42 days. Hmm. Six weeks. Try to remember where you were six weeks ago, and all the time between then and now. Then imagine being imprisoned without for that length of time without any evidence being presented against you, nor any official accusations made. Quite a thought experiment.
But really, I'm not interested in the moral-political argument over 42 days, at least not here. I'm more interested in what to do about the fact that the Commons vote went in favour of it. The figures stand at 315 to 306, the former made up of Labour minus 36 rebels, the DUP and Anne Widdecombe. Seriously, does it not make the Labour government slightly uneasy when the only Tory willing to support their plan is Anne fucking Widdecombe??
Ahem. The Labour Party (or the bit with any power) has abandoned any real notion of civil liberties. We all know this. And in fact, we didn't need 42 days to show us this. But this has got to provide some kind of a watershed, if just because it shows how far Labour can successfully push these things. Emboldened by this, what is next for Brown? 90 days? Or perhaps something more imaginative? Why not ride the wave by getting through all that ID Card legislation he's been itching for? Why not plant microchips in everyone so the government knows where they are at all times? Why not make it illegal to be offensive (with some exceptions for MPs, of course)? Clearly enough of the Parliamentary Labour Party are happy to be cowed by such demands, and Brown feels that he's got nothing to lose and everything to gain by actually making a stand on something.
Apparently Brown and his followers believe both that they could never be corrupted by such power, and also that it could never be abused by any of their successors. Because it's certainly going to be a lot harder to get rid of these civil rights abuses once they have settled into the background of history (the exception being if the Tories actually promise to repeal them in their next manifesto). I'm not convinced that they have any care for civil liberties as such, only in terms of how far their actions could lose them votes. So, it's time to start hurting them.
So: Labourites, leave the god damned Party. If by some miracle it turns around then you can rejoin, but don't let them string you along by the name alone. I know that they've got the trade unions, but the only way that they are going to finally dislodge themselves from the rotting Party structure is if the membership disintegrates. Leave the Party and campaign to get the unions to do the same. Holding on and hoping that something's going to happen is not enough. Stop funding this nonesense with your subscription fee.
Members of other political parties, start asking yourselves whether your party represents you in anything other than name. If you're a Lib Dem, ask yourself if you would support a 'Conservative Party' with the principles your party puts into action, and vice versa. If you find your party wanting, fucking leave it.
*This is not to say don't vote*. I'm not at all advocating apathy. But nuance your vote a bit. If you still think that Labour is better than the Tories (and that's a reasonable viewpoint) then by all means, stop the Tory getting into your seat. But if it's between Labour and Lib Dem / Green, stop thinking about party loyalty and start thinking about what Labour have actually done. For anyone who cares about civil liberties, the Labour Party should now be *toxic*. Unless you've got one of the good ones (probably among the 36) then you should require a damn good reason (or awful opposition in the area) in order to vote for them. For me, in a hypothetical match up between Jacqui Smith and David Davies, I can't even say how I would vote now.
Vote your convictions, not your party! Show Labour (and the other parties) that they don't get your vote by name alone, and certainly not your membership. I can only hope that either the parties will eventually turn themselves around or alternatives will arise, and in either case there needs to be a critical mass of politically aware, frustrated voters refusing to align themselves with any particular party. Once those voters are crying out for a party with some principles which they can support, one (or more) will arise one way or another. The form it will take is far from clear: Does it make sense for the welfarist left and the communist left to remain in a single party? Does it make sense for libertarians and reactionary conservatives to remain in a single party? The fault lines already mean that the current party set up is hilariously inadequate. Changes are needed, and they are just not going to happen unless we reject the situation as it now appears.
If this post reflects my frustration, I make no apologies. I'm a left liberal and proud of it, and I'm not going to let any party which does not serve my values manipulate me into voting for or supporting them any more.