The Sketch: Stockpiling legislation like cans of fish

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The Independent Online

One theory has it that Labour is reverting to type as the natural party of opposition. Its coalition has collapsed, funding has dried up; they're back to the core vote of men with whippets. Gordon is set to be neither Eden nor Major. He will go down as the Iain Duncan Smith of leaders, but lacking that famous Tory's common touch.

Will we look back in wonderment at the things now taken for granted? The "Acceptable Behaviour Contract", for instance – how will history treat that? And the Crime Reduction Bill they talked about yesterday? Will it suddenly be illegal not to reduce crime?

Remember, too, they are putting out a National Play Strategy to define how primary school children should use their "free time". As David Howarth observed, these aren't laws, they are instructions.

Jacqui Smith introduced the popular Home Office questions. There must have been two dozen MPs there. Diane Abbott turned up wearing rock star sunglasses. A "Midlands housewife" Ms Abbott had called her, stockpiling legislation like cans of fish. I wouldn't dare put it like that but rock stars can say what they like.

This can of fish, the 42 days' detention without charge, is coming up for debate tomorrow. People say the odds are swinging away from Gordon again.

David Davis asked about the offence created in 2000 of witholding an encryption key from police investigating your hard drive. Encryption was a key argument in Gordon's case for six weeks' detention, but why had no one been convicted? Smith said it had only been passed into law two years ago. The brain span. The jaw juddered. Why? Five years dormant? And after 9/11? Eight charged and no convictions?

"Is he completely confident that no police investigation would never need to hold someone for more than 28 days?" Smith asked. But who can be confident police mightn't need 90 days? Why isn't she stockpiling 120 days?

No, this precautionary principle, this legislative stockpile, this reserve power legislation – whatever euphemism you want to use for the last days of desperation – is what happens when governments start to implode.

simoncarr@sketch.sc

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