Saturday, September 30, 2006

John Reid: the most dangerous man in Britain

This is the full text of John Reid's speech to the Labour Party Conference. In it, Reid states unequivocally that he does not believe that the State should be subject to law.
And let's be clear. It cannot be right that the rights of an individual suspected terrorist be placed above the rights, life and limb of the British people. It's wrong. Full stop. No ifs. No buts. It's just plain wrong.
This appears to me to mean that, once the executive decides you are a suspected terrorist, you become an unperson and have no recourse against it. Let's be clear in our turn. Far more important than democracy itself is the restriction of power. This is the central insight of all civilised polities. It is a principle that is besieged from every quarter, but specifically among the states that partake of the original.

How could it happen that Britain, the United States, and some Commonwealth countries - the states that share the great constitutional tradition of 1215 - have become the world leaders in returning to government by whim? It's telling that there is no good way to express this particular feature of the last few years in English. German has the fine word Willk├╝r, which connotes both whim but also a sort of contemptuous wielding of power, Willk├╝rherrschaft. And that's what the combination of Blair's aspiration for a "command premiership" that would be "Bonapartist" rather than "feudal" with the war and the aggrandisement of the security bureaucrats has delivered. "Despotic government" was a term used by British imperial civil servants to differentiate those colonies that simply had a governor from those who had "representative government", with an assembly of some sort, or "responsible government" where the government answered to it. But they expected that the governor would obey the law.

In fact, there is a better description for Reid. The word tyranny originally implied the usurpation of legitimate power. By that definition, Reid is a practising tyrant. This graph scares the shit out of me.


Chris Stiles said...

Blair as Pompey?

Justin said...

I hate to say I told you so, Alex.

A Reid/Blears dream ticket and it'd be time to book that flight to New Zealand.

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