Friday, June 15, 2007

Goats are aware of their rights

Today's House Points column from the pages of Liberal Democrat News.

Goats or virgins

The practice of offering a sacrifice to placate angry gods or avert natural disaster is deeply ingrained in the human psyche. Back in the Middle Ages, if a town was threatened by a dragon the authorities would leave a goat or a virgin outside the walls to keep it sweet.

It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that this sort of magical thinking accounts for the willingness of so many Labour back-benchers to give up our historic liberties in the face of terrorism.

Some ministers, it is true, never liked those liberties in the first place. John Reid was happy to be a member of the Communist Party years after Soviet tanks had rolled into Hungary and Czechoslovakia and all the decent people had left it.

But the average Labour back-bencher seems to reason that if we give up something we value, they reason, then we shall be safe. These days, however, goats are aware of their rights and it is harder to find a virgin, so they have to find something else to sacrifice when they feel threatened. And they give up our civil liberties instead.

Take Anne Snelgrove - and in all honesty Labour back-benchers to not come much more average. She has been MP for Swindon South for two years now, but the only time she has come to public notice outside Wiltshire was when Private Eye awarded her the Order of the Brown Nose after she told the House "there is a great deal of pride in … the country about the role that the Deputy Prime Minister has played".

On Monday she was equally obsequious. John Reid was under fire for his plans to extend the time suspects can be detained without charge. Then Snelgrove got up to ask her question.

Some of her constituents, she said, are concerned about travelling to London and other cities because they are afraid of terrorist attacks. What about their rights? Have they been consulted?

It’s true there are a lot of timid people in the country, and maybe they deserve some representation in Parliament. But, faced with these exaggerated fears, shouldn’t an MP be calming them?

You fear Snelgrove really does believe that sacrificing what we cherish most about our society will keep the dragons away.

1 comment:

Barry Stocker said...

Let's be fair on Communists who stayed in the British Party after 1968. I've no idea what position Reid individually had, but the CPGB condemned the invasion so 'decent people' did stay. Or so I like to think so since I was a member from 82 to 89. At that time the CPGB was in a constant state of conflict between 'Eurocommunists' who opposed Soviet style socialism, and 'Tankies' who supported the invasion of Czechoslovakia' and regarded the USSR as the model society. I used tıo find I had a lot in common with 'Radicals' in the Liberals/Lib Dems. In 90 I converted to Liberalism of a kind now known as 'Orange Book', and found myself disagreeing more with my old Radical friends than when I was in the CP. It's something of a slur to assume all Communists were USSR groupies. The CP opposed the counter-Solidarity coup in Poland and the the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. the most radical 'Euros' published Marxism Today which pushed for a complete departure from not just Stalinnism but all culturally conservative statist forms of leftism.