The Sketch: In Blair's Caligula-style state we'll all end up in jail

John Denham started it, and now it's over bar the shouting. Big breath and all together.

Labour's Bob Marris looked at the drafting of the Terror Bill and applied the concept of criminal glorification to a recent event: a film celebrating the life of Michael Collins, the patriot (maniac), freedom fighter (terrorist), and celebrity (celebrity). If you remember, Collins advocated the use of violence. Certain suggestible souls in an Irish audience would "likely" be encouraged to "emulate" this heroic figure.

Mr Marris said that the distribution company, under this Bill, must become a proscribed organisation and its directors go to jail for seven years. The minister, popular Paul Goggins, kept saying "in existing circumstances" as if this justified his clause; as if the past had no power to touch the present.

As the Irish troubles can be traced back to the disputed ownership of a goat in the 8th century, this is a fanciful position.

"This is a very anti-history Bill," Richard Shepherd observed. The progress to liberal democracy is invariably violent. "The Home Secre- tary thinks progress is ineluctable. But we can regress. Maybe we are seeing this in Central Asia now." Not for the first time, Charles Clarke's Panglossian position on democracy looks childish.

The cases of the Sandinistas, Kurdistan and the Karen National Army in Burma were all cited as recent or real-time conflicts whose British supporters may be criminal- ised and sent to prison for up to seven years.

Mr Marris said he would not be able to give 25p to the Karens (an act preparatory to terrorism) without making himself liable to this seven-year prison sentence.

Bill Cash remarked on the pupils from his school; "30 martyrs hung, drawn and quartered", he told us (corporal punishment, I noted, had eased a little by my day). There were plans in hand to "glorify" these martyrs today. If the minister thought the idea of martyrdom is merely medieval, he has learnt nothing useful from his university and deserves to be recalled to ornament a course in medieval history.

Bob Marshall-Andrews inclines to the Caligula theory of the Blair government; he has taken to doing things (like making his horse a consul) merely to show he can. I will only believe in the Prime Minister's madness if Hazel Blears is promoted to the Cabinet. The Prime Minister can commission an ice palace at Karnak and name Ash Wednesday after his aunt and criminalise cats and that's all fine by me. But Hazel Blears in the Cabinet would be... unbearable. But then we won't be in a position to care. We'll all be in prison for seven years (the Religious and Political Hatred Act 2007, H. Blears).

simoncarr75@hotmail.com

Comments