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Monday, November 20, 2006 

90 daze.

Remember, remember the Scum of November (2005).

Just over a year ago, Blair was facing down the possibility of a huge rebellion, and even defeat, on his plans to introduce 90 days detention without charge for terrorist suspects. He would lose the vote emphatically, but before then he put up another one of his fights to the death. Among the arguments he used was the following:
"If we are forced to compromise, it will be a compromise with the nation's security."

"We do not want to compromise on the 90 days at all," he said. "It is not the right
thing for the country. Be under no doubt about that at all."

12 months on, and we're facing the possibility of 90 days being reintroduced. We're told again by "Sir" Ian Blair that 90 days is needed. The MI5 chief Eliza Manningham-Buller didn't actually call for it, but there's little doubt that her speech was part of a campaign, even if it's a covert one, for the legislation. Gordon Brown and Tony Blair are both saying it's necessary. The Sun, the chief cheerleader for 90 days last year, which called the MPs' who last year voted against "traitors", said that it should be Blair's first action on returning from holiday in August.

Well, that's all academic now. Lord Goldsmith, speaking in a media briefing, said that he has seen no evidence to justify 90 days. His reasons for doing so ought to be examined. He has in the last few weeks come in heavily for criticism over his apparent refusal to stand aside from having a role as attorney general in the possible prosecution of those alleged to have broken the law over the loans for peerages scandal. The same people angered over this just also happen to be those who are opposed to the reintroduction of what amounts to internment.

There seems little other reason why he would have made his views perfectly clear over the matter. Goldsmith has to at least show signs of independence, even though he is directly appointed by the prime minister. His spinelessness showed through over the war in Iraq; his previously extended, nuanced arguments for why war would be illegal without a second resolution suddenly charged into a single page of why it would be legal under the previous resolutions when the army demanded that Blair make clear that the attack would be permissible under international law. Goldsmith's briefing seems to have been a strategy to buy off some of the opprobrium likely to head his way if he remains steadfast in his having the final say over what could be the prosecution of Blair himself, however unlikely that seems.

Unfortunately for Blair, it means that he's either a liar, a fool, a knave or all three. Blair made clear that he found the case made for 90 days last year "compelling", and his resolve doesn't appear to have changed. Either he's so desperately in bed with "Sir" Ian Blair that he'll listen to his most ridiculous ideas, and if he supports the banning of flag burning then he almost certainly is; or he's playing politics with the terrorist threat, attempting to make the opposition look indecisive and more interested in boring old habeas corpus than in protecting the public from suicide bombers, even if it means his government's defeat.

Whichever the answer, it's worth seeing what the Sun made of Goldsmith's comments. Last year, in their determination to support Blair they used the photograph of John Tulloch, the man horrifically burned by the 7/7 bombings to illustrate why 90 days should be supported. That Tulloch oppposed 90 days and that they hadn't bothered to actually ask his permission to use his image didn't matter; the complaints made to the toothless PCC were rejected.

To the Sun's search engine then:

Hmm, nothing for "Lord Goldsmith". That's odd. Let's try "attorney general":

Well, how very strange. I just can't imagine why the Sun wouldn't report the good news that 90 days detention without charge isn't needed after all.

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