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John Simkin

Blair to be ousted as PM?

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It is believed that Blair will today make a statement saying that he will leave next year. This will not be good enough and if he does take this approach I expect at least one senior member of the government to resign. If that does not work, Brown himself might resign.

New Labour’s poll ratings are not the only reason that Brown wants to replace Blair. He is also keen to leave his post as chancellor. All the evidence is suggesting a downturn in the economy. The period of cheap money is over. Interest rates are going up and the UK is already experiencing record bankruptcy figures. This time Brown will not be able to use his budget surplus to boost public spending. If the economy goes pear-shaped later this year, Brown will find it much more difficult to become leader of the Labour Party if the contest takes place in 2007.

Candidates for the leadership of the Labour Party will need to consider why Blair is so unpopular with party members. The main reason is his foreign policy. PFI and the privatization of the public services and the increasing income gap between the rich and the poor are other factors. Yet Brown is closely associated with all these policies. This is reflected in the polls that suggest that Brown will get only 33% compared to Blair’s 32% in a future election. The same is true of other possible contenders like John Reid and Jack Straw.

While Brown is likely to get the support of most MPs he might have difficulty winning over grassroots members. It has to be remembered that all individual members of trade unions affiliated to the Labour Party have a vote. The Labour Party can only be renewed if the winning candidate distances himself from Blair’s policies.

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While Brown is likely to get the support of most MPs he might have difficulty winning over grassroots members. It has to be remembered that all individual members of trade unions affiliated to the Labour Party have a vote. The Labour Party can only be renewed if the winning candidate distances himself from Blair’s policies.

Labor needs a draft Ken Livinstone campaign.

Ken could take on and beat the media if anyone can.

In the unlikely event of such a thing happening, expect a mass influx of excited leftists flocking to Britain in party mode. I'll be in that!

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According to friends of Tony Blair, Gordon Brown told the PM that a group of senior politicians would resign from the cabinet if he did not immediately announce his retirement. Blair has called his bluff and Brown has ended up with less chance of being PM next year.

Brown has no doubt been hurt by the attacks on him by Charles Clarke. In one article, written by Robert Harris, a close friend of Blair, it was argued that Brown is suffering from a form of autism. “Brown suffers from a kind of political Asperger’s syndrome. Intellectually brilliant, he sometimes seems socially barely functional: a little bit odd.”

This explains his awful social skills. I suspect this is true. His body language is always wrong (he kept on grinning when he issued his statement in support of Blair). Although he obviously has supporters from those who enjoy his patronage, he has virtually no allies from amongst his fellow cabinet ministers. He seems to have upset them all over the years with inappropriate behaviour.

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Labor needs a draft Ken Livinstone campaign.

Ken could take on and beat the media if anyone can.

In the unlikely event of such a thing happening, expect a mass influx of excited leftists flocking to Britain in party mode. I'll be in that!

Ken Livingstone would make a good leader of the Labour Party. However, I believe you have to be a MP to hold this post.

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Labor needs a draft Ken Livinstone campaign.

My choice would be John Denham. He resigned over Iraq and is not tarnished with the terrible policies identified with Tony Blair. He is also in the centre and might be able to unite the party after the conflicts of a leadership campaign.

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I am not a pacifist. I am not against armed intervention. In 1992, I was one of the Labour Members of Parliament who called for much earlier intervention in Bosnia. I shall never forget the surprised and bemused expression on John Smith's face when some 20 newly elected Labour Members of Parliament went to see him to demand Labour support for a foreign war. I believe that we should have supported it, and that, had we done so, Balkan history might be different. I supported our action in Kosovo, Sierra Leone and Afghanistan. (link)

I think Denham is at least a little tarnished.

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As Gordon Brown moves this week further to the right, arm in arm with Tony Blair - on foreign policy especially - it is increasingly clear that the Labour party and the public deserve an open contest for the leadership, between candidates representing all the main wings of the party - not just the Brownite right and the Blairite far-right. They want a debate on policies, not a parade of personalities.

