The Sketch: Charles, the terrier of terror, goes barking

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The Independent Online

The situation as Peter Lilley put it is this: The government that took a country to war on the basis of false intelligence is now going to use the same quality of intelligence to lock up its citizens without trial. The measure is necessary because the law lords declared the practice of locking up foreigners to be discriminatory.

The situation as Peter Lilley put it is this: The government that took a country to war on the basis of false intelligence is now going to use the same quality of intelligence to lock up its citizens without trial. The measure is necessary because the law lords declared the practice of locking up foreigners to be discriminatory.

To remove this vile taint of discrimination, New Labour is going to lock up British citizens as well. Mr Lilley had a technical objection to the proposal: "It is barking mad."

Charles Clarke was at his most unanswerable: "Bow wow," he began. "Ruff ruff," he went on. He concluded: "Yap, yap, yap."

Efforts to discipline the Home Secretary were unsuccessful. He was whacked in one corner of the House but he merely went and made a mess in another corner. Will the carpets ever be clean again? Bad Home Secretary! Bad, sir!

The blows came thick and fast. David Davis pointed out the state of emergency could hardly be compared to the Second World War, and yet even then spies were tried in a court under due process. (Did I mention that these interned Britons wouldn't be told the evidence against them?)

Clare Short said it wasn't the Iraq intelligence that was flawed, it was the uses to which the government put it that were corrupt. Richard Shepherd quoted Tony Blair as the shadow home secretary getting tearful about the constitutional liberties of the British. Douglas Hogg cited Peter Hain's arrest on trumped-up charges of robbery in 1975. Ken Clarke quoted the Home Secretary's testimony to show there was no national emergency, and that the level of terrorist threat had been unchanged for the past 12 months (so why this rush to get the Bill through?)

Claire Ward, normally something of a government lap dog herself, asked the penetrating question: What about the others in the house where the house arrest is ordered? Talk of sending terrorists back to live with their parents - it might be good for the terrorist, but won't someone think of the poor old fool who's paying the household bills? I speak as a poor old fool myself.

"Any means possible to defend our national life", the Home Secretary kept saying. But the fact is, our national life is not under threat from suicide bombers. There's just too much of it. Terrorists could blow up part of the Palace of Westminster and part of the government (goodness knows, they have before) and our national life would sail on much as it does now.

"My prime responsibility is to protect the nation's security. It is in many ways our paramount task," Mr Clarke said. We can only hope that's a convenient fib to get him out of a hole. If he thinks he's telling the truth then our national life is under very severe threat indeed.

Simoncarr75@hotmail.com

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