The Sketch: Doing it for the very best of reasons – sheer loathing

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The Independent Online

Politics is... this could be a series of pocket cartoons, but I couldn't find pockets big enough. Politics is... when your actions are driven more by hatred of your enemies than love of your friends. It's more of a strip, perhaps.

My friend Willie produced the first inkling of this idea 26 years ago. He said: "When the Argies sunk the Sheffield my first thought was, 'Good, that'll teach her!' "He wasn't talking about the ship, obviously.

We the weakest get caught in such feelings. Gordon Brown didn't abolish the 10p band to help the low-paid, he did it to scupper the Tories. Ditto inheritance tax. Ditto detention for 42 days. Gordon was so determined to get the Conservatives "on the wrong side of the argument" he brought the Bill back when he didn't have to, then compromised it so thoroughly it lost its most obvious supporters.

The issue became so politicised that one side scoffed at the idea that young self-dramatising psychos were capable of terror plots, and the other side secretly hoped a terrorist would be let out early and bring down a jet. "There! See what you've done?"

To summarise her position, the Home Secretary appeared in front of the Human Rights Committee. The chairman, Andrew Dismore, is on the right side, but he's so smug it's hard to agree with anything he says.

The Home Secretary got stick for describing the anti-extension lot as "hoping for the best" and "taking security lightly". Richard Shepherd was literally gargling with indignation, so Jacqui came across as a calm, collected, and very senior psychiatric nurse.

Others stressed respect for her position and apprehension of the seriousness of the threat – so they managed to inflict more damage. The charge stuck that her party political jabs had made consensus impossible. "I'm sorry if I've ruffled any feathers," she said in her psychiatric way, "but my concern is the safety of..." (colour in the rest as you like).

For someone who won't answer hypothetical questions her argument is based on a hypothetical situation (at some point it is likely such an extension will be necessary). But if we are to have precautionary legislation why not have a law that can just suspend all other laws and allow ministers to do anything they want?

We've already got that law, it's the Civil Contingencies Act. But using it doesn't put the opposition on the wrong side of the argument.

simoncarr@sketch.sc

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