The single overarching issue is: do the party and public want another decade of New Labour? If not, there must be a candidate with the necessary number of nominations who represents mainstream Labour aspirations; and we should be settling now - not later - the programme for a change of direction that can win us the next general election, when carrying on as we are will certainly lose it.

The most pressing requirement is that we pull our forces out of Iraq by the middle of next year. The presence of occupation troops is not preventing violence and a slide into civil war; it is fuelling them as well as exposing us to retaliation in Britain. We should also make it clear that we will not support any military attack by the US or Israel against Iran. The way to reduce tension both in the Middle East and at home is not a US-style war on terror, but through pressure on Israel - after its Lebanese debacle - to negotiate a two-state solution in Palestine, and through a much more even-handed western policy towards Israel and the Muslim states. Nor is replacing Trident at a cost of £25bn (revised upwards, if maintenance costs are included - as they must be - to £75bn) a relevant or value-for-money proposal when world security is threatened not by nuclear states but by regional conflicts and international terrorism.

Domestically, we should end the obsession with privatisation as a panacea, not only in health and education, but also in housing, pensions, probation, rail and local government. We need a new leadership that will genuinely listen to the party and the public, with mechanisms in place so that it can be held to account. Conference should have a decision-making role, not merely act as an opportunity for the leader to grandstand, and nominations each year for leader and deputy leader would allow sentiment within the party to be channelled towards change. Parliament should take back much of the patronage and decision-making that No 10 has appropriated to itself.

We cannot any more have an economy which is driven purely by letting market forces rip. Inequalities in wealth and income have reached grotesque proportions, with average City earnings now 400 times the average pension and 160 times the minimum wage - which should be increased to £7 an hour. We need a much more determined break with the low-pay, low-skills, low-productivity economy. Employment rights need to be strengthened to create justice in the workplace and to balance the undue power of some employers.

Last, but not least, a more radical approach to climate change is sorely needed. The government should be pressing to bring air travel into line with the Kyoto protocol, requiring the industry to measure and report on its environmental impact, and to introduce a carbon credits system for individual households. Above all, we should be leading the world in energy conservation and switching from fossil fuels to renewables, rather than reverting to nuclear power with all its risks and downsides.

A centre-left programme of this kind would, I believe, transform Labour's election prospects. If enough people vote for a candidate with those values in the forthcoming leadership election, we can make it a reality.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/st...1881897,00.html

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As Gordon Brown moves this week further to the right, arm in arm with Tony Blair - on foreign policy especially - it is increasingly clear that the Labour party and the public deserve an open contest for the leadership, between candidates representing all the main wings of the party - not just the Brownite right and the Blairite far-right. They want a debate on policies, not a parade of personalities.

The single overarching issue is: do the party and public want another decade of New Labour? If not, there must be a candidate with the necessary number of nominations who represents mainstream Labour aspirations; and we should be settling now - not later - the programme for a change of direction that can win us the next general election, when carrying on as we are will certainly lose it.

The most pressing requirement is that we pull our forces out of Iraq by the middle of next year. The presence of occupation troops is not preventing violence and a slide into civil war; it is fuelling them as well as exposing us to retaliation in Britain. We should also make it clear that we will not support any military attack by the US or Israel against Iran. The way to reduce tension both in the Middle East and at home is not a US-style war on terror, but through pressure on Israel - after its Lebanese debacle - to negotiate a two-state solution in Palestine, and through a much more even-handed western policy towards Israel and the Muslim states. Nor is replacing Trident at a cost of £25bn (revised upwards, if maintenance costs are included - as they must be - to £75bn) a relevant or value-for-money proposal when world security is threatened not by nuclear states but by regional conflicts and international terrorism.

Domestically, we should end the obsession with privatisation as a panacea, not only in health and education, but also in housing, pensions, probation, rail and local government. We need a new leadership that will genuinely listen to the party and the public, with mechanisms in place so that it can be held to account. Conference should have a decision-making role, not merely act as an opportunity for the leader to grandstand, and nominations each year for leader and deputy leader would allow sentiment within the party to be channelled towards change. Parliament should take back much of the patronage and decision-making that No 10 has appropriated to itself.

