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Sedgemore? Hardcore!

Three cheers for Brian Sedgemore, MP, one-time Private Eye hack and former PPS to Tony Benn. Taking the opportunity to let fly in his last speech to the House, during a debate on the terrifying Prevention of Terrorism Bill, he said this:

As this will almost certainly be my last speech in Parliament, I shall try hard not to upset anyone. However, our debate here tonight is a grim reminder of how the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary are betraying some of Labour’s most cherished beliefs. Not content with tossing aside the ideas and ideals that inspire and inform ideology, they seem to be giving up on values too. Liberty, without which democracy has no meaning, and the rule of law, without which state power cannot be contained, look to Parliament for their protection, but this Parliament, sad to say, is failing the nation badly. It is not just the Government but Back-Bench Members who are to blame. It seems that in situations such as this, politics become incompatible with conscience, principle, decency and self-respect. Regrettably, in such situations, the desire for power and position predominates.

As we move towards a system of justice that found favour with the South African Government at the time of apartheid and which parallels Burmese justice today, if hon. Members will pardon the oxymoron, I am reminded that our fathers fought and died for liberty—my own father literally—believing that these things should not happen here, and we would never allow them to happen here. But now we know better. The unthinkable, the unimaginable, is happening here.

And then, a little later, he said this:

Have we all, individually and collectively, no shame? I suppose that once one has shown contempt for liberty by voting against it in the Lobby, it becomes easier to do it a second time and after that, a third time. Thus even Members of Parliament who claim to believe in human rights vote to destroy them.

Many Members have gone nap on the matter. They voted: first, to abolish trial by jury in less serious cases; secondly, to abolish trial by jury in more serious cases; thirdly, to approve an unlawful war; fourthly, to create a gulag at Belmarsh; and fifthly, to lock up innocent people in their homes. It is truly terrifying to imagine what those Members of Parliament will vote for next.I can describe all that only as new Labour’s descent into hell, which is not a place where I want to be.

I hope that—-but doubt whether—-ethical principles and liberal thought will triumph tonight over the lazy minds and disengaged consciences that make Labour’s Whips Office look so ridiculous and our Parliament so unprincipled.

It is a foul calumny that we do today. Not since the Act of Settlement 1701 has Parliament usurped the powers of the judiciary and allowed the Executive to lock up people without trial in times of peace. May the Government be damned for it.

One in the eye for the government, and proof that the days of passionate, beautiful rhetoric in Parliament are not quite over.

(Via Ben Hammersly)

Posted at 10am on 26/02/05 by Jack Mottram to the politics category.
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  1. what an excellent man. couldn’t he perhaps form his own party so we had someone to vote for?

    Posted by hannah at 3pm on 26.02.05

  2. Great rhetoric but let down by it being his last speech. It seems MPs are only willing to stand up for principles when they are aware they are walking away from parliamentary power (cf Cook’s resignation).

    Posted by Mags at 4pm on 26.02.05

  3. No fair in Sedgemore’s case, he’s been very principled all along. And he’s retiring rather than ‘walking away’.
    He lives near me, I might go round for a cup of tea, and ask him about forming that party…

    Posted by hannah at 3pm on 27.02.05

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