Thursday, February 24, 2005

Gulags, Calumnies and Freedom

Brian Sedgemore, British Labour MP for Hackney South, made his final speech in the House of Commons, lambasting his own government for it's approach and policies. This speech was delivered in the course of a debate on the "Prevention of Terrorism Bill"(ref boingboing, too).
How on earth did a Labour Government get to the point of creating what was described in the House of Lords hearing as a "gulag" at Belmarsh? I remind my hon. Friends that a gulag is a black hole into which people are forcibly directed without hope of ever getting out. Despite savage criticisms by nine Law Lords in 250 paragraphs, all of which I have read and understood, about the creation of the gulag, I have heard not one word of apology from the Prime Minister or the Home Secretary. Worse, I have heard no word of apology from those Back Benchers who voted to establish the gulag.

Have we all, individually and collectively, no shame? I suppose that once one has shown contempt for liberty by voting against it in the Lobby, it becomes easier to do it a second time and after that, a third time. Thus even Members of Parliament who claim to believe in human rights vote to destroy them.

Many Members have gone nap on the matter. They voted: first, to abolish trial by jury in less serious cases; secondly, to abolish trial by jury in more serious cases; thirdly, to approve an unlawful war; fourthly, to create a gulag at Belmarsh; and fifthly, to lock up innocent people in their homes. It is truly terrifying to imagine what those Members of Parliament will vote for next.I can describe all that only as new Labour's descent into hell, which is not a place where I want to be.

I hope that—but doubt whether—ethical principles and liberal thought will triumph tonight over the lazy minds and disengaged consciences that make Labour's Whips Office look so ridiculous and our Parliament so unprincipled.

It is a foul calumny that we do today. Not since the Act of Settlement 1701 has Parliament usurped the powers of the judiciary and allowed the Executive to lock up people without trial in times of peace. May the Government be damned for it.
(Video recording of speech)

Mr Sedgewick's voting record

Some quotes by and about him:

Brian Sedgemore says:
On Ken Livingstone: "I don't see why London has to suffer because he hasn't fulfilled his ambition to be party leader."
On women Labour MPs: "Stepford Wives"

Others say:
The late Lord Onslow of Woking, Conservative peer: "A boil on the bottom of the Labour party - painful to live with, better not mentioned and best kept out of sight".

Previous Occupation: Civil servant
Career History:
1962-66: Principal, Ministry of Housing and Local Government
1966-74: Barrister
1970s: Freelancer for Private Eye
1979-83: TV journalist, Granada

Apropos of nothing, on this day in 1981, Prince Charles and Lady Diana announced their engagement

Note: Following Mr Sedgemore's speech, the following remarks were made by Mark Oaten, MP, Liberal Dem
I wish the hon. Member for Hackney, South and Shoreditch (Mr. Sedgemore) well in his retirement if that was indeed his last speech. Although I do not agree with all the points that he made, I admire his passion and commitment.

We are dealing with extraordinarily complex circumstances. It is easy for us to make the sort of speech that the hon. Gentleman delivered, draw on historical values and discuss the strong principles of justice that are changing. I do not intend to make such a speech. I shall leave that to others who are more eloquent and have a stronger sense of history than me. In the next 20 minutes or so, I shall treat the subject as a practical issue, ascertain whether we can find a way forward and bluntly analyse where there is agreement and disagreement.

Let me begin with agreement. There is probably cross-party agreement that none of us underestimates the issues that we are tackling in this post-9/11 era. None of us underestimates the serious terrorist problems. The Home Secretary's analysis of how matters have changed was spot on. The global implications that he outlined are especially important. They have made the world in which we live different—not only the type of terrorists but their ability to operate globally, with all the communications systems that exist, have changed enormously.

I think there is also agreement—cross-party agreement—on the fact that we have due respect for the intelligence services, and owe them a great debt of gratitude for what they have done over the past three or four years. We want, on a cross-party basis, to give them all the tools that they need in order to do their work. There is also agreement, I believe, that we must do something about the current situation. I am uneasy about what may happen in four or five weeks. If we have no legislation we will create a vacuum, and I do not think we want that. Something must be done to deal with the difficult circumstances.

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