I hate to start this blog on a political note, but I’m both relieved and worried that the UK government’s latest attempt to curtail our freedoms has ended in failure. For those of you who haven’t been following the UK news lately, our government have recently been trying their very best to allow anyone in this country to be imprisoned for up to 42 days without being charged of any crime.
Apparently this is to allow the police enough time to gather evidence in cases of suspected terrorist activity, which doesn’t say much for our police force, since everywhere else in the world this takes only a few hours or a few days at most. I can appreciate that sometimes it can be difficult to press charges of ‘smelling of foreign food‘ and ‘having a beard’ but 42 days? Even in the 1970s the police could fit people up faster than that.
What is even more frustrating is how close they came to managing to succeed. This in the country which fought for the right of habeas corpus, the fundamental right of a citizen to know why they are being imprisoned by the state. A right which it seems our elected politicians are now prepared to throw away in order to “protect our freedoms” (I’ll leave you alone to insert your own ironic comment there). This was a right which was dragged from a highly reluctant monarchy hundreds of years ago, and certainly shouldn’t be surrendered lightly.
However, they were blocked in this attempt, for now at least, by an unelected body which originally gained their posts from appointment by that very same monarchy, the House of Lords. I used to feel that the House of Lords was an outdated institution of inherited privilege, but sadly it seems they have become the only thing protecting us from the whims of the people we elected. It is a sad day for democracy.
I say blocked for now, because our delightful home secretary Jacqui Smith has promised to rush through legislation in the future should it be necessary. I really hope that hundreds of year’s worth of legal protection won’t be over-turned on a knee-jerk reaction, but I’m not optimistic. I foresee a convenient scapegoat appearing in the future…