What is really behind these proposals for the new “stop and question” powers? I have been puzzling.
News of the proposals came from a leaked letter from the counter-terrorism minister, Tony McNulty, to Tony Blair and the media took up the story. The police were surprised and a little confused. Civil liberty groups were understandably outraged. Opposition politicians reacted and so did Labour deputy leadership contenders.
And the Government said that…er…they were just thinking about it. According to the Guardian “the vehemence and breadth of criticism led Home Office ministers to signal a willingness to compromise”. That was quick.
This appears to bear all the hallmarks of classic kite-flying. I think we can assume that the “leak” was not accidental. So what is really going on here?
Is it something to do with Tony Blair’s legacy or John Reid’s reputation? Is it a reaction to the recent decision on control orders? Is it some convoluted plot to spike Peter Hain’s deputy leadership bid? Or another attempt to paint the opposition parties as “soft on terrorism”? Or does the government genuinely believe that these powers, that the police have neither asked for or appear to know what to do with, are necessary to combat terrorism?
Accuse me of being cynical if you like, but I think we may be witnessing the old tried and tested “suggest that you are about to do something really, really bad, so that when you announce that you are only going to do something a little bit bad, people are relieved and let you get away with it” technique. The clue maybe in the fact, reported on the BBC website, that;
“Mr McNulty, the counter-terrorism minister, told BBC Radio 4’s The World This Weekend the government would reveal its proposals to Parliament in the next couple of weeks.”
Remember, the Government have not actually announced anything yet. Let’s wait and see what they are really after.
This content was originally posted on my old Process Guy blog.