The holes in Blair's arguments, and how he sidesteps key issues

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Indy Politics

Nigel Morris, The Independent's Home Affairs Correspondent, casts a critical eye over the Prime Minister's arguments.

"We have spent money on Iraq and Afghanistan and we are engaged in a major strategic battle in both countries, because this international terrorism has decided to make both countries a battleground."

Afghanistan was sheltering al-Qa'ida terrorists before the Taliban was ousted. However, there was no known al-Qa'ida presence in Iraq before the removal of Saddam by the US-led invasion; terrorists are exploiting the political vacuum and ethnic tensions of post-Saddam Iraq.

"This international terrorism is a movement. It has got an ideology and it has got a strategy."

Many experts say al-Qa'ida is an extremely loose-knit organisation with no conventional command structure. It can be argued to have an ideology, but whether it has a coherent strategy, beyond creating devastation, is a moot point.

There are no proven firm links between the two groups of London bombers: where is the evidence of a "movement" behind the attacks on the capital?

[On plans to ban glorification of terrorism] "Before there's a prosecution the Attorney General gives his consent, so there's that stage in it, and then yes, the courts are going to have to take a view about that. But again I think in situations where people, for example, are going out and saying, 'Look, if you are going to kill people, innocent people, in terrorist acts, you are doing something that's a great thing, you are doing something that will secure your place in paradise,' I think again most people will have not much difficulty in deciding that."

Lawyers warn that the concept of glorification could be extremely difficult to demonstrate in court; it remains vague in the draft legislation produced by the Government. Would the Attorney General reject most attempted prosecutions or would his decisions become highly political?

[On whether Ken Livingstone could have been prosecuted for pro-Sinn Fein comments in the past.] "There will be all sorts of people who say for all sorts of reasons, 'Look, I understand why the terrorists do it and we do understand what their motivations are.' I profoundly disagree with that, but I'm not suggesting you make that a criminal offence. What I am suggesting should be an offence is somebody who in effect by glorifying is inciting..."

Blair sidesteps the question by arguing that commonsense would prevail in practice, but the wide-ranging legislation still opens the door to possible prosecution for comments that could be taken to be glorifying terrorism. The old maxim of "one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter" sums up the problems of bringing a prosecution in this area.

"Virtually every country in Europe, following terrorist acts, has been toughening up their legislation."

True, but no European country is known to be contemplating incarcerating suspects for three months without trial.

"The fact that someone who comes into our country, and maybe seeks refuge here, the fact that we say, 'Look, if when you are here, you want to stay here, play by the rules, play fair, don't start inciting people to go and kill other innocent people in Britain.' "

This ignores the fact that the attacks of 7 July were made by homegrown terrorists; nor is there firm evidence they were radicalised by foreigners. There are probably sufficient laws on the statute book to bring prosecutions anyway in the example cited by Mr Blair.

"We have got to face something in our country. We have, in my judgement, not been tough or effective enough in sending a strong signal across the community that we are not going to tolerate people engaging in extremism or propagating it or inciting it."

A frank admission of past and present government failures in tackling the "Londonistan" phenomenon.

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