The ruler’s game

[Monday]

Unfinished, this; I spent too long watching the wretched Diana tribute concert yesterday. Talk about trying to save the monarchy – where the hell was Charles? Never mind Camilla… Highlights were Fergie (no, not that one!) having microphone problems and that bloke out of Supertramp. Kanye West was superb as ever, shame he didn’t do Jesus Walks. I consoled myself by watching Dave Chappelle’s Block Party on DVD.

Fear
Rather than begin his premiership on the topic of constitutional reform, the severe flooding in parts of England, the wars in the Middle East or even the threat of co-ordinated industrial action in the public sector, Brown begins with – and gets a bigger bounce out of – terror.

Friday’s discovery of two car bombs in central London and Saturday’s failed attack on Glasgow International Airport have allowed Brown to raise the spectre of internment once again. Not directly, of course. He would not be so crude as to come out waving a new anti-terror act like he’d been waiting for the right moment – but his predecessor’s failure to get ninety day detention without charge through parliament has been alluded to in the media, and the Tories have signalled that they might be willing to drop their opposition to the measure, provided the police actually produce some evidence in favour this time.

In fact, rather than upping the ante, Brown has insisted that he will not rush through new legislation, but rather try to build a cross-party consensus. What a wonderful triangulation. The opposition are screwed – how can they make Brown out to be a Stalinist when he appears so conciliatory?

In turn, internment
You may recall that in 2005, as a result of the London bombings, the Westminster parliament voted to double the length of time that police may detain someone suspected of involvement in terrorist activities, from fourteen to twenty-eight days. The government had desired that police be given ninety days, and the result was a compromise, with the police failing to convince enough MPs that such a drastic increase was justified.

Sir Ian Blair, the most senior policeman in the UK, admitted that the figure of ninety days had been plucked out of thin air and that they had considered requesting one hundred and twenty days of the government – four months, in other words, to hold someone without charges being brought against them.

As yet there has been no example cited of the necessity for the police to have the power to hold people for months, but after Blair failed to give them this power, there was never any suggestion that the government would leave it at that. Now the opportunity arises for Brown to look tough in compensation for not having a mandate to govern.

Cynicism
It is looking increasingly unlikely that resistance to more terrorism legislation will come from the Liberals and the Tories. The Tories are keen to reassert themselves after taking a beating in the opinion polls as a result of Blair’s departure leading to an increase in support for Labour; and though this boost for Brown may not last much longer, the Tory grassroots are keen for the leadership to return to old themes, and the ruling class will expect that they drop their token opposition after the latest attempted terror attacks.

If at first you don’t succeed – try and try again. This could be New Labour’s motto as regards draconian legislation. The democratic police state that Blair had built will be reinforced by Brown, with plans for stop and search powers for the police at airports and railway stations.

I suspect the rumour that the ban on political demonstrations within the vicinity of the Houses of Parliament would be dropped was merely an attempt to lessen the expression of anti-war sentiment at the time of Brown’s coronation. This is another aspect of New Labour governance – since it takes time to process new information and detect dishonesty, it to lie and get away with it. The headline-grabbing announcement will not be followed up with a prominent debunking.

New Labour’s habitual deceit has had repercussions. It has been observed there is a high degree of scepticism about the official “War on Terrorism” narrative amongst the Muslim population in the UK. It is not just about a greater awareness of the nature of British foreign policy; it extends to doubting the official line on the London Bombings. Naturally, there is a prevalent view that the War on Terror is in fact a War on Muslims.

Religion is an incidental matter for British imperialism, but racism has always come in useful for the ruling class. Islamophobia is a form of racism, despite Islam being a religion and not a race, the notion of who is and who is not a Muslim is determined, in the eyes of the state, by race. Thus, Asians who are not Muslim have suffered racial abuse and attacks by doubly ignorant individuals.

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