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Short detention span

42 not the answer

A cop with a big gun

Police greeted the reading of the bill with cries of ‘Caaaaam on!!’

photograph: Statto

Gordon Brown is staking his reputation on ‘winning the argument’ over Labour’s terrorism bill, a piece of legislation only slightly more popular than Mr Brown himself.

The bill will increase the maximum period a terrorist suspect can be detained from 28 to 42 days—which is enough time to run the length of 100,000 football pitches—but only if a serious national emergency is deemed by parliament to be being prevented in doing so.

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith was keen to emphasise that this is not a blanket increase in detention periods: ‘If Parliament decides…by which I mean “if the Home Secretary decides”, because we won’t be allowed to tell Parliament the secret information…that’s when these laws kick in. We’re just passing the legislation now in case an emergency comes up: in the panic, someone might be tempted to rush through something which is even more of an affront to democracy, human rights, and everything the West purports to stand for. Or, even worse, we might have to let someone who looks a bit foreign walk free.’

‘You can’t be too careful with these terrorists!’ scaremongered Smith, proudly proposing a future bill comprising entirely ‘just in case’ contingency laws: detention of opposition MPs without trial for the day if a government is trying to pass an unpopular law, a raft of measures in case Labour gets defeated at the next general election, and a set of preventative laws in case anyone tries to repeal any of these laws in future.

Police chiefs claim that this will make bringing prosecution against terrorists easier. ‘Terrorism is often a complicated crime to prove, with webs of contacts, underground cells operating on a need-to-know basis and international collaborations of law enforcers,’ explained Sir Ian Blair, chief of the Metropolitan Police, ‘It’s not like murder where you actually have to have done something to get put away.’

Other MPs are less bothered by the moral dillemma. ‘I see it as a referendum on Brown,’ explained disgruntled back-bencher Claire Timkins, currently perched precariously on a majority of seven in Market Pickton North, ‘And the sooner we can prise his hands from the wheel, the more likely I am to still have a job come the next election!’

KTAB asked Timkins if she felt this wasn’t in the spirit of parliamentary democracy: ‘Not compared to the alternative,’ she explained, ‘because that’s basically me accusing anyone who didn’t vote for me of being a terrorist, forty-one days before the election.’


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