We cannot any more have an economy which is driven purely by letting market forces rip. Inequalities in wealth and income have reached grotesque proportions, with average City earnings now 400 times the average pension and 160 times the minimum wage - which should be increased to £7 an hour. We need a much more determined break with the low-pay, low-skills, low-productivity economy. Employment rights need to be strengthened to create justice in the workplace and to balance the undue power of some employers.

Last, but not least, a more radical approach to climate change is sorely needed. The government should be pressing to bring air travel into line with the Kyoto protocol, requiring the industry to measure and report on its environmental impact, and to introduce a carbon credits system for individual households. Above all, we should be leading the world in energy conservation and switching from fossil fuels to renewables, rather than reverting to nuclear power with all its risks and downsides.

A centre-left programme of this kind would, I believe, transform Labour's election prospects. If enough people vote for a candidate with those values in the forthcoming leadership election, we can make it a reality.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/st...1881897,00.html

This is a very good statement, Mr Meacher.

Power to you and to your supporters in the British Labour Party!

How about running for the leadership?

Belated congratulations also for your 2003 article This war on terrorism is bogus".

While I don't believe the article postulated the most plausible theory of exactly what actually happened on 9/11 (evidence that the planes were hijcked by Moselm extremists has been fabricated, in my opinion - and WTC 1, 2 and 7 were collapsed by controlled demolition), your opinion piece was on the right track - a very courageous public statement which begs the question why a lot more senior politicians haven't made similar expressions of doubt and disbelief. Have they been fooled, are they frightened of speaking out - or worse?

I take issue only with one point you make in your September 27th 2006 artilce. While I realise this takes the thread into an area that may be deemed off-topic, I'd be most interested in your response and can't pass up this opportunity to ask for it.

You write:

The way to reduce tension both in the Middle East and at home is... through pressure on Israel - after its Lebanese debacle - to negotiate a two-state solution in Palestine...

I believe this is mistaken and that the 'two State solution' is a dead end. It's time to embrace an anti-Zionist position and advocate a unitary, one'State solution for the Holy Land, in which voting rights for a single electorate should be generously framed, and one person, one vote, one value the accepted rule.

This was the position adopted - successfully, in the end - by opponents of the South African apartheid regime. The parallel with the Palestine/Israel connundrum is close - and the policy, in my view, should be essentially the same.

It's time to stop advocating apartheid and/or ghettoization within Israel/Palestine, because

(i) a viable Palestinian State cannot be built on discontinuous scraps of land left by Israel (far less than 20% of historic Palestine)

(ii) Israel is intrinsically a project for a Jewish supremacist, expansionist (and nuclear-armed) State. The Zionist State cannot find peace with its neighbours, as the last sixty years have amply demonstrated. The only long-term salvation for Jewish Israelis who seek peace is through abolition of Israel and the absorbtion of its people into a disarmed, pluralistic, multi-cultural new State for all citizens of the Holy Land - a new State that could quickly become a dynamo for sustainable development in the region.

In the 1970s, did the left ask South Africa to negotiate a two-state solution? Of course not!

What's the difference now?

Why should we now (or at any time) support sectarian supremacism?

Edward Said never deviated from belief that a pluralistic Palestinian State is the real solution. It was the PLO's original policy - until cajoled into support for a 'two-State solution' State by apparently sympathetic western influences in the lead up to the Oslo agreement. Of course, promises made at the time to the Palestinian leadership have not been met and today's Palestinians can, with a clean conscience, say the deal is now off.

Momentum for an equitable 'one State solution' for the Holy Land may be gaining ground once again.

A lucid exposition of this proposal may be found, among other places, at the website of Israel Shamir (along with a lot of other fascinating material and good writing). I commend it to you and to other members of the forum.

Edited by Sid Walker

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This is a very good statement, Mr Meacher.

Power to you and to your supporters in the British Labour Party!

How about running for the leadership?

Michael Meacher will be running for the leadership. However, he is unlikely to get much support. For many years he was a member of Blair’s government and kept quiet about subjects like privatization. He also supported the invasion of Iraq. He is after the left vote but he is unlikely to get it.

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This is a very good statement, Mr Meacher.

Power to you and to your supporters in the British Labour Party!

