It’s certainly interesting to follow British politics these days. It also challenges my notions of good and bad, red, green and blue, libertarian, conservative and socialist, autocracy, democracy and tyranny. With the British parliament a confrontational slugfest arena, this makes it even more interesting, especially compared to the rather sedate German federal parliament that’s of course in the iron fist of a majority of teachers and lawyers.
Picture courtesy of accrama on Flickr
So yesterday parliament decided that the executive and judicative powers in this country can lock me away without a charge for up to 42 days. I find that hard to defend and – being of rather simplistic nature – understand. If there is a suspicion that somebody is planning a terrorist act (or is a terrorist) the police will do what the police (and the secret services) in every country do what they do best: they investigate, research the facts and then arrest the individual, present him with the charges and get him in front of a judge who will then decide whether the charges are founded enough to bring him to trial.
So easy, so normal.
So, lets follow the British Government’s argumentation. The police/MI5 pick up that some bad person is planning a really nasty deed threatening human life. They are quite sure but lack the hard facts, so they arrest him under the counter terrorist bill and put him in a cell while they investigate further before charging him. I can understand that as well. But does is really have to be 42 days? And why 42? Is Jacqui Smith – the British Home Secretary – an avid Douglas Adams fan and finds that within 42 days she might find the answer to life, the universe and terrorist activity? And why did only 36 Labour MPs vote against this. And who knew that the DUP was actually still in parliament?
It makes me feel profoundly uncomfortable. This is a country that already has the highest number of CCTV cameras per capita in the world (one camera per 60 inhabitants) and easy access to ISP’s records. Together with wideranging powers of arrest without charge this is more than a little bit creepy.
And here’s where my confusion begins, but not ends. Being a left leaning liberal, plenty of ideas that the labour party stands for I support wholeheartedly: a (more or less) comprehensive health insurance for all, a commitment to excellent state education, egality in front of the law regardless of your sex or ethnicity, a safetynet for these not being able to thrive in society and who need support by the state. All these are goals I am happy to pay my taxes for. But then I look at the current labour government and I start becoming uncomfortable again. There are some policies that have profoundly backfired: Privatisation of the NHS? Polyclinics? Primary Care Trusts (don’t get me started)? No incentive for microgeneration? 10 pence income tax evaporation? Iraq? Still in Iraq after what, 5 years? Then I look at the policies of the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats and start recalibrating my political compass.
And this morning David Davis, Shadow Home Secretary for the Conservatives resigns from parliament to express his outrage about the 42 days issue with some of the most stringent arguments on personal freedoms I have heard for some time.
My political compass is all over the place.