When a Turk can lose his liberty for publishing Chomsky, maybe it is logical for God to see Blunkett as Moses

No matter what politicians say about the need for them, anti-terror laws hardly ever work. They normally decrease the civil liberties that they are designed to protect and, as was the case in Northern Ireland, give people another reason for joining terrorist organisations. However, draconian as internment is, you really know that things are going pear-shaped when David Blunkett introduces laws to prosecute religious hatred. What kind of a God would have Blunkett as his voice on earth?

If we are talking about a supreme being who created heaven and earth, I just don't see how God would want a mealy-mouthed northerner doing his work. If Blunkett is working for the Lord, and man is made in the image of God, then we can only conclude that God is a twat (substitute for the word God any one of the following that you would find more personally offensive: Allah/Vishnu/Buddha/Jah/A N Other).

States have invariably used anti-terrorist laws as a loophole to dodge their obligations under international conventions on human rights. The latest and most bizarre case occurred in Turkey. Yes, I am aware that I mention Turkey a lot in this column, but Blair and his corporate-minded government do manage to excuse the most vile human rights abuse while peddling just about every munition known to man to that country's regime. The utter barbarity of the Turkish state, its ruthless oppression of the Kurds, and a dodgy kebab I once had in Haringey have hardened the way I view that particular regime.

In November, the European Union praised Turkey for introducing laws that will protect the right to freedom of expression, Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights. However, the EU does not mention Turkey's use of anti-terror laws, which directly contravenes the convention and undermines those newly passed laws enshrining freedom of speech. Citing Article 8 of the anti-terror laws - outlawing "propaganda against the indivisible unity of the State of the Turkish Republic with its territory and nation" - Bekir Aldemir, the state prosecuting attorney, has just charged Fatih Tas, the owner of Aram Publishing in Turkey, at the Istanbul State Security Court for having the audacity to publish American Interventionism, a collection of writings by Noam Chomsky. Fatih faces a year in prison if found guilty.

To launch a prosecution over words written by one of the world's leading linguists seems a tad obscene. In concentrating his prosecution on a chapter in the Chomsky book entitled "Prospects for Peace in the Middle East", Aldemir compounds the obscenity. The words that rock the foundations of the "indivisible unity" of the Turkish state and could result in a man going to jail for a year are these: "Throughout the 1990s, this place [the Kurdish region of south-east Turkey] saw the most serious crimes against human rights, a still ongoing process . . ." That's it. Those are the words. You can rearrange them in any order you like, but that is as dangerous as they get. For those words, a man could lose his liberty. And yet, by justifying these as emergency anti-terror laws, the Turkish state has sought to avoid prosecution at the European Court of Human Rights for these most blatant abuses and acts of censorship.

In a world where a man can go to jail for printing such words, but no international government raises a murmur, I guess it is entirely logical that God should choose David Blunkett to play Moses.

It is possible that Blunkett gets his inspiration from America: after all, the US has recently imprisoned 1,100 people without trial or access to a lawyer. In fact, it could have begun the process of privately executing those it deems to be guilty.

Without wishing to sound like a certain bearded cave-dweller, maybe there are some comparisons to be made with both the US and a certain demonic ex-angel expelled from heaven who had an unhealthy attachment to the number six.

You may say: how can you accuse the US of being the great Satan? For a start, if the devil has all the best tunes, why has America ended up with Paul McCartney, spewing out the political equivalent of "The Frog Chorus"? (Which, after it was used by CNN and the other PR outfits for globalisation, should be renamed "Talking About Free Trade".)

On 7 December, the US Senate passed another bill that is bound to help the flag-burners keep warm through the winter months ahead: namely, Senator Jesse Helms's American Service Members' Protection Act. The bill sought not only to block the US ratifying the International Criminal Court, but actually to prevent the court's creation.

The court will be prosecute individuals for war crimes. Strangely, the US wants none of this. Maybe that's because the prospect of its own countrymen and -women appearing in the dock is slightly higher than for other countries. Helms's original bill sought to prohibit military aid to any Nato or "major" non-Nato country if it ratified the court. This move was meant to ensure that the prerequisite number of signatory states - 60 - which would guarantee the creation of the court, was not reached. Although this part of the bill has gone, it still gives the president the right to invade any country that holds US military personnel under the court's laws, as well as any foreign or non-military personnel working for the US.

Basically, anyone who wants to get Kissinger into court for war crimes will be invaded by America - and that includes the host country for the International Criminal Court, the Netherlands . . . Still worth a go, though.

The trial of Fatih Tas is scheduled for 13 February 2002

This article first appeared in the 17 December 2001 issue of the New Statesman, The ignorance of the Islamophobes

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The Tories' aim is to put Labour out of business for good

Rather than merely winning again, the Conservatives are seeking to inflict permanent damage on the opposition. 

