The New Worker
The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain
Week commencing 20th July 2007
Stop the abuse at Belmarsh!
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by Daphne Liddle
A SENIOR police officer representing many others last week
called for terror suspects to be detained without charge or trial “for
as long as it takes”. And within two days the call was backed by
Government legal adviser Lord Carlisle QC.
Ken Jones, the president of the Association of Chief Police
Officers (Acpo) was in effect calling for the internment of suspects
and claimed that police are “up against the buffers” with the current
28-day limit on detaining a terror suspect without charge.
That limit is already four times what it was three years ago. Two
years ago an attempt by Tony Blair to extend the limit to 90 days was
defeated in the House of Commons by MPs from all parties.
Ken Jones said last week: “We are now arguing for judicially
supervised detention for as long as it takes. We understand people will
be concerned and nervous, but we need to create a system with
sufficient judicial checks and balances which holds people, but not a
day longer than necessary.
“We need to go there and I think that politicians of all parties
and the public have great faith in the judiciary to make sure that’s
used in the most proportionate way possible.”
Lord Carlisle agreed with Jones’s view and said the debate about
the right number of days to hold a suspect was “completely sterile” and
that MP should surrender their power to set a limit and hand it over to
Oddly, he claimed that suspects’ rights would be paramount and
they would have the right to appeal against continued custody – but not
to see any evidence against them.
He said: “What parliament should do is put this in the hands of
senior judges, who have a great deal of experience in analysing
The Admiral Sir Adam West, the new Security Minister and
former chief of defence intelligence chipped in, in an interview on BBC
Radio Four, also calling for an extension to the 28-day limit because
Islamist gangs in Britain “pose a real threat to this nation”.
He added: “I have come back to this after about 16 months away
from it and I have to say I was quite concerned when I saw what the
level of threat is.
“If one looks at what our security service and police are looking
at on a day-to-day basis, they are now monitoring over 200 groupings or
networks, which to varying degrees are threatening our security.
“The scale of this whole thing is quite dramatic.”
So three very senior men from the police, judiciary and Government have
come out with very similar proposals within a few days of each other.
And they are calling on the public to have blind faith in both the
competence and integrity of the police, judiciary and Government.
Perhaps they are hoping we have forgotten the Guildford Four, the
Birmingham Six, the Maguire family and countless other victims of the
British judicial system.
Shami Chakrabarti, director of the civil rights campaign Liberty,
commented on the calls from Ken Jones and Acpo: “We elect politicians
to determine legislation and we expect chief constables to uphold the
rule of law, not campaign for internment.”
We do not want to see Belmarsh prison turned into
Guantanamo-on-Thames. Enough human rights abuses take place there
already. And indefinite detention without charge or trial, not knowing
the charge or evidence against you, whether or not you will ever be
released to live with your family and carry on your life, is a form of
Already when some foreign terror suspects were held in Belmarsh
without charge for up to four years, it had a dramatic effect on their
mental health. One had to be transferred to Broadmoor.
The public and our MPs have to ask two questions: do we trust the
police and judges never to make mistakes and secondly do we really want
to put this much power in the hands of the state.
For us communists the answers are obvious. The bourgeois state
machine has only ever brought limited democracy and we know full well
that under pressure it will not hesitate to sweep away our limited
rights and freedoms.
But the fact that they want to do so is evidence that they are
feeling under pressure. The Iraq war debacle has blown apart the
façade of global ruling class unity. Even if it not apparent in
the media, some of those in power have realised there is a time limit
on their rule, and they are very worried.
Brown’s new world
It’s not much different from
Blair’s is it? A few cosmetic changes at the top to reward some loyal
followers; a nod in the direction of the pro-European Union camp; some
very modest welfare reforms and a drive to elevate the role of Labour
Party Conference that is essentially designed to remove the trade
unions’ block votes.
Nothing more could have been expected of Gordon Brown. The former
Chancellor was the architect of Labour’s economic thinking throughout
the Blair government and the inevitable successor as far as the
dominant right wing social democratic bloc within the Labour Party is
Brown assures his followers that he is continuing to march along the
“New Labour” road. But he doesn’t want to be remembered as the man who
cost Labour the next election.
Brown’s advisers have correctly identified four issues of great public
concern at the moment – the Iraq war; health; housing and education.
They also know that the Tories have nothing to offer working people on
any of these problems. But what is Brown putting on the table to
mobilise the millions who gave Labour three victories on the bounce
over the past decade? The answer is very little.
On Iraq the Prime Minister believes he can ride out the continuing mass
pressure from the anti-war movement until the US presidential elections
in 2008, in the hope that an incoming Democrat administration will get
all the imperialist troops out of the country.
Brown has promised to provide more “affordable housing” but most of his
proposals are designed simply to boost private ownership. True he did
vaguely talk about lifting the barriers on local authorities,
originally imposed by the Tories, to allow them resume building council
estates. But as the Defend Council Housing campaign put it: “Council
tenants and other supporters of council housing who have been lobbying
government for a change in policy will be concerned at the lack of
detail in his statement. There was no mention of how government will
meet its Manifesto Commitment to improve all existing council homes and
estates or what opportunities it will give local authorities to build
new council homes.”
The same could be said for the new proposals on the health service and
education. The Government is quite happy for change if it doesn’t cost
any money. The useless, meaningless and totally unknown English
“regional assemblies” were scrapped this week and their
responsibilities, largely on spending on housing, transport and
planning, will be transferred to the existing business-led regional
development agencies and local councils.
But the Government is not prepared to raise income tax levels on the
rich to invest the millions needed to meet the educational and health
needs of the people in the 21st century.
We are constantly reminded that Britain has the fourth largest economy
in the world, after the United States, Japan and Germany and there’s no
doubt that most of the immediate problems facing working people today
could be solved if income levels were restored to the levels that
existed under the 1970s Labour Government.
We are also told that the tax breaks for the rich have actually led to
more prosperity across society as a whole which is utter nonsense, as a
new report from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation showed this week.
According to this study the gap between rich and poor has reached its
widest level for more than 40 years. Researchers claimed that the
wealth gap grew most rapidly after Labour lost the election in 1979.
The number of “poor” households has risen over the past 15 years.
Significantly the social policy think-tank points out that the gap
between rich and poor actually narrowed in the 1970s – the era of
Harold Wilson and James Callaghan when the unions had free collective
bargaining; when the public sector and central planning guaranteed the
“welfare state” that no senior Labour politician talks about these days
and when super-tax was 97.5 per.
Britain is indeed a fabulously wealthy country. It’s also a paradise
for the spivs, exploiters and landowners who amassed even greater
fortunes over the past four decades off the backs of working people at
home and abroad.
This is the real agenda that needs to be set for TUC and Labour Party
Conference if Labour is to regain the support and trust of the millions
of voters who have been so cynically betrayed over the past 10 years.
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