How about running for the leadership?

Michael Meacher will be running for the leadership. However, he is unlikely to get much support. For many years he was a member of Blair’s government and kept quiet about subjects like privatization. He also supported the invasion of Iraq. He is after the left vote but he is unlikely to get it.

I wasn't aware Michael Meacher supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq at the time.

Does he still support the armed occupation of Iraq?

More questions for John. How many candidates for the Labour leadership are known to be candidates at this stage? Where do you believe the 'left' vote likely to go?

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I wasn't aware Michael Meacher supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq at the time.

Does he still support the armed occupation of Iraq?

More questions for John. How many candidates for the Labour leadership are known to be candidates at this stage? Where do you believe the 'left' vote likely to go?

No. Michael Meacher is now in favour of UK troops being withdrawn.

It is currently expected that John Reid, a hard line right-winger in the Cabinet will take on Brown. I suspect Peter Hain, another member of the government, will also challenge Brown. The problem is that Brown, Reid and Hain have all supported those policies like the invasion of Iraq, privatisation of the public services, importation of cheap labour from Eastern Europe, 40% top rate income tax and high defence spending (they are all in favour of renewing Trident) that are so unpopular with traditional Labour supporters. So far, only John McDonnell, a member of the Labour left, has put himself forward as a candidate for the leadership of the party. Personally, I believe John Denham, who resigned over Iraq, stands the best chance of beating Brown.

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John Reid was at it in yesterday's papers, warning against the "appeasement" of terrorism. He attacked John Reid was at it in yesterday's papers, warning against the "appeasement" of terrorism. He attacked Cameron for waiting to see which way the wind is blowing until he risks getting "blown away by the gale". And Gordon Brown has been harping on the importance of security, being pro-business and staying close to Washington.

Meanwhile Cameron and his shadow chancellor, George Osborne, are doggedly determined to resist the calls of rightwingers for tax cuts and for new promises to claw back public spending. It isn't even as if the voices of the right are extreme by Conservative standards. They are asking if it would be, ahem, possible, please, for the Tory leader to mention the European superstate, inveigh against illegal immigrants and give them the chance of lower taxes. And they have a point: if the Conservatives aren't about those things, what are they for?

It is only a year since the party conference where Cameron made his mark and considerably less than a year since he became leader, and yet he has transformed the political landscape. The Labour leadership has responded with jibes about his lack of experience, substance and policies, and his obsession with spin. Speech after speech at Manchester made the same hackneyed point that Cameron is all about image. Well, I wonder where he learned that from?

So far Labour looks flat-footed and supercilious, underestimating Cameron as radically as Thatcher was underestimated by Jim Callaghan in the 70s. Cameron is at least as good a performer as Blair was in his early years and is following the New Labour war book page by page. He's untried, he doesn't have substance? He has several years to grow. He doesn't have policies? He has set up all those policy reviews, already turning out detailed ideas. Even if he rejects half of them, he will have plenty of policies by the time of the election.

Even so, both Labour and Conservatives are taking huge risks by making politics more fluid than at any time since the Blair/Brown ascendancy began. New Labour was all about sidelining the traditional interests of the core vote, and wooing the middle classes, to the point where the party was left with hollowed-out inner city organisations, which began to fall to the Lib Dems. Now that they are losing the liberal-minded middle classes too, the situation is perilous.

But there are equal risks for the Conservatives. The weekend polling that showed their lead over Labour falling away again was dismissed as a post-conference bounce (though it's hard to see why last week's conference, with all its divisions, would have boosted Labour support). More likely, the poll showed a growing Conservative unease about Cameron and what he stands for. Core Tories are now voicing their worry and irritation more openly, and there is clearly more to come. What may be happening is that Cameron is attracting liberal middle-class support from Labour, but losing traditional voters.

It is worth just standing back and reflecting what this means for our democracy. On the one side, millions of disgruntled traditional Labour voters who feel they have no one speaking for them any more. On the other, an army of traditional Conservatives who feel the same thing. In the middle, a mobile, fickle group of mildly liberal middle-class voters being desperately scrabbled over. Whatever this is, it isn't representative democracy as we used to know it.

