There’s a rather poignant piece from Tony Benn on the Margaret Thatcher he knew in today’s Guardian:
“Margaret Thatcher was a very powerful, rightwing force in society. She followed her beliefs and had clear objectives. Her policy was to reverse the trends in modern politics that were made possible by the trade unions being legalised. She decided to eradicate the power of the unions, undermine local government and privatise assets – and these were the three policies of the labour movement.
It was not about style with her; it was substance – I don’t think she listened to spin doctors, she just had a clear idea and followed it through.
It was a major attack on democracy and at first it carried some public support, but then it became unstuck, and in the end, it was rejected. But ideas always come back and the modern Tory party is influenced by her ideas.
Although I thought she was wrong, she said what she meant and meant what she said. It was not about style with her; it was substance – I don’t think she listened to spin doctors, she just had a clear idea and followed it through.
I remember her at the funeral of MP Eric Heffer. I was asked to make a speech and as I was waiting, there was someone behind me coughing. It was Mrs Thatcher, and at the end I thanked her for coming and she burst into tears. She had come out of respect for someone whose opinions she disagreed with.”
“For the House of Commons to vote in this way is replacing the work of the Courts … The reason we put people before the courts is because they are independent – the juries independent, but if you have a vote in the House of Commons [to extend detention for suspects] is a corruption of a basic principle which we have boasted of for so many hundreds of years.”
Tony Benn former MP, 11th June 2008, speaking on BBC NEWS after the results of the vote.
37 Labour MPs joined forces with Conservative and Lib Dems to vote against the proposals was not enough to stop the Government winning the vote on extending the maximum time police can hold terror suspects to 42 days. The bill was passed by 315 MPs to 306 votes, a majority of just 9 votes.
Veteran former Labour MP Tony Benn said: “I never thought I would be in the House of Commons on the day Magna Carta was repealed.” He also called it “Bin Laden’s biggest victory”, adding that it is a “bad law, bad for us, bad for the people and for Britain’s position in the world”. He said he hoped it would be overturned in the House of Lords. Mike Blakemore of Amnesty International says the government’s concessions to win the vote on terror detentions are “essentially meaningless”.
“Only Clauses 1, 9 and 29 of the Magna Carta remain unrepealed. Clause 29 says that no freeman shall be taken or imprisoned or have his liberties removed but by lawful judgment of his peers. Detention for 42 days without trial essentially abrogates this clause and removes 800 years of a basic civil liberty: the right to due process.”
Matt Platts, Reading, UK, BBC NEWS website