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Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill [Mar. 16th, 2006|02:33 am]
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Hi there. I've just come across this piece by oldmotherchaos and I was wondering what anyone had to say in relation to the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill. I'm not completely savvy about it, but as-is it seems pretty scary.

Look, I'm often a bit ranty. I admit that, and you almost certainly know it and make allowance. I overplay my rhetoric for dramatic effect from time to time -- although I've never altered a fact or statistic -- and I certainly tend to assume the worst rather than the best, particularly when I'm talking about our Lords and Masters and their motivations.

I'm making the point because I need you to put that aside for a moment.
For once, I'm not grandstanding.
This is deadly serious.

First of all, ask yourself _carefully_: Do you clearly remember the details of how Hitler got himself legally appointed as Dictator of Germany?
The Reichstag Fire?
The mass-media promotion of the Communist Threat?
The Enabling Act?

If you're in the least bit fuzzy, go have a quick look at Wikipedia right now. Please. It's worth it.

All done? OK.

Now, I'd like to introduce you to the tediously-named Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill. You can find it here on the UK Government website: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200506/cmbills/111/06111.1-4.html

You probably haven't heard of it before, unless you're a habitual political activist. You should have, though. The Bill had its second reading in the House of Commons this week, where just a handful of MPs barely got the chance to debate it. It's now winding its way through towards quietly becoming a hideous turning point.

The Bill is actually written rather simply, for a piece of law. It's not very long. Have a look for yourself.

Under the terms of the Bill, a Cabinet Minster may alter any piece of UK legislation -- or draft an entirely new piece -- by issuing an "Order". That's right. The Bill grants Ministers the power to pass or amend laws almost as they see fit.

There are some restrictions, of course. There are a few trivial content restrictions. The Minister has to be personally satisfied that the Order is in line with what party policy hopes to achieve, for example. The Minister also has to accept that an Order cannot be used to remove a freedom which members of the public could reasonably expect to retain -- with the Minister deciding what reasonable expectations are, of course. New crimes created by Orders cannot have punishments more severe than two years imprisonment without trial, although of course multiple infringements can always be given to be served one after another.

The key defence though is that an Order has to be open to ratification by existing Parliament processes. It has to be voted into effect by Parliament.
It's OK after all...

...or is it?

The structure of Parliament and existing process means that whilst in theory the Bill would allow Parliament a vote on any given Order -- NOTE _not_ a debate; _not_ a change to amend; _not_ multiple readings; _not_ all the other usual structure of the government process, just a vote -- it would also be possible for Orders to come through Select Committees: in other words, to be rubber-stamped by Minister-selected groups of MPs.

Make no mistake. This Bill takes Parliament out of Government almost entirely -- something Blair is desperate to achieve, as he is currently having a terrible time fighting his parliament. Saner and wiser heads than mine are calling this the Abolition of Parliament Act. The media have been very, very, VERY quiet about this, which is frightening. There are a few articles, buried in the back of major papers and magazines:


Oh, in case you were wondering, the Bill allows for Orders to bind the Crown, so the Monarchy is no defense.

"Best" of all, the Bill can even be used to amend itself. So the idea of, oh, say, removing the requirement for Parliament to have the option to strike an Order down could be passed through Select Committee as one recommendation in a gargantuan, bland and otherwise mildly beneficial report on something really boring -- say giving MPs another pay rise -- and an Order implementing the report could be slipped through quietly late one night when only a handful of MPs are about. Wham. Suddenly, Ministers would have the power to pass any law they saw fit without debate, notice or redress, all nice and legal and contitutional and unavoidable. (This is the "Indian Rope Trick" that a couple of the news reports mention).

When the bill was first introduced, Ministers promised it wouldn't be used for anything controversial, just for streamlining existing laws relating to business. This week, they were down to saying it wouldn't be used to do anything extremely controversial -- and even that tiny safeguard is being refused admission to the law. Already they're getting the bit between their teeth, and it isn't even passed yet.

If you don't find this terrifying, I suggest you read some of the other Constitution articles and links from the news sources above, go back to Wikipedia and read more about Hitler, or go read some current affairs sites regarding Iran, Iraq, "Terrorism", "Pedophilia", modern Surveillance, and the removal of rights to political protest in recent years.

