Boris Johnson delivers a speech in Bloomberg's European headquarters on Britain's involvement in the EU on August 6, 2014. Photograph: Getty Images.
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When Boris attacked Blair's "astonishing" assault on the right to trial

In 2005, the Mayor argued that the right to a fair trial "must remain an inalienable principle of our law".

In his Telegraph column today, Boris Johnson casually proposes dispensing with one of the fundamental principles of our legal system: the presumption of innocence. The Mayor of London calls for "a swift and minor change so that there is a 'rebuttable presumption' that all those visiting war areas [Iraq and Syria] without notifying the authorities have done so for a terrorist purpose". 

It is worth revisiting, then, a column he wrote in the same paper in 2005 denouncing Tony Blair's plan to "take away our 800-year-old freedoms". In response to the proposed detainment of terrorist suspects without trial, he argued that "it must remain an inalienable principle of our law that, if the state has enough evidence to incarcerate someone, then it must have enough evidence to put him on trial". 

We all agree with the Prime Minister that we face a new and sinister peril in al-Qa'eda. But it is worth pointing out that many British lives were lost every year in the 1980s and 1990s to Irish republican terror - far more than have been lost, since 2001, to the operatives of al-Qa'eda - and it is more than 30 years since we last tried interning IRA suspects.

Why is Mr Blair assuming these astonishing powers now? The Government says it must suspend the right to a trial, because trials would jeopardise the secret telephone intercepts of the security services. That sounds like phooey.

The Tories have offered a sensible compromise, by which a pre-trial judge would hear any sensitive evidence, and decide what needed to be screened out, without prejudicing the fairness of a full trial. Why can't Blair accept that? As my colleague Richard Shepherd said yesterday in the Commons, there is something deeply un-British about this Bill, something profoundly ignorant of the history of this country and the rights of its people.

Of course terrorist suspects should be rounded up. Of course we should crack down hard on anyone to do with al-Qa'eda. But it must remain an inalienable principle of our law that, if the state has enough evidence to incarcerate someone, then it must have enough evidence to put him on trial.

But in the face of understandable outrage over Isis, the Mayor has apparently decided that we can do without the right to a fair trial after all. His new stance is further evidence, as I have written before, that he is a Marxist of the Groucho variety: "Those are my principles, and if you don't like them ... well, I have others." 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

Photo: Getty
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Can Philip Hammond save the Conservatives from public anger at their DUP deal?

The Chancellor has the wriggle room to get close to the DUP's spending increase – but emotion matters more than facts in politics.

The magic money tree exists, and it is growing in Northern Ireland. That’s the attack line that Labour will throw at Theresa May in the wake of her £1bn deal with the DUP to keep her party in office.

It’s worth noting that while £1bn is a big deal in terms of Northern Ireland’s budget – just a touch under £10bn in 2016/17 – as far as the total expenditure of the British government goes, it’s peanuts.

The British government spent £778bn last year – we’re talking about spending an amount of money in Northern Ireland over the course of two years that the NHS loses in pen theft over the course of one in England. To match the increase in relative terms, you’d be looking at a £35bn increase in spending.

But, of course, political arguments are about gut instinct rather than actual numbers. The perception that the streets of Antrim are being paved by gold while the public realm in England, Scotland and Wales falls into disrepair is a real danger to the Conservatives.

But the good news for them is that last year Philip Hammond tweaked his targets to give himself greater headroom in case of a Brexit shock. Now the Tories have experienced a shock of a different kind – a Corbyn shock. That shock was partly due to the Labour leader’s good campaign and May’s bad campaign, but it was also powered by anger at cuts to schools and anger among NHS workers at Jeremy Hunt’s stewardship of the NHS. Conservative MPs have already made it clear to May that the party must not go to the country again while defending cuts to school spending.

Hammond can get to slightly under that £35bn and still stick to his targets. That will mean that the DUP still get to rave about their higher-than-average increase, while avoiding another election in which cuts to schools are front-and-centre. But whether that deprives Labour of their “cuts for you, but not for them” attack line is another question entirely. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.

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