The 42-day bill - the latest dossier found on Brown's bandwagon

Workers' Fight workplace bulletin editorials
16 June 2008

Last week, the government very narrowly won the vote over its bill allowing the police to lock up alleged "terrorists" for 42 days without charge. Brown had to buy the votes of DUP bigots and make all kinds of concessions to his own MPs, in order to avoid a humiliating defeat.

Ironically, Brown's own legal advisers did not think this legislation necessary. But he insisted on going ahead just because the police had requested it and because he wanted to look "tough".

Indeed, after Labour's electoral fiascos, it was urgent for Brown to show his ability to whip his own MPs into line. He obviously does not want business circles to start thinking that he has "lost it" and that the time has come for Cameron and the Tories to take over to protect their interests. So choosing to make his "show of strength" over such an absurd piece of legislation, may even have been a calculated risk designed to make the demonstration even more convincing.

Beyond these cynical calculations, this bill is dangerous. The 42-day detention may be hard to implement, due to the concessions made by Brown. But the bill increases the already enormous powers and self-importance of the police. The main targets of this self-confidence, which has been boosted by each piece of "anti-terrorist" legislation, are not "terrorists" - there are too few of them! But how much does it take these days for police officers to use the pretext of alleged anti-terrorist "powers" to harass anyone they choose to pick on in the street, especially if he or she happens to have the "wrong" skin colour, or is protesting, or on a picket line, as has already happened?

As to the pretext for this bill - the "terrorist threat" - it would not exist if British troops were not terrorising civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan in the first place. Besides, it is a "threat" that the state itself takes so seriously, that it leaves its own ultra-secret dossiers lying around in suburban trains!!