THE Prime Minister was in tough-talking mood when he announced his raft of new anti-terrorism neasures on Friday. He looked angry and determined. Some of his anger has probably been stoked by the irrefutable evidence of the connection between an illegal war in Iraq and illegal terrorism in Britain. His determination stems from the belief that he has his finger on the pulse of the public mood in favour of strong counter-measures against terrorism. But the task of a leader, especially at a time of public anger and confusion, is not simply to reflect it with knee-jerk legislation; it is to look at the problem in the long term and to guard against measures that may sound good but are unlikely to produce either short-term or long-term solutions. The main effect of the package of measures put forward on Friday is likely to be a greatly increased workload for lawyers. Although the legislation itself has yet to be drafted, what are we to make of the proposed new offence of “justifying or glorifying terrorism” inside or outside the UK? It's worth recalling that the United Nations is at this very moment having great difficulty in finding an acceptable legal definition of terrorism for adoption by the General Assembly in September. Over the past decade in this newspaper I have written sympathetically about Palestinian “terrorists”. If I were to do so after Mr Blair has got his legislation on the statute book, would I in danger of arrest for “justifying” terrorism? Would it be an offence to “glorify” terrorism used in independence struggles by several Israeli leaders or by Nelson Mandela and his colleagues in South Africa? It was encouraging to hear Charles Kennedy yesterday sounding a warning note about his continued co-operation with the Government on anti-terrorist legislation. The measures listed by Mr Blair have an illiberal feel to them that is worryingly alien to British public life.


To be able to write a comment, you have to be registered and be logged in.

* Mandatory fields

Currently there are no comments.