Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Terror Bill: Did Charles Clarke Want My Views?

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Terror Bill: Did Charles Clarke Want My Views?

Article excerpt

"I am e-mailing you today," began the friendly but respectful note from the Home Secretary, "to find out your views on the action the government is proposing to take to challenge the new terrorist threats that face all of us." Charles Clarke's canvassing of opinion on his controversial anti-terrorism legislation came just as MPs were debating furiously whether to allow police to detain suspects without charge for 90 days.

I was touched, really. New Labour ministers aren't famous for wanting the views of Labour Party members (and even less the views of those of us who have left the party but are kept on e-mail lists so as to massage membership figures). This looked like a rare opportunity.

And I had a lot to tell Clarke. I pictured myself resting my arm on his ample shoulder and explaining why I think it's an outrage to keep people locked up for 90 days without trial. Of course, I'd say, I want to fight terrorism as much as he does. But he risks simply fuelling the rage that leads to terrorism. He'll be the Home Secretary who destroyed our civil liberties. I could show him that he's spearheading an inexorable slide towards authoritarianism. Perhaps, I'd say, if he had a notebook handy, he might care to jot down my detailed criticisms, and my alternative proposals.

"Yet some are opposing the government's proposals," he wrote, with barely concealed irritation, after describing the terrorist threat. But it was up to me to show him he was wrong. It would be hard work, but I was prepared to put time and effort into it. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.