This week sees the vote on 42 day detention without trial. The Prime Minister has managed to unite the Labour left, the Liberal Democrats, the Welsh and Scots Nationalists and the Conservatives against him. The DUP are still making up their minds. The PM thinks this is a sign that he is both tough and right. Polls show the British people have no objections to locking up possible terrorists before due process, but, if you asked them whether the government should have the power to lock up whoever it likes for 42 days whilst it goes on a fishing expedition for evidence of a crime, there might be a different answer. Brown clearly wants to be able to make Parliament vote for an extension of the detention limits to show he can do something Blair failed to do. It is pathetic gesture politics. If he wins we will then have to put up with days of spin. telling us he is strong, brave, consistent and on the side of the people. If he loses it is a further nail in the political coffin his party and policies are making for him.
On the other side of the Irish Sea an even more important vote is taking place. The latest opinion polls put the two sides neck and neck, after months in which the polls and the pundits assumed an easy victory for supporters of the EU Constitutional Treaty. Cynics say that even if the Irish vote “No” to the EU plan it makes no difference. The EU will carry on regardless, and in due course maybe Ireland will be required to vote again to come up with the answer the Eurolords demand. Listening to Peter Sutherland on the radio reminded me of the vacuity and laziness of the pro EU case. Sutherland just assumes that all enlightened people must want to “share sovereignty”, and will see the inevitability of the Union. He made no attempt to explain why it would make voters’ lives better. He was not asked by incompetent BBC journalists how you can “share” sovereignty, or how far he wished the Euro superstate to go – as so often he was just allowed to get away with a Euro rant. The big extension of powers of the new Treaty, and the remarkable similarity of the Treaty to the old Constitution rejected by voters in France and Holland did not trouble Sutherland or his interviewer.
There is a chance that in the current mood of displeasure with all established governments, because of the poor performance of many economies, the Irish voters will turn out and defeat the Constitution. If they do we must then join them in demanding proper consideration of the implications. Everytime so far the Constitution has been put to electors in a referendum it has been rejected. Surely all those of us who value and support democracy can demand that on this occasion the EU has to understand the meaning of “No”. If Ireland votes “No” the implementation of the Constitutional Treaty must stop, and the provocative advances to a European army which the Irish will be especially worried about should be reversed. Either way, we need to demand the right for UK people to have their say – for we doubtless would say “No” given the chance.