The Conservatives are numerically weak but politically strong – that is the peculiarity of their position. Their majority is the smallest of any single-party government since October 1974. Yet, to MPs at the Tory conference in Manchester, it felt like “2001 in reverse”: the year of Tony Blair’s second election victory. Then, as now, the opposition responded to defeat by selecting a leader, Iain Duncan Smith, who was immediately derided as unelectable. Just as Labour knew then that it would win in 2005, so the Conservatives believe that they have been gifted victory in 2020. David Cameron has predicted that the party’s vote share could rise from 37 per cent to a Thatcherite 43 per cent.

For Cameron and George Osborne, who entered parliament in 2001, this moment is revenge for New Labour’s electoral hegemony. They believe that by applying Blair’s lessons better than his internal successors, they can emulate his achievements. The former Labour prime minister once spoke of his party as “the political wing of the British people”. In Manchester, Cameron and Osborne displayed similarly imperial ambitions. They regard Jeremy Corbyn’s election as a chance to realign the political landscape permanently.

Seen from one perspective, the Tories underperformed on 7 May. They consistently led by roughly 20 points on the defining issues of the economy and leadership but defeated Labour by just 6.5 overall. It was their enduring reputation as the party of the plutocracy that produced this disparity. Those who voted for Labour in spite of their doubts about Ed Miliband and the party’s economic competence may not be similarly forgiving of Corbyn. To maximise their gains, however, the Tories need to minimise their weaknesses, rather than merely exploit Labour’s.

This process began at conference. At a dinner organised by the modernising group the Good Right, Duncan Smith, Michael Gove and the Scottish Tory leader, Ruth Davidson, affirmed their belief that, contrary to Thatcherite orthodoxy, inequality is a problem. Only the Business Secretary, Sajid Javid, an admirer of the libertarian heroine Ayn Rand, insisted that equality of opportunity was the defining metric.

George Osborne’s assured speech was most notable for his sustained appeal to Labour voters. Several opposition MPs told me how unsettled they were by the Chancellor’s declaration that Labour’s new leadership calls “anyone who believes in strong national defence, a market economy and the country living within its means” a Tory. He added, “It’s our job to make sure they’re absolutely right. Because we’re now the party of work, the only true party of labour.” The shadow minister Jonathan Reynolds told me: “We’ve got to be extremely clear that this is not business as usual. This is a real attempt by the Tories to put us out of business – possibly for ever.”

The Conservatives’ aim is to contaminate Labour to the point where, even if Jeremy Corbyn were deposed, the toxin would endure. For those opposition MPs who emphasise being a government-in-waiting, rather than a protest movement, the contrast between the high politics of the Tory conference and Corbyn’s rally appearance in Manchester was painfully sharp. They fear guilt by association with the demonstrators who spat at and abused journalists and Tory delegates. The declaration by a rally speaker, Terry Pullinger, the deputy general secretary of the Communication Workers Union, that Corbyn’s election “almost makes you want to celebrate the fact that Labour lost” was regarded as confirmation that some on the left merely desire to run the party, not the country.

But few Tory MPs I spoke to greeted Corbyn’s victory with simple jubilation. “It’s a great shame, what’s happened to Labour,” one said. “We need a credible opposition.” In the absence of this, some fear the Conservatives’ self-destructive tendencies will reassert themselves. The forthcoming EU referendum and leadership contest are rich in cannibalistic potential. Tories spoke forebodingly of the inevitable schism between European Inners and Outers. As the Scottish experience demonstrated, referendums are almost never definitive. In the event of a close result, the party’s anti-EU wing will swiftly identify grounds for a second vote.

Several cabinet ministers, however, spoke of their confidence in Cameron’s ability to navigate the rapids of the referendum and his pre-announced departure. “More than ever, he’s the right man for these times,” one told me. By this December, Cameron will have led his party for ten years, a reign exceeded in recent history only by Stanley Baldwin, Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher. That the Conservatives have so far avoided cataclysm is an underappreciated achievement.

Yet there are landmines ahead. An increasing number of MPs fear that the planned cuts to tax credits could be a foul-up comparable to Gordon Brown’s abolition of the 10p tax rate. Despite the appeals of Boris Johnson and the Sun, Cameron and Osborne have signalled that there will be no backtracking. At such moments of reflection, the Tories console themselves with the belief that, although voters may use Corbyn as a receptacle for protest (as they did Michael Foot, Neil Kinnock and Ed Miliband), they will not elect him. They also acknowledge that the current Labour leader may not be their opponent in 2020. The former paratrooper Dan Jarvis is most often cited as the successor they fear. As with Cameron and Blair, his relative lack of ideological definition may prove to be a strength, one MP suggested.

William Hague is fond of joking that the Tories have only two modes: panic and complacency. If the danger before the general election was of the former, the danger now is of the latter. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.