Ministers using ‘terrorism’ for cynical ends

Ministers using ‘terrorism’ for cynical ends

by Louise Nousratpour

Morning Star, 13 November 2006

MINISTERS are damaging counter-terrorism policies by using them to seek votes and further their political careers, according to a report released on Sunday.

The Joseph Rowntree Trust report accused Prime Minister Tony Blair and Home Secretary John Reid of playing to a tabloid agenda for short-term electoral gain.

It said that the government’s counter-terrorism campaign “is often driven by party political and electoral motives that are ‘submerging’ its own ‘sensible’ counter-terrorism strategy.”

Chancellor Gordon Brown seemed to confirm the findings when he declared on Sunday that protecting the country from terrorism would be his “first priority” as Prime Minister.

In an interview with the Sunday papers, he also backed calls from Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Ian Blair for repressive “anti-terror” powers to be toughened.

The trust’s 70-page study urged the government to abandon talk of a “war on terror” and to review its foreign policy.

Mr Blair’s “close and publicly unquestioning stance” alongside the US was damaging Britain’s influence on global politics, it warned.

The war on terror terminology “is misleading and disproportionate and leaves the Prime Minister open to the charge that he is exploiting the politics of fear,” added the report.

The authors accused ministers of creating a “shadow” criminal justice system in which Muslims were being detained without trial or handed control orders which may breach their human rights.

Stop the War Coalition convener Lindsey German welcomed the report and agreed that ministers were playing to tabloids’ “rotten racist agenda.”

She pointed to numerous other studies showing that Muslims are penalised under anti-terror measures and accused the government of “doing this to cover up its disastrous record.”

The study said that the new terrorism Bill, promised for 2007, must be subjected to full pre-legislative scrutiny in Parliament, possibly by a specially set up committee of MPs and peers.

The findings echoed deputy leadership hopeful Jon Cruddas’s warning at the weekend that the debate over the wearing of veils and the language of the “war on terror” had played into the hands of far-right extremism.

Speaking at a conference organised by anti-fascist group Searchlight on Saturday, he warned that the the BNP is “beginning to establish itself as a rival to Labour in many of our traditional heartlands.”