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.

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Geoffrey Howe dies, aged 88

Howe was Margaret Thatcher's longest serving Cabinet minister – and the man credited with precipitating her downfall.

The former Conservative chancellor Lord Howe, a key figure in the Thatcher government, has died of a suspected heart attack, his family has said. He was 88.

Geoffrey Howe was the longest-serving member of Margaret Thatcher's Cabinet, playing a key role in both her government and her downfall. Born in Port Talbot in 1926, he began his career as a lawyer, and was first elected to parliament in 1964, but lost his seat just 18 months later.

Returning as MP for Reigate in the Conservative election victory of 1970, he served in the government of Edward Heath, first as Solicitor General for England & Wales, then as a Minister of State for Trade. When Margaret Thatcher became opposition leader in 1975, she named Howe as her shadow chancellor.

He retained this brief when the party returned to government in 1979. In the controversial budget of 1981, he outlined a radical monetarist programme, abandoning then-mainstream economic thinking by attempting to rapidly tackle the deficit at a time of recession and unemployment. Following the 1983 election, he was appointed as foreign secretary, in which post he negotiated the return of Hong Kong to China.

In 1989, Thatcher demoted Howe to the position of leader of the house and deputy prime minister. And on 1 November 1990, following disagreements over Britain's relationship with Europe, he resigned from the Cabinet altogether. 

Twelve days later, in a powerful speech explaining his resignation, he attacked the prime minister's attitude to Brussels, and called on his former colleagues to "consider their own response to the tragic conflict of loyalties with which I have myself wrestled for perhaps too long".

Labour Chancellor Denis Healey once described an attack from Howe as "like being savaged by a dead sheep" - but his resignation speech is widely credited for triggering the process that led to Thatcher's downfall. Nine days later, her premiership was over.

Howe retired from the Commons in 1992, and was made a life peer as Baron Howe of Aberavon. He later said that his resignation speech "was not intended as a challenge, it was intended as a way of summarising the importance of Europe". 

Nonetheless, he added: "I am sure that, without [Thatcher's] resignation, we would not have won the 1992 election... If there had been a Labour government from 1992 onwards, New Labour would never have been born."

Jonn Elledge is the editor of the New Statesman's sister site CityMetric. He is on Twitter, far too much, as @JonnElledge.