Class War in the Commons?
After talking about this the other day with students involved in the Babar Ahmed must stay campaign. The fact that it takes 3 bankers (no euphemism intended) getting extradited to make this a public issue is a disgrace. I can’t confirm this but apparently this is the first emergency parliamentary session of this sort not to do with declaring war. Anyway here is
“The country will not have missed the fact that Ministers, who a couple of weeks ago were wrapping themselves in the flag, are, on this occasion, wrapping themselves in quite a different flag—a point to which I shall come. The class warrior clothes no longer fit Ministers and they should not attempt to adopt them.
Equally hard to take was the contribution from one Conservative Member of Parliament—not others—who said that he had supported the unequal treaty because he thought that it was all about terrorists. He did not know that bankers, rich people, upper-class people, and white people might be caught up in this unequal relationship.
British citizens accused of terrorist crimes are entitled to exactly the same protection and standards of justice as British citizens accused of white-collar crimes—not least because the reason why the Senate has not ratified, and I predict will never ratify, the treaty is because of the power of the lobby in the United States, in a state of perpetual election and re-election, in relation to the supporters of Irish republicanism in the United States of America.
Of course, as has been asked many times, why will the Senate have to ratify the treaty if we are already operating our half of it? Can the Minister not see that the absolutely logical conclusion from the national concern about these matters is to withdraw temporarily from our obligations under the treaty by whatever measures can be taken until the Senate has ratified it and we have reciprocity—it will be of an unequal kind, but at least reciprocity in that America will have signed the treaty and not just us.
That is clear to everyone in the country except those on the Treasury Bench. It is clear to every newspaper and it is made clear on every radio phone-in show. It is clear in every one of our inboxes and postbags, and everyone in the House knows it—only those on the Treasury Bench resist it.
The most revealing thing of all in this whole debate was the near apoplexy of the Solicitor-General at the very idea that anyone in the House would suggest abrogating a treaty with the
We all want a special relationship with the
All we want is a special relationship that does not resemble that between Miss Lewinsky and a former United States President: unequal, disreputable and with the junior partner always on their knees. That is not the kind of special relationship that we want, but as the hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Johnson) powerfully made clear, it is exactly the kind of special relationship that most people in Britain think that we have with the United States of America, whether that is true or not.
What does the Minister think that the public deduce when they hear that a treaty was agreed between British Ministers and the Government of George Bush in secret? What does he think that the British public think when they hear that the agreement that was secretly reached between George Bush’s Government and new Labour was then passed on the royal prerogative without debate in this House?
Does he think that the British people regard that as their Government standing up for them, or does he think that the British people imagine that that is just another example of the obeisance of the Government when it comes to the
Had I been able to talk about other cases, as the hon. Member for Tooting (Mr. Khan) was, I would have gone much further down this road, but in view of your strictures, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I cannot. However, I say this: we are talking about sending our citizens—these three and two others, McKinnon and Babar Ahmad—into the maw of a
One cannot separate the facts of Guantanamo Bay, orange jump suits, cages in the tropics, people being hooded, manacled and forcibly injected with drugs, Abu Ghraib, Bagram air base and extraordinary rendition—by which people are flown around the world to be tortured by the United States Government, although we do not even know who those people are, or the jails in which they are hanging upside down, being water boarded and tortured—from the proposal to send our citizens casually into that maw. The British people do not separate them. Last night, the other place spoke for