By Ray Fleming
I would give anything to be a fly on the wall of the living quarters of Mr and Mrs Blair when Cherie returns from her visit to Malaysia. This visit was controversial from the start because of uncertainty over its financial arrangements but no one could have imagined that the controversy would extend to a speech in which Mrs Blair (aka Cherie Booth for professional purposes) would comment on the importance of the judiciary in safeguarding human rights in a time of terrorism. Nor could it have been anticipated that Mrs Blair would make her remarks in Kuala Lumpur at almost the same time that in London her husband was saying something rather different. Cherie Blair may be a loose cannon, but she is a highly respected lawyer and when she speaks on legal matters she is entitled to be heard. What she said was this: “It is all too easy for us to respond to terror in a way which undermines commitment to our most deeply held values and convictions and which cheapens our right to call ourselves a civilised nation. The courts should be guardians of the weakest, poorest and most marginalised members of society against the hurly-burly of majoritarian politics.” And she said that a good example of this principle in action was the decision by the UK's highest court, the House of Lords law lords, that the UK's policy of holding foreign terrorist suspects indefinitely without charge broke human rights laws. What did Mr Blair say at his press conference on Tuesday? He attacked personally one of the Law Lords, Lord Hoffman, who supported the decision against indefinite detention which Mrs Blair specifically endorsed, and he issued a general warning to the judges that he hoped “recent events have created a situation where people understand that it is important that we do protect ourselves. Laws that are important and necessary should be passed and then upheld.” That is fighting talk against the rule of law. I think that Mr Howard and Mr Kennedy should extract themselves from their meetings with Mr Blair on anti-terrorist legislation before they find they are out of their depth.


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