Wednesday, 17 November 2004

Depending on your viewpoint...

Contrary stories in the papers this morning.

All the UK papers are filled with the apparent death of a British-born aid worker in Iraq, who had been held hostage for a few weeks. This woman was married to an Iraqui, and had lived in Iraq for twenty years. So she'd lived through Saddam's regime quite successfully, and only when it was finally toppled did she meet her doom... Anyway, as one can imagine, the British papers are (rightly) united in condemning the murder.

However, I was listening to Today on the way to the station, and they had a review of the day's press from the Arab world. On their front pages was the story of the wounded guy, executed by a US Marine in a mosque in Falluja. Filmed by an ABC camera team. At a time when Bush's policy seems to be to enforce "democracy" on people, whether they want it or not, the Arab press quite rightly makes the point that these crimes are being perpetrated by the world's largest "democracy".

Ironic that people from all sides are making exactly the same points, just with the polarity reversed.
I have been told about a program called "The Power of Nightmares", which aired on BBC2 recently but which I didn't watch. Sounds very interesting. The basic premise is that the likes of Blair and Blunkett, and not least Bush, are playing on peoples' fears of what might happen, however exaggerated these fears may be, and are using this position to push through some pretty draconian laws. I was also sent a transcript of a Blunkett interview in which he seemed to get very flustered and made little sense. The most objective interpretation is that we need more restrictive laws in order to allay peoples' fears, even though they [the government] know that such fears are not based on reality. He mentioned everything from terrorism to ASBOs in this argument. Really did seem flustered, and it really does expose the authoritarian nature they have.

It is things like this that make me think a lot. Without getting into party political viewpoints, I have moved quite a bit over recent years toward the left. There does need to be "socialism" to one degree or another. But at heart I am a liberal - if someone wants to do anything and it doesn't affect me (or anyone else), what right do I (or anyone else) have to tell them they can't do it? And you can apply that philosophy across the board and it remains sound. But I do find these supposedly "Labour" people very paternalistic, legislating for this, that and the other.

Can't let the entry pass without mentioning fox hunting. Just coming up to the end of the parliamentary session, so it's now or never (well, next year) as far as the politicians are concerned. It is obvious that the Commons want a complete ban, but they've entrenched themselves sufficiently firmly that there's talk of using the Parliament Act if the Lords doesn't give them their way. So all of a sudden a piece of what is essentially animal welfare legislation has become very important from a constitutional point of view. I heard also this morning that if it does go through, the Countryside Alliance will challenge the legality of the Parliament Act. Fun and Games - I bet Blair would like to set the hounds on some of his backbenchers for getting him into this mess.

For me, and I guess a lot of people, I don't feel too strongly either way about fox hunting itself. It seems totally alien to me that a right-minded human being would wish to partake in such a "sport", but then by the same token do I think I should have the right to stop them doing it? That's a toughie. But, as I say, this is all now lost and the issue is now a constitutional issue instead - nothing whatever to do with hunting. It's whether the Commons or the Lords are in control. And my opinion on that? Well, it's difficult because I think the Lords is in a state of flux at the moment. The power should lie with the elected, rather than the appointed, representatives. So today, the Commons should hold sway. But who's to say that the second chamber won't be elected at the end of all of this? Even if you conclude that the Commons should dominate going forward, you really need to look at how the process works because invoking the Parliament Act is surely not the best way to go about it.

Fun and Games. Must remember to say what finally happens.

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