormous. The comfortable Government majorities offered political cheer to the Prime Minister, who had feared substantial backbench revolts, but none at all to those of us who regarded these clauses as potential assaults on cherished civil liberties.
Yesterday's vote was especially dangerous in its implications. If it eventually makes its way on to the statute book, "glorification of terrorism" will be one of those offences that gives the whole body of terrorism law a bad name. What does "glorification" mean? Against whom will it be used and what will it take to secure a conviction? The recent successful prosecution of the radical preacher Abu Hamza proved that existing law is adequate to deal with most threats that exist.
Before yesterday's debate, ministers had allowed the impression to be created that it was only for lack of a "glorification" lawthat the demonstrators with provocative placards outside the Danish embassy two Fridays ago were not arrested then and there. This was as disingenuous as it was absurd. The placards concerned did not glorify anything' if they were evidence of a crime, it was incitement to violence or murder.
Not for the first time, the Government twisted a particular event for propagandistic …