Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Freedom for sale

Today's vote in the House of Commons on the 42-day detention proposal showed Parliament at its worst.

Having decided to go down the route of sacrificing civil liberties in an absurd test of strength to try and prove they were being tough on terrorism, the Labour government then set about winning the vote by buying off potential rebels with what can best be described as a series of bribes and inducements.

According to Nick Robinson's report on the BBC's 10 O'clock News, one Labour MP was offered more support for a miners' welfare scheme, while another was promised that economic sanctions against Cuba would be eased. And, of course, we wait to see what price was extracted by the nine Democratic Unionist MPs for saving the government from defeat.

It says a lot about this government that not only can it contemplate such an unnecessary assault on our civil liberties, but it also seems to think it entirely acceptable to do so by the worst sort of 'pork barrel' politics. And what does it say about those Labour and DUP MPs that they think nothing of bartering away hard-won freedoms for a few extra quid for the miners or the Communist regime in Cuba, or an as yet unspecified boost for Northern Ireland?

It might be instructive to see exactly how people voted this time and compare it with how they voted on the proposal for 90-day detention in November 2005, to work out just who has been bought off.

Most Labour MPs who rebelled then also refused to support the government on 42 days today. However, according to Public Whip, the following Labour MPs voted against 90-day detention, but aren't listed by the BBC as having voted against the government today: John Austin (Erith and Thamesmead), Michael Clapham (Barnsley West and Penistone), Ann Cryer (Keighley), David Hamilton (Midlothian), Doug Henderson (Newcastle-upon-Tyne North), Sian James (Swansea East), Sadiq Khan (Tooting), Mark Lazarowicz (Edinburgh North and Leith), Tony Lloyd (Manchester Central), Andrew Love (Edmonton), Chris McCafferty (Calder Valley), George Mudie (Leeds East), Nick Raynsford (Greenwich and Woolwich), Sir Peter Soulsby (Leicester South), David Taylor (NW Leicestershire) and Jon Trickett (Hemsworth).

Intriguingly, there were also a few MPs who didn't vote against the government last time who did on this occasion. They are: Andrew Dismore (Hendon), David Drew (Stroud), Paul Farrelly (Newcastle under Lyme), Andrew MacKinley (Thurrock) and Douglas Naysmith (Bristol NW). Conservative Sir Peter Tapsell voted with the government last time but didn't do so on this occasion, whereas Anne Widdecombe was the exact opposite. Robert Wareing and Clare Short were both still Labour MPs last time and Gwyneth Dunwoody has since died. Oh, and the nine DUP MPs all voted against 90-day detention.

There's one or two surprising names on that list, such as Sadiq Khan. And also a few MPs from mining seats, who must be prime candidates for having sold out civil liberties for more dosh for the miners.

Overall, today was a dispiriting day for anyone who believes that civil liberties are important. It's sad that we're now having to rely on the House of Lords proving itself more willing to stand up for freedom than the Commons.

1 comment:

Jim Smith said...

What about the role of Lord Carlile in all of this? How does he keep the label "Liberal Democrat" after his performance?

At what point should he have the Lib Dem whip removed and sit as an Independent?

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