Thursday, November 16, 2006

A failed state

At least New Labour is consistent. Its new legislative programme focuses on strengthening the state’s repressive powers and kow-tows to big business when it comes to the question of the day, climate change. The proposals are so far to the right politically that many of them leave the Tories stranded. Just look at the Blair government’s plans: more curbs on jury trials, a "rebalancing" of the criminal justice system to diminish defendants’ rights; enforced treatment for the mentally ill even if they have not committed a crime; more penalties for "anti-social behaviour", including eviction; a fifth anti-immigration bill and new so-called anti-terror legislation, with the possibility of 90-day detention without trial making a reappearance. Shami Chakrabarti, the director of civil rights group Liberty, was right to say: "Tough talk brings rough justice. Rough justice if you're evicted because your big brother's been in trouble, rough justice when you're accused of serious crime and denied a jury trial, rough justice when migrants are always equated with crime."

As for the climate bill, this is simply a gesture and won’t make a jot of difference to the global warming crisis. New Labour has had CO2 targets before – and ignored them. UK carbon emissions are actually higher now than they were when New Labour came to power in 1997. So setting another general target is simply pathetic. As the Liberal Democrat environment spokesman Chris Huhne noted: "We need a Government that proposes solutions, not just targets. If targets alone solved problems, this would be the best-governed country in the world." The leaders of big business were happy, of course, seeing as they will be left to go on polluting the atmosphere. Richard Lambert, director-general of the Confederation of British Industry, said the policy framework should "not undermine competitiveness" and that the government was "right to reject the case for annual targets which would be unworkable". All this leave us with a malign political system that is incapable of anything other than deploying a big fist against groups in society in order to curry favour with the right-wing voters. More laws against crime will produce more criminals and more crowded jails. More anti-terror laws will further demonise the Muslim community and do nothing to tackle the sources of terrorism. The state is assuming more and more powers while failing abjectly to deal with the climate crisis because big business wants to be left alone. Add in the cash-for-honours scandal that is running through the major parties and you could be forgiven for concluding that the British state is increasingly corrupt and is neither democratic, representative or capable of delivering on the issues of the day. You could even say it was a failed state.

Paul Feldman, communications editor

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Listening to the Queen read the speech yesterday, 'My government this, my government that..' it was quite simple to hear the priorities for this administration. Tough on terror first, crime second, climate change third. Climate change only coming third because of pressure applied from the Conservatives, Liberals and the people.
It seems bizarre that David Cameron is now the spokesman of the left in the Commons - a public school boy, (probably just pr) even if his party isn't.
What is the point of Tony Blair in his last few months in office? Or Gordon Brown? Yesterday's men, still leading the country. The country has changed, becoming ever more liberal, ever more green in idealogy. These are interesting times. People must stand up and be counted, as we are going to have to speak on climate change and certainly against I.D. cards and other draconian ideas presented by dead, grey egotistical men who think they have power and love it. Meanwhile it is business as usual for the corporations. Destroying our world and our quality of life.