Then ask yourself -- if someone in the modern world truly wanted to take over, and had studied 20th century history, and knew where the Bolsheviks and the Nazis had gone right AND where they'd gone wrong; someone very clever and very manipulative; someone who knew how to avoid spooking the herd; who knew how to manipulate the media; who truly believed He knew what was best for everyone -- what sort of strategy would such a person take, knowing that the hysteria that swept the Nazis through would ring alarm bells this time round? OK, I admit it, this paragraph is assuming the worst. But please, think. There is no possible justification for this power grab. Can you truly afford to risk assuming the best -- and of our politicians, no less -- on this one?

Note to UK Residents: You can get a template letter to send to your MP from some activist types here http://www.hoojum.com/LARRB/LARRB.html

Please. Make use of it right now. Please.

Note to Non-UK Residents: You know how Hollywood always casts Brits as the sly, manipulative villains who catch everyone by surprise by not being as cultured as they sounded? Now you know why. Do not assume you are safe. If our lot get away with this, your lot will follow suit faster than you can say "Bill of No Rights".

Note to everyone: This is fucking important. Please feel free to do whatever you want with any or all of this text, including link it, copy it, blog it, post it, paste it, stick it, stuff it or T-shirt it.

Any opinions and information about it appreciated.

- Danny

[User Picture]From: nikkidarling
2006-03-16 02:51 am (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: cordite
2006-03-16 03:55 am (UTC)
I can't think of anything to add that hasn't been said in the original text.

Though, you had better lj-cut this post. Heaven forbid anybody reads it and actually learns that the world isn't just made of sunshine and puppydogs *eyeroll*
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[User Picture]From: purpletigron
2006-03-16 08:15 am (UTC)

Judicious use of lj-cut text=""

Would it be interesting to know what percentage of people are too apathetic to click on a cut-tag? Is there a correlation with people who are too bored to read to the end of a long post?

This may actually be a legitimate exception to Godwin's Law, too.
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[User Picture]From: cordite
2006-03-16 10:00 am (UTC)

Re: Judicious use of lj-cut text=""

Nazis make people lazy. True story.
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[User Picture]From: twine42
2006-03-16 08:28 am (UTC)
I stopped reading when Godwin's Law was invoked.

Oh, and LJ-cut. Please?
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[User Picture]From: akicif
2006-03-16 09:54 am (UTC)

A little knowledge....

Sorry? Godwin's Law is You'll note it's descriptive, not proscriptive. It's also of limited use when, as in this case, it is applied to discussion of actual facts (the comparison of the new Bill with Hitler's Enabling Act).

But anyway, if it truly doesn't bother you that the current Government may soon have access to such a powerful tool, try and imagine the other lot having it.
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[User Picture]From: twine42
2006-03-16 11:00 am (UTC)

Re: A little knowledge....

Really? You mean Godwins is exactly what i thought it was? Well thanks for clearing that up.

The fact that it originated on Usenet is irrelevant. The point is that no matter how sane and rational a debate may be, someone is bound to involve the Nazi party, which turns the debate into something else. You don't need that in any discussion.

This isn't a great law for our freedoms. We know this. However our country is going down a fascist route... we can't stop this because some fecking idiots keep voting for Blair.
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From: aidan_skinner
2006-03-16 12:38 pm (UTC)

Re: A little knowledge....

Only about a third of the idiots who voted voted Bliar, but due to our unfair and undemocratic electroal system it doesn't matter.

The Labour government, in common with all British governments since the war, was elected on a minority of the votes. The only legitimising factor for it is that it won marginally more votes than it's closest rival, and didn't actually do worse than them (unlike the 1951 Conservative government).

This may be important to remember when motivating the citizenry to take arms..

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[User Picture]From: siliconshaman
2006-03-16 10:10 am (UTC)
Those who do not study History are doomed to repeat it...

It's a legitimate use of comparison, thus not subject to Godwins law.
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[User Picture]From: siliconshaman
2006-03-16 11:27 am (UTC)

You know, Chekov isn't just a character in Star Trek. Go read up on history circa 1930-38, