The government wants to extend the time for which terrorism suspects can be detained without charge from 28 to 56 days. A final vote in Parliament on this is expected by the beginning of December.
Gordon Brown refuses to say for what exact period he thinks the police should be able to hold people, but insists that whatever that period is, it is absolutely necessary.
Meanwhile, counter-terrorism officials at the Home Office are proposing to combat terrorism by changing the language of their press releases. “We haven’t got the message right”, one said a couple of days ago; young Muslims will be less likely to sympathise with al-Qaeda if the government talks about a “struggle” against terrorists rather than a “battle”. Subjecting them to police harassment and detention without charge is nothing to do with it, then?
This hardly gives us confidence that the people who want to lock people up for two months without accusing them of any crime have a clue what they’re doing.
The lack of information coming out of the government is in stark contrast to the amount they want going in. They want identity cards ands a “national identity register”. Under the Orwellianly-misnamed “Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act” information on government databases, including intercepted emails and phone calls, can be shared between departments, the police, social services, local councils and several hundred other bodies without the knowledge from the individual. And get lost by TNT transporting the information from place to place!
The government wants to log credit card transactions and all travel ticket purchases as part of its “E-borders” scheme to keep out migrants, and subject people to random searches by police at railway stations, airports and shopping centres. All this activity will be focussed on people with dark skins.
This whole gamut of measures to give the state more control over every aspect of our lives is rendered politically possible by one tactic: keep the people scared. Gordon Brown said recently in a Parliamentary debate on detention without charge that he wanted to avoid exaggerating the threat and giving terrorists the “oxygen of publicity” — but he’s going a funny way about it.
The constant repetition of the idea that “Britain”, “British jobs” and the “British way of life” are under threat from terrorists, migrants or whoever is the best way the government and the right-wing press have of muffling a movement of solidarity to cut through all this garbage and unite people of all nationalities and ethnicities as workers.
Conversely, only such a movement, united and militant, can put a stop to the illiberal tide that depends on, at the same time as it creates, insecurity and division.