Whilst in a letter writing mood, I'm firing off another letter to my MP. Now, I've not been terribly impressed with him in the past, despite being a conservative (i.e. in the opposition) he has tended to forward my letter on the the appropriate government department and cc: me the reply. There seems to have been nothing which could not have been done by an automated mail handling system.
This time the letter is about the latest 'great idea' from the Home Office, house arrest. I've explicitly asked for his opinions, as well as mentioning that i'd cc'd the letter to the leader of his party as well as the director of liberty, Shami Chakrabarti.
Coupled with the Civil Contingencies bill it's all fun-fun-fun.
It probably will have little effect, as Howard is unlikely to read it.
Anyway, fingers crossed.
Update: I have just drafted a modified version of this letter which I've sent to Charles Kennedy. The modified version is essentially the same, but begins with: I am writing to you as the "leader of the opposition", I have written a similar letter direct to my MP (Nick Hawkins), as well as sending a copy to Michael Howard and Shami Chakrabarti at Liberty. . It then begins a new paragraph with 'Following the decision about Belmarsh...
Dear Mr. Hawkins
Following the decision about Belmarsh, I am deeply concerned that the Government plans to give itself the ability to place anybody under house arrest at the whim of the Home Secretary, without any possibility of due process. The essential message from the executive is "trust us".
Does the United Kingdom really wish to join the ranks of countries like Burma, South Africa during Apartheid, China or North Korea? This is a list upon which we should not seek to appear.
As Peter Hain has pointed out, house arrest was a counterproductive tactic for the South African government as it provided a focus for discontent. Quite apart from the appalling precedent set by a politician being able to "imprison" people without trial, the Government will be actively promoting the causes of the people they wish to restrain.
I would be extremely interested to hear your personal views on this matter.
I trust that both you and your party will strongly challenge the government's constant erosion of the legal protections which we have enjoyed in this country for many years. I fear that the Conservatives will tacitly support this move as they fear "being soft on terrorists". Whilst I appreciate that these are difficult issues, I would remind anyone taking that line that if there is evidence of such activity, then we already have powers in place to deal with the individual concerned in the form of the criminal courts.
Even during the 1980s, when IRA activity was at its height, the Government did not consider such a step.
cc: Michael Howard MP, Shami Chakrabarti (director of Liberty)