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Thursday, September 27, 2007 

The same old shit, rehashed, reheated and served up for all to devour.

If this week's Labour conference was meant to impress upon us how wonderfully different, changed and confident the government is and how they most certainly deserve to be re-elected, then they've done the equivalent of Darren Murphy and fell flat on their faces. From Brown's dirge on Monday to Miliband's miserable monotony on Tuesday, this is a government not just lacking in new ideas, but just as prepared to clamp down on dissension as the old one was. With the spineless unions acquiescing and deciding that those embarrassing critical motions only brought trouble, the votes have disappeared and so has the passion with it. Blair hasn't just been airbrushed out of the picture as so many others have noted, all his policies have been either been getting a kicking even though they haven't been changed or are even being prepared for change, while the rest have been completely ignored, meaning Iraq and Afghanistan have hardly been mentioned, while the "rules of the gaming are changing" turning point has been rubbished even though the ministers have no intentions of actually going back on what came directly from that speech.

According to Tony McNulty then, the rules of the game haven't changed. One would assume from that that it would mean the end of trying to deport "terrorist suspects" back to countries where torture is endemic, articles of understanding or not, the admittance that we have been involved up to the neck in "extraordinary rendition", despite constant laughable denials, and that such flights will never be used nor allowed to land here again, the instant repealing of the ban on unauthorised protests within 1km of parliament, the declaration that 28 days detention without charge is plenty of time for the police to build a case against "terrorist suspects" and that intercept evidence ought to be made admissible, as long as a thorough review gives the OK. As so often with this government, they can when they think it's useful sweet talk their nominal opponents, even Shami Chakrabati, who supposedly called McNulty's rhetoric "music to my ears". Too bad then that Jacqui Smith today yet again brought up the phantom of "seek[ing] consensus on new measures to counter the threat of terrorism", which in other words means they're going to try to ram through a doubling of the time limit like they've always said they would.

Such double-speak seems to have been the order of the day. Jack Straw's sudden decision to review the laws regarding "have-a-go-heroes" is a classic of the gesture politics genre, broadly comparable to the reviewing last year of whether a "Megan's Law" could be introduced here, to which the predictable answer was no. Prosecutions over someone defending themselves, especially in their own home or place of work are incredibly rare because the law already covers acts that are proportionate and reasonable, which quite rightly doesn't cover shooting burglars that are running away in the back. His talking up of his own experiences in stopping crime, which I'm pretty sure every single one of us have at least one, seems to be an attempt to conjure up a tough man image which he never had while Home Secretary before and isn't going to gain now. Besides, what better way to get the Mail and Scum interested than tell them that they can do whatever the hell they like to an intruder or mugger? It'll come to nothing, but it might help in the short term.

The same logic seems to be behind Jacqui Smith's mentioning of zero tolerance, which was all the rage about a month ago in the tabloids when Rhys Jones' murder predictably caused a session of why-oh-whying and how cracking down on youths' hanging around on corners and spitting on the street will naturally mean that they'll be too scared to shoot one another. She drops in a reference on drug treatment to make it slightly more amenable to the wet liberals like my good self, but it all sounds so laughable when the prisons are full of those unable to get on those programmes, as a result wasting away in cells, stuck in the recidivist cycle. For any sort of zero tolerance to be implemented, prison places would have to vastly extended even further than already proposed, itself unlikely to backed up with the necessary cash from the Treasury, not to mention the overcrowding chaos which is already exacerbating re-offending. Even more draconian sentencing for minor offences will only make the situation worse. Additionally, at a time when we learn that there are over 800,000 DNA profiles from children aged between 10 and 17 on the database, we can only imagine how the rolling out of "mobile fingerprinting devices" will quickly even further extend the database with the data of those who are never actually charged. Smith ought to know better than to ask "what sort of politics is it to incite fear and alarm?" of the Tories, because after all, that's been Labour's job for the last 10 years.

The strength to change Britain, the tagline of this soporific conference, seems to involve all the effort of going to the microwave and heating up a takeaway left over from the night before, drunkenly forgotten about. The reheating of old, forgotten or rightly discarded policies for the on message comrades might be enough, but for the rest of us it's just a reminder of a party that still doesn't know where it wants to stand and is terrified of being denounced for choosing.

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Hey Septicisle,

I noticed not many people ever comment on your posts, so just thought I'd say "hi" and that I regularly read your blog and nearly always agree with what you have to say (which is probably why I don't feel the need to post a response).

So anyway, just wanted to say "Keep up the good work" and that I couldn't agree more with this piece.

Cheers,

~Dave

Thank you. I don't worry about it, so you certainly shouldn't either.

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