Which way will Labour turn on control orders?

Miliband is likely to support the abolition of control orders but will his MPs?

The news that the coalition is set to scrap control orders leaves Labour facing its own policy dilemma. Since his election as leader, Ed Miliband has pledged to remake Labour as a party of civil liberties but has said little on control orders.

The best guide we have to the party's position is Ed Balls's recent interview with Andrew Marr. The shadow home secretary supported the coalition's plan to cut the pre-charge detention period from 28 to 14 days but was noticeably more ambiguous about control orders.

He said:

I think control orders is a tougher one because, look, if you were starting from a blank sheet of paper, you would never want to have any kind of unlimited detention. On the other hand, what was clear back in 2005 is there were people who were a real threat but couldn't be charged. And what did you do? And I understand why those decisions were made.

I think the jury's still out on this one. If the security services and the police can persuade the Home Secretary there's alternatives to control orders – it could be travel restrictions, it could be more surveillance – then we should support that. Consensus is the right thing. I think on that one, the jury's still out. We don't yet know whether an alternative to control orders can work.

Miliband is certain to resist the temptation to label the coalition as "soft on terror" but others in his party may not. On Twitter, the Labour MP Pat McFadden declares: "Control orders: the PM's duty is to protect the public, not 'look after' the Lib Dems."

To portray the move as a sop to the Lib Dems isn't wholly accurate. Several of the ministers pushing hardest against control orders are Tories, including the Justice Secretary, Ken Clarke, and the Attorney General, Dominic Grieve. Conversely, Lord Carlile, who today warns the government against scrapping control orders, is a Lib Dem peer. But, as Norman Tebbit recognises, the charge that David Cameron has put the interests of the Lib Dems before the interests of the public is a potent one.

Miliband's instinct will be to support the abolition of control orders and to back what are described as "mitigating measures". But, once again, he may find himself at odds with a significant number of his MPs.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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The economics of outrage: Why you haven't seen the end of Katie Hopkins

Her distasteful tweet may have cost her a job at LBC, but this isn't the last we've seen of Britain's biggest troll. 

Another atrocity, other surge of grief and fear, and there like clockwork was the UK’s biggest troll. Hours after the explosion at the Manchester Arena that killed 22 mostly young and female concert goers, Katie Hopkins weighed in with a very on-brand tweet calling for a “final solution” to the complex issue of terrorism.

She quickly deleted it, replacing the offending phrase with the words “true solution”, but did not tone down the essentially fascist message. Few thought it had been an innocent mistake on the part of someone unaware of the historical connotations of those two words.  And no matter how many urged their fellow web users not to give Hopkins the attention she craved, it still sparked angry tweets, condemnatory news articles and even reports to the police.

Hopkins has lost her presenting job at LBC radio, but she is yet to lose her column at Mail Online, and it’s quite likely she won’t.

Mail Online and its print counterpart The Daily Mail have regularly shown they are prepared to go down the deliberately divisive path Hopkins was signposting. But even if the site's managing editor Martin Clarke was secretly a liberal sandal-wearer, there are also very good economic reasons for Mail Online to stick with her. The extreme and outrageous is great at gaining attention, and attention is what makes money for Mail Online.

It is ironic that Hopkins’s career was initially helped by TV’s attempts to provide balance. Producers could rely on her to provide a counterweight to even the most committed and rational bleeding-heart liberal.

As Patrick Smith, a former media specialist who is currently a senior reporter at BuzzFeed News points out: “It’s very difficult for producers who are legally bound to be balanced, they will sometimes literally have lawyers in the room.”

“That in a way is why some people who are skirting very close or beyond the bounds of taste and decency get on air.”

But while TV may have made Hopkins, it is online where her extreme views perform best.  As digital publishers have learned, the best way to get the shares, clicks and page views that make them money is to provoke an emotional response. And there are few things as good at provoking an emotional response as extreme and outrageous political views.

And in many ways it doesn’t matter whether that response is negative or positive. Those who complain about what Hopkins says are also the ones who draw attention to it – many will read what she writes in order to know exactly why they should hate her.

Of course using outrageous views as a sales tactic is not confined to the web – The Daily Mail prints columns by Sarah Vine for a reason - but the risks of pushing the boundaries of taste and decency are greater in a linear, analogue world. Cancelling a newspaper subscription or changing radio station is a simpler and often longer-lasting act than pledging to never click on a tempting link on Twitter or Facebook. LBC may have had far more to lose from sticking with Hopkins than Mail Online does, and much less to gain. Someone prepared to say what Hopkins says will not be out of work for long. 

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