Sunday, February 27, 2005


driven by electoral expediency and political cynicism

Michael Portillo's comment Even Labour MPs are afraid of the new authoritarians
in the Sunday Times sums up very well the current bewilderment over the government's authoritarian stance. "Famously, George Orwell’s Animal Farm ends with the animals peering through a window at the ruling class of pigs, the creatures who led the revolution that overthrew the oppressive rule by human beings. But by now the pigs have adopted all the excesses of the old regime and as the bewildered animals look from man to pig and pig to man, they can no longer distinguish between them.

A similar puzzlement gripped Labour’s back benches last week. Brian Sedgemore lamented that “the unthinkable, the unimaginable” is happening here and talked of “new Labour’s descent into hell”. Barbara Follett spoke of her first husband’s five-year detention in South Africa under house arrest before he was shot dead in front of their young daughters. “I tried to comfort them,” she said, “by telling them that we were going to Britain, where people were not detained without trial or put under house arrest.”

Follett failed to move ministers. Hain, that other anti-apartheid veteran, has set aside his own formative experiences. The powers sought by the government depart from all peacetime precedents, and the behaviour of ministers is at odds with everything that they have stood for during their long political careers. Neither political nor personal principle offers us any safeguard.

Ministers ask us to entrust our liberty to them. But they appear driven by electoral expediency and political cynicism. Those are grounds not for trust but for fear.
" Read in full

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