The Sketch: The stench of offal is the only consolation

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The Independent Online

It was awful, rendered in Helena Kennedy's lovely, lilting Miss Jean Brodie voice as "offal", but it comes to the same. She quoted Martin Luther King to ask the Lords to do something that was neither safe nor politic nor popular. You'd need a house of hereditary peers to do that.

It was awful, rendered in Helena Kennedy's lovely, lilting Miss Jean Brodie voice as "offal", but it comes to the same. She quoted Martin Luther King to ask the Lords to do something that was neither safe nor politic nor popular. You'd need a house of hereditary peers to do that.

Many lords complained plangently, elegiacally, indignantly, that there wasn't time to debate properly the passing of our constitutional liberties. Lord Ackner, one of the heroes of this resistance, wondered if he might voice his unhappiness at the undue emphasis on speed, because it was leading to Parliament compromising "our most serious and lasting values".

It made me want to give him a good kick in the pants. A real beauty to lift him off his heels. He's very old so he couldn't have dodged. His lament gave particular expression to Baroness Kennedy of The Shaw's generic description of offal. That is, he was talking tripe.

The Lords don't have to collaborate in the Government's project to produce a Bill by this evening. A handsome majority of the learned and noble old charabancs think they're being pressed into a rushed and squalid business, so why don't they stop moaning and vote for themselves another week of debate? Perhaps there was a reason, but knowing it would only make it worse.

Reasons to be cheerful, though: Let's carry on carrying on. The level of proof required has been upgraded from "reasonable grounds". That's the lowest level our system accepts and is what the Government wanted to use in its war on terror. If your eyes are too close together - that's reasonable grounds for indefinite detention, if you've got the right judge.

Although, on reflection, every judge will be the right judge when it comes to ratifying control orders. It won't really matter what they think because they don't have to do any judging, as things stand. At no point did I discern the idea that a judge might throw out the Home Secretary's request for an order.

They almost certainly won't be able to. As one of the lords asked: when the judge considers endorsing the Home Secretary's decision, should he or she be able to look at the merits of the case?

Judge for yourself what state we have drifted into when this question has to be considered in the House of Lords. Should judges be able to consider the facts in order to come to a judgment?

Charlie Falconer got kicked around the room, and that was worth the price of admission. He bounces pretty well. But then he's inflated very high. A Liberal peer made a very solid point about judicial review and Lord Falconer of Thoroton - not quite throwing up - said clearly his intention hadn't been met and that he would introduce an amendment to make good the intention. Do what?

Are words failing you? They are me, too. We've got offal, at least.

simoncarr75@hotmail.com

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