Monday, November 14, 2005

Grossly unconstitutional

It turns out that civil liberties aren't the only thing being trampled in Tony Blair's zeal to pass draconian new anti-terrorism legislation: his government is also trampling on British constitutional convention by involving the police in politics:

Before the vote, chief constables were asked by Charles Clarke, the Home Secretary, to lobby individual MPs in an effort to win backing for the controversial detention plans. However, it has emerged that top-ranking officers made vehement objections to the police being used to act as "political messengers" for the Government.

And so they should have done. It is quite improper for any public servant to be asked to lobby Parliament on behalf of the government - they are supposed to be politically neutral servants, not advocates for the government of the day. And that especially applies to the police; the only worse people they could have asked to act as their messengers would be the intelligence services or the military.


"America’s attempts to produce an Arab democracy after the First World War, one giant modern Arab state from the Turkish border to the Atlantic coast of Morocco. US soldiers and diplomats tried to bring this about in one brief, shining moment of American history in the Middle East. Alas, President Woodrow Wilson died; America became isolationist, and the British and French victors chopped up the Middle East for their own ends and produced the tragedy with which we are confronted today."

Fascinating. I didn't know that one.

Posted by Anonymous : 11/14/2005 08:53:00 AM

I think this convention has been abandoned to an even larger extent in NZ.

We have public bodies (such as the LTSA, or the Human Rights Commission) who have advocacy as a specific output.

This is (currently) advocacy for things like road safety and human rights, which one might think uncontroversial, but the line has been very much crossed, and should, IMHO, be uncrossed.

Posted by Rich : 11/14/2005 09:43:00 AM

Rich: And OTOH, that's a specific output decided by Parliament, and the bodies are independent of the government-of-the-day (especially the HRC). This is a case where public servants (and the police, of all people, who are next to the military in having to be seen to be politically neutral) are sent in to bat by the government of the day for its own political advantage, with it decidedly not being part of their outputs as decided by Parliament.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 11/14/2005 09:53:00 AM