Much rumness afoot in and around the Palace of Westminster these days. Gordon Brown, the mean, one-eyed Scotsman who took over from the Teflon-coated, happy-clapping Blair as Prime Minister has been lurching from one crisis to another, ever since failing to call an election* upon his succession to the top job. Widely disliked by the electorate, and not burdened with the charm or wit of his predecessor, Brown has spent his time in office making himself and his party more and more unpopular, and the recent local elections delivered the Labour Party what could only be described as a ‘kicking.’
Brown’s latest triumph, if such a term could be used, has been the passage of a Counter-Terrorism bill through the House of Commons, although by a mere nine votes, obtained from the Northern Irish DUP party, allegedly thanks to a number of promises (you can call them bribes) regarding financial aid for the province.
Quite a few Labour MPs revolted and voted with the opposition, appalled by some of the authoritarian measures in the bill, notably one that gives the government the right to detain a suspect for 42 days without before having to charge them. Brown, and his odious acolyte Tony McNulty (Home Office minister and the man responsible for shepherding the bill) have claimed that the police and security services have requested these powers in order to deal with terrorist emergencies. Oddly, the head of the Security Service (MI5) actually came out and stated just the opposite, and it’s hard to see a good reason why this power is even needed, since previous legislation grants the police these powers in the event of such an emergency.
Thankfully for the UK, our unelected chamber, the House of Lords, will tear the bill to shreds once it’s submitted to them, at which point it will return to the House of Commons and the process will start again.
The passage of the bill has even seen the shadow Home Secretary, Conservative MP David Davis resign his seat in protest. For a rather right-wing politician to make such a move ought to underline just how egregious most people consider this legislation.
Should Brown manage to get a revised bill through the House of Lords, odds are that the European Court of Human Rights will strike it down, and all in all it’s hard to see why Brown is willing to squander the tiny remaining bit of political capitol over this. But, it’s a funny old world.
*For those unfamiliar with the UK and its electoral schedule, the sitting government chooses when it wants to go to the polls any time up until 5 years from the last election, usually allowing them to pick the time that would be most advantageous to their chances.