There is now a deadly danger to British democracy. One that is even worse than the ID cards bill.
Not for nothing are they calling it the ‘Abolition of Parliament’ bill. Its official name is the Legislative and Regulatory Reform bill, and it is, quite simply an attempt to take control of power in this country into the hands of the executive forever,and remove the possibility of parliamentary scrutiny from the exercise of that power.
The bill grants ministers the power to create, modify or strike down laws; and to introduce offenses carrying prison terms of up to two years.
It contains some limits: for example section 3(2)(c) requires that “the provision, taken as a whole, strikes a fair balance between the public interest and the interests of any person adversely affected by it”. However, remember that the bill grants the power to modify existing legislation; that does not exclude itself. So if this bill had become an Act of Parliament, there would be nothing to stop a future government from modifying the Act itself to, for example, increase the maximum sentence, or remove the limitations it contains.
This government has, after early successes in introducing the minimum wage and the Human Rights Act, been moving in a more and more authoritarian direction. Obvious examples are ID cards; the attempt to reduce the right to trial by jury; and the increase in the period of detention without trial.
But let’s not forget their support for US ‘extreme rendition’ flights, and the illegal detentions at Guantánamo Bay (they may not have actively and openly supported those, but they failed to condemn them, or do anything to stop them, which amounts to the same thing).
From ASBOs to the ‘Respect Agenda’1, it’s clear that Blair and his spineless — or perhaps totally complicit — cronies are all about applying controls and limits.
If this bill goes through, there are, as far as I can tell, two possible escape routes. Judges — even the Law Lords — might strike it down as unlawful under the Human Rights Act, since they are required to consider all new laws in light thereof. The problem there, though, is that the bill — the Act, if it passes — does not directly infringe anyone’s human rights. Instead, it is an enabler. It is laws introduced or modified using this Act that may (that will, let’s face it) infringe our human rights.
The second escape route? I can’t see one short of revolution. And that means civil war. And that’s no escape at all.
If you’re reading this, please: don’t just take my word for it. Visit the Save Parliament website and look at the resources there. Do some other research. But when you are suitably terrified, write to your MP; write to the editor of your favourite paper and ask them why they are not kicking up a fuss about this. Tell your friends. Tell your enemies. Tell people in the street
If we don’t stop this, it may not mean jackboots in the streets and the knock on the door in the night; but it will mean the effective end of democracy in the UK.
On ‘respect’: I am convinced that Blair doesn’t mean that word as the rest of us mean it. Instead, what he really wants to see more of in society is deference. When I thought of this truth several months ago, my attitude was, “Stuff it mate, we’ve left that behind us a century or more ago, and we ain’t going back to it.” But now, of course, I feel the terror that deference will be made mandatory by ministerial diktat.