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The Most Illiberal (12/08/04)

Recently, the Labour and Conservative machines in the UK appear to be engaged in an all-out battle to see who can suggest the most illiberal things.

For a long time, David Blunkett has been talking up the successes of his means for detaining brown-skinned people without trial, despite not actually telling us what these successes are.

And just a few days ago, he announced his intent for further strengthenings of these extra-judicial powers. The message is clear: he is not content with our open, tried-and-tested judicial system; he needs also to be able to try and convict people without the public knowing, let alone being able to voice their unwanted opinions.

Michael Howard then said that

At every step of the way, our criminal justice system has become overwhelmed by political correctness and paperwork. Political correctness and paperwork are undermining our police. The police can only do their job properly if they are able to intervene, to confront...
To tell the truth, I have not become concerned by any trace of political correctness Howard has somehow managed to detect in the police force. Of course, far from wishing them to correct their institutional racism (and that's just what they say about themselves), Howard is concerned to prevent them from even studying these grave problems.

The pattern is simple, once the unnecessary verbiage has been stripped away from their speech. Blunkett suggests that the current programme for the oppression of poor Muslims will continue apace, so Howard proposes a method that will massively and thoroughly accelerate it.

The effect is very closely reminiscent of the United States. There almost the entire length and breadth of political discussion is restricted to how to do awful things the most efficiently: how to subjugate Iraq with the fewest American casualties, how to please large corporations, how to prevent workers and youths from organising themselves.

It is important that we cease our attempts to be like the USA in these regards. There are many fine ways and freedoms we could borrow from the USA: we could learn their open governmental practises of declassifying government documents, their better acceptance of immigrants, or indeed the values that have created their general prosperity. Given that, why do we only seem to be adopting their worse side: the poor standards of choice of their electoral democracy, their rapacious imperialism and their assaults on human rights?

The media do little to help: it is as if they need to pretend that somehow the entire spectrum of British politics is restricted to asking whether it is Tony Blair or Michael Howard is right. Occasional comments by Liberal Democrats or extremely senior church figures, those known revolutionaries, are reported occasionally, but not given all that much discussion as alternatives. Genuine alternative opinions - dissenting voices - are hardly ever reported so that there is a serious tone of comparison between what they say and the latest thing David Blunkett says.

But whatever the solution is, it does not consist in merely voting for one or other of these dangerous incompetents. Yet article after article and commentator after commentator complain about how grave a problem it is that the youth of today are not voting. In particular, I get irritated whenever anyone suggests that, if you don't vote, you have no right to complain.

It seems to me tantamount to suggesting that if someone broke into your house with a shotgun and asked you which of your family members he should shoot, you'd have no right to complain about it unless you could bring yourself to name one.

That is a doctrine, of course, that only a moron could subscribe to. Yet I fail to see why it is inequivalent to the suggestion that people ought to vote.

On the contrary, I think that people in general, and most young people in particular, have a very accurate view of the efficacy of voting for anyone at all. What is really necessary is to get them involved in greater things, rather than getting them involved in this circus.