And probably the process is just beginning. Labour is positioning itself so much as the party of security and the state that it has almost no option but to pitch openly for the Daily Mail vote and the neoconservative Murdoch press vote (the Lord help us all). Cameron's strategy of focusing relentlessly on urban marginals means he is committed to going further in rebranding his party as environmentalist, caring and liberal.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/st...1885373,00.html

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'Rottweiler Warning," the headline flashed up on Sky News, just as John Reid stopped speaking. It turned out to be a dog-eat-child story, not the home secretary at all. One delegate was heard to hiss loudly: "I'd vote for Cameron if Reid won the leadership. I'd rather have the nice Tory than the nasty one."

This must have been one of the most unpleasantly jingoistic, rightwing rabble-rousers a Labour conference has heard in quite a few years. This was Britishness as from the Millwall terraces. "No no-go areas," he boomed: "We will go where we please, we will discuss what we like." No fool, he's hard to fault on particulars: the poison is all in the sentiment and tone. How proudly he gloated that Cameron had found his policies too extreme. Indeed, if he was one of Cameron's team, that speech would have got him fired.

Reformed old communists have this in common: when they swing the other way, they always go that bit too far. They never take off their combat kit: the progressive social democratic gene is alien to their psyche. So there was nothing progressive about his performance yesterday.

Roy Hattersley will not be alone: his threat to shoot himself if Reid becomes leader could turn into a mass die-in of Labour supporters. But there was Tessa Jowell, first up within seconds to tell the BBC what a wonderful speech it was. Indeed, rhetorically it was a barn-stormer. So is this it, the last throw of the shrinking group of Blairites? Is this war, after all? No, take a deep breath. It probably isn't quite.

But it is a sign of something almost as depressing. I lost count of the number of times Reid used the word "leadership" in his tough, tough, tough speech, as he put his marker down to be first among possible challengers. So far it's just a threatening gesture from the bruiser lurking in the alleyway. It smacks of both bullying and cowardice: without the bottle for a fight, he will hang about flashing that stiletto under his coat, hoping Gordon trips up all by himself during the next excruciating months of uncertainty. Only then might Reid, more hyena than rottweiler, scavenge up his 44 nominations from MPs, only making a move if he senses a smell of death around the Brown camp.

What will be the effect of this lurking? It is designed to make sure Gordon Brown strays not one step from the Blairite straight and narrow: at home on the NHS and public-service reform, abroad on the war and Bush. He will make this interregnum yet more needlessly fraught, flashing that glint of a knife whenever Brown tries to shape his own style and agenda. If they hobble him sufficiently, he may flounder, and Reid can step up. Or some anyone-but-Reid challenger might charge through the middle, anything better than the old attack dog himself. Who knows? It will spawn enough conspiracy theories to keep the media happy and the voters bored and angry - deeply damaging to Labour.

So what gave Reid the chutzpah to test the water? He must have been excited by a spectacular item on Newsnight. The US pollster Frank Luntz explored the popularity of Labour's possible leadership contenders. He showed brief video clips of each to 30 Labour-minded voters, who turned dials up and down as they watched each contender speak. Most of the candidates' clips seemed chosen for pallid dullness - except for the crucial two: one showed Brown a bit hesitant when interviewed under pressure after the coup attempt. The other showed Reid in full-on harangue: "Any court judgment that puts the human rights of foreign prisoners ahead of the safety and security of millions of British citizens is wrong! Full stop. No qualification!" Of course Reid beat Brown by miles. (Watch it yourself on the Newsnight website).

As a piece of theatre, it was good TV. As serious polling, it was, according to Deborah Mattinson, the chief executive of Opinion Leader Research, "rubbish". She says she tested that "people meter" polling method for Labour 15 years ago. "It's very crude and you have no idea what they are approving or disapproving of. Of course the group went for the crowd-pleasing rhetoric. What's more, if you have cameras there, the loudest voices speak out and influence the rest." She was conducting focus groups with women last week. "Reid is seen as very aggressive. Scots, old, bald, and he's hardly known. Brown has undoubtedly suffered a bit in recent weeks - but these ordinary women voters hadn't noticed the coup. He has to be more cheerful, but he has enduring strengths with them."

