Under a tough new counter-terrorism measure approved by the House of Commons yesterday, all inhabitants of the British Isles are to be detained indefinitely, except for MPs, judges, police, the intelligence services, and the army.
Some initial opposition from Labour MPs was overcome by the Government's trenchant arguments and shrewd manoeuvring.
The tentative suggestion by Labour rebel Mr Lympe Dishragge that, although the measure was basically unexceptionable, "with all due respect, there might be a problem if some people who were locked up were innocent", provoked an angry response from the Home Secretary. This word "innocent", she declared, was new to her, and the use of obscure terminology to undermine the government's efforts to protect its citizens from terrorist atrocities was nothing short of contemptible.
"I'm sorry to be a bother," Dishragge persisted, "but 'innocent' means that the suspected terrorist wasn't really a terrorist - didn't, as it were, do anything", eliciting the swift riposte, "Whether he did or didn't do anything in the past, if he's locked up he certainly can't do anything in the future."
Laughter and applause from the government's supporters was matched by public endorsement in street interviews. "I may think I'm not a terrorist," a man pointed out, "but what do I know about it? The intelligence services have information that has to be kept secret to avoid compromising their agents. Frankly, mate, I care more about my right not to blow myself up than about my so-called 'innocence' and my so-called 'human rights'", the last phrase followed at once by snorts of disgust from everyone in the vicinity. Agreeing, a woman clutched her child protectively as she insisted: "Only when this bill becomes law will we be able to sleep soundly in our cells again."
At Westminster, most prospective Labour rebels were won over by the assurance that for each case of incarceration, a right of appeal would be considered by two committees, three subcommittees, the House of Commons, the House of Lords, and the judiciary, and all the abovementioned others not themselves detained, each review to take up to three years in the interest of thoroughness and fairness. But to avoid undue delay in the administration of justice, if someone should be allowed to file an appeal, it would be automatically rejected.
Despite these concessions to the extreme left, five Labour diehards remained, defiantly wringing their hands and murmuring "Oh dear" throughout the debate, but they were finally persuaded to support the measure by the Prime Minister's promise to give them money and to declare war on any country of their choice within two months of the bill's becoming law.
At the last minute, a sixth putative rebel was summarily expelled from the Labour Party after a leaked e-mail revealed that he had never had any intention of voting against the government, but had been bribed by the media to create suspense as to the outcome.
Is that sleaze or what? Have your say. Comment is free, however abusive, obscene, inflammatory, bigoted, smart-alecky, incoherent with rage, idiotic, badly typed, or treasonable it is, since you're all going to be locked up anyway.