The Sketch: Is it function-creep or the way creeps function?

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The Independent Online

Jeremy Corbyn pointed out that under Blunkett's law, a politician is now allowed to imprison people. Hadn't we crossed a dangerous Rubicon, he asked, when politicians can direct the judicial process from the comfort of their office?

Jeremy Corbyn pointed out that under Blunkett's law, a politician is now allowed to imprison people. Hadn't we crossed a dangerous Rubicon, he asked, when politicians can direct the judicial process from the comfort of their office?

There's something about Mr Corbyn that makes you want to contradict him. He's got a clever beard, perhaps. And there's the green jacket which is unforgivable. But you can't argue with his particular point. You look at the outgoing home secretary and ask yourself whether such a man should have the arbitrary power to bang people up in prison without trial, charge or release date.

You look at a whining, self-pitying, paranoid, tone-deaf, emotionally incontinent and quite unnecessarily rude politician - and ask in what way is he a suitable substitute for judge and jury and the best part of a thousand years of constitutional precedent? He's gone, as we know, but no doubt he'll be back.

The new Home Secretary rose like a vertical blimp for his first day at work. Charles Clarke is a big man, too big in many ways. It's just as well there are double doors to the chamber. But he is a more likeable character than his predecessor - we must be wary of him. The charming ones are the most dangerous.

ID cards. Right in principle, right in practice, Mr Clarke has always wanted them. They're going to reduce forced prostitution, abolish slave labour and work as video rental cards. And what won't they do in the war against terror? God, it's depressing.

Leaving aside the rights and wrongs, the pros and cons, of these cards we must never forget the political class has, in the war on terror, found what it's been looking for. A perpetual enemy. The war against it can never be won, the enemy can never be caught and the threat can be invoked, inflated or put away in a box any time the Government finds convenient. It can even justify ID cards.

Bill Cash, brandishing George Orwell's 1984, said the cards will fundamentally change the relationship between the citizen and the state. "I have no sympathy with this thin end of the wedge argument," Mr Clarke declared. "It has no substance." But how does he know? If you wanted a compulsory ID card to be carried everywhere with your previous addresses, medical history, income details, tax records and whether you'd slept with the publisher of The Spectator on it, this is how you'd start.

Yes, it's an incremental process, as one of the Tories said. Initially voluntary, then ever-increasing compulsion. They call it "function-creep".

"The Government is no longer to be trusted with anything so serious," John Gummer told us. It's not just the Government we shouldn't trust, it's the whole creepy lot of them.

As the Prime Minister said, Labour was on the other side of the argument when it was in opposition. So why would we believe what they say now?

simoncarr75@hotmail.com

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