She is as critical too of the recent Guardian poll that assessed Brown and Cameron's personality qualities. "It's pretty meaningless to ask about a list of attributes. Most of these have nothing to do with how people actually vote for a prime minister. It's not an application to be a charming receptionist. Cameron may come out as nicer, but this isn't about niceness. If it was, Neil Kinnock would have beaten Mrs Thatcher easily. Mrs Thatcher was never seen as 'nice', but she was admired and respected. Gordon Brown need not be rattled by this stuff. Concentrate on his strengths. Some of this polling seems designed to trip him up."

By the end of the conference, many seemed in an edgy, uncertain frame of mind. Despite Reid putting his fists up at the very end, there was a growing certainty that Brown was the destined man, standing so many heads and shoulders above the rest in calibre, reputation and experience. Even Blair grudgingly seemed to acknowledge it, with caveats. Peter Mandelson was sent out on to the Today programme with an only slightly thorny olive branch. Like it or lump it, the expectation is that Brown is the one.

But what if he can't win? What if, in this celeb-struck era, the smiles do matter more than a strong economy? Even Brown admirers are nervy, alarmed by the polls since the failed coup. "Stable but fragile," a close Brown minister described the situation, no better than that.

There is a fatalism, bordering on a death wish, hanging over some in the party right now. Just when new ideas and new faces are needed - and there are plenty around - everything hangs in suspended animation, delaying a contest that never comes, waiting for a hustings that never happens. Just when the probable next leader needs freedom to step out and show what he can do, he is kept gagged and hogtied until Blair finally sets him free.

As they come up for air from the conference, probably nothing of interest reached the public. The odd announcement here and there by ministers falls on ears no longer listening to Labour. A new leader urgently needs to find a way to tell Labour's narrative anew. Meanwhile, the Tories gain a stronger foothold: their conference will give them another lift. Labour's navel-gazing must weary voters beyond endurance. Is this a party almost willing itself to fail?

http://www.guardian.co.uk/Columnists/Colum...1883662,00.html

Here they are, with only one serious candidate - yet bent on destroying his authority and reputation every day that goes by. If enough people really think that he is not a winner, then dump him now and choose someone else fast. Get it over. But if it is to be him, get behind him now. Build him up, don't pull him down. Much more of this and they will be staring certain and well-deserved defeat in the face.

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'Rottweiler Warning," the headline flashed up on Sky News, just as John Reid stopped speaking. It turned out to be a dog-eat-child story, not the home secretary at all. One delegate was heard to hiss loudly: "I'd vote for Cameron if Reid won the leadership. I'd rather have the nice Tory than the nasty one."

This must have been one of the most unpleasantly jingoistic, rightwing rabble-rousers a Labour conference has heard in quite a few years. This was Britishness as from the Millwall terraces. "No no-go areas," he boomed: "We will go where we please, we will discuss what we like." No fool, he's hard to fault on particulars: the poison is all in the sentiment and tone. How proudly he gloated that Cameron had found his policies too extreme. Indeed, if he was one of Cameron's team, that speech would have got him fired.

Reformed old communists have this in common: when they swing the other way, they always go that bit too far. They never take off their combat kit: the progressive social democratic gene is alien to their psyche. So there was nothing progressive about his performance yesterday.

In his attempt to get the support of the CIA and the Murdoch press, John Reid, claimed at his party conference: "It cannot be right that the rights of an individual suspected terrorist be placed above the rights, the life and the limb of the rest of the British people. That cannot be right - it is wrong, no ifs, no buts, it's just plain wrong."

This is in line with Tony Blair's view that there has to be a "rebalancing between the rights of the suspect and the rights of the law-abiding majority".

They both know perfectly well that the reason that the protections for suspects developed over the centuries in English law is that the two groups - suspects and the law-abiding majority - overlap. In other words, some suspects are innocent.

Remember, only a few months ago the innocent Jean Charles de Menezes was murdered by the police. They of course, including the senior officer who gave the orders to kill Menezes, will never have to appear in court to defend their actions.

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