Muslim Parliament logo
Muslim Parliament
The Muslim Parliament of Great Britain
Links Links go to homepage

In the media

A shaming victory

Thursday June 12 2008
The Guardian

Is this what Gordon Brown had in mind when he promised a progressive consensus? His plans to detain terrorism suspects for 42 days before charge survived yesterday thanks to the connivance of parliament's most reactionary faction, the Democratic Unionist party. He won last night's divisive vote - just - but lost the argument and shredded his majority. That is not the only reason why the victory was hollow. The prime minister has squandered parliamentary time, goodwill and his reputation as a man of principle on a symbolic sacrifice of liberty. That sacrifice is gratuitous, a vote on a law that would not work, is not needed and which, quite possibly, will never come into force.

Defending the plans in the Commons yesterday, Mr Brown bellowed "they cannot be both draconian and ineffective". But history is littered with cases of blundering authoritarianism, and the 42-day initiative epitomises that combination. News last night that secret papers on al-Qaida had been left on a train is a reminder that the security state does not always get it right, and if 42-day detention is imposed then innocent people may be locked up for longer. Half of those so far held for more than 14 days ended up released without charge. In principle, at least, the scheme makes Britain less free - yet without making it safer. The director of public prosecutions, the man ultimately tasked with convicting terrorists, says he does not need it. Some senior police officers want new powers - when has that not been true? - but others disagree, and none claims the extra days would have helped in any real case so far. Mr Brown talked yesterday about listening to the security services, but this week MI5's head clarified that he had not demanded the policy. He said that it was not his place to take a view, although when arbitrary imprisonment alienates whole communities he might have argued that it would make gathering intelligence more difficult.

Mr Brown's real interest in pre-charge detention has always been about political advantage, although it now seems doubtful that his plan will succeed even in these cynical terms. After parliament refused to yield to Tony Blair's alarmist pitch for a limit of 90 days, Mr Brown spotted an opportunity to prove his mettle by succeeding where Mr Blair had failed. To win over sceptics, he talked of safeguards and his desire for a consensus. Thanks to the spirited opposition of the shadow home secretary, David Davis, consensus never arrived. The safeguards did, but won few genuine converts. There are parliamentary votes, an obvious nonsense, when courts should do the scrutiny. Last week the home secretary promised that she would only use extended detention in the case of a "grave, exceptional" threat, though her amendments do not truly tie her hands. Yesterday came a new idea: compensation for terrorism suspects who turn out to have been locked up without good cause. This is odd: people charged with other crimes can be remanded for months on end, without automatic recompense if they are acquitted. Far from proving Mr Brown's strength, the flurry of cobbled-together amendments - to say nothing of the rumours of sweeteners to the Democratic Unionists - underline his weakness. He will look weaker still if, after all this effort, the law is not enacted. That could still happen if, as expected, it is rejected by the Lords, and Mr Brown lacks the strength to overturn them.

The prime minister did not win last night because he convinced parliament of his case, but thanks to backroom deals. It was a forced victory in the worst of circumstances, a law no one wants imposed by a government that wanted to look strong but ended up too weak to accept the obvious. Mr Brown will want to use his victory to change the political mood: proof that he does not always back down. But defiance in a bad cause poisons politics. The prime minister got his way, but at a sorry cost to the progressive ideals that he seemed to represent when he arrived in office a year ago.

Copyright Guardian Newspapers Limited 2008




Media archive

Shariah Queries Pose Challenge

Gaza and the radicalisation of British Muslims

Law to protect the young must cover madrassas as well

This is no way to fight terror

A marriage of convenience will not do

Frustrated love and forced marriage

Changing the face of Muslim family life

New model Muslim marriage contract ‘revolutionary’ for UK women

British women who paid dearly for not registering their marriages

New Sharia law marriage contract gives Muslim women rights

Is this the beginning of a new European Islam?

Compulsory lessons urged on forced marriage and 'honour' violence

Law and principle are lost in the crazy politics of 42 days

A shaming victory - Brown 42 days

Islam's holiest city set for 130-skyscraper redevelopment

No more mosques, says senior Synod member

Muslim reformer's 'heresy': The Islamic state is a dead end

Intellectuals condemn fatwa against writers

Met 'let down' victim killed by her family

Divisions In Our World Are Not The Result Of Religion

Home secretary accused of putting off vote on terrorism bill

Muslim leader says families must help catch honour killers

Blasphemy caused by cuddly animals

Mistake to curb liberties in response to 7/7, says minister

Asim Siddiqui: Beyond Hizb ut-Tahrir

Naomi Klein: Why failure is the new face of success

Naomi Klein: The erasing of Iraq

Naomi Klein: The age of disaster capitalism

Special units to crack down on honour killing

Can Culture Be Bought In the Gulf?

Luxury timeshares on offer at Islam's holiest pilgrimage site

The shortest route to peace… is through Jerusalem

Pope and Islam - Muhammad's Sword

Pope and Islam -
Roots of rationality

Removal of men from holiday flight condemned

How Islam got political: Founding fathers

MPs fear police terror raid will hit community relations

Muslims question terror raid tactics

A pantomime in Forest Gate

Sudan’s Turabi - Muslim women can marry Christian or Jew

Faith leaders unite to champion supportive care for terminally ill

Warning on Muslim schools 'abuse'

Government urged to introduce registration scheme for religious Islamic schools

Call for national register of mosque schools

A call to protect Madrasa-goers from abuse

Abuse widespread in Islamic schools, says Muslim leader

Madrassa children ‘at risk of abuse’

Islamic schools in denial about child abuse

Muslim rally organisers tell extremists to stay away

Calls to scrap holocaust day slammed

The destruction of Mecca: Saudi hardliners are wiping out their own heritage

Britain to rebrand ethnic minorities

Live chat with the leader of the Muslim Parliament in Britain

Religious leaders braced for more faith-hate attacks

Police investigate 'backlash' attacks

Fanatics realise worst fears of Muslims

Muslims, do not be fooled by this law

Prisoners freed a year ago struggle to rebuild their lives

Muslim leaders consult other faiths for advice on stamping out abuse

Could the tsunami disaster be a turning point for the world?

Muslim men use law loophole to get a harem of ‘wives’

Novice imams must be vetted, Muslim leaders say

End these detentions

Muslim leaders blame Blair’s war on Iraq for growing alienation

End this internment now

Under siege on all sides, Muslims plead for peace

Islamic weddings leave women unprotected

Muslim leaders attack extremists' claims

Talking Point Forum interview with Dr Siddiqui

Focus on forced Asian marriages

British High Court judge condemns forced Asian marriages

Islam and the voice of reason

Passionate debate on a landmark in race relations

Leave us Muslims out of the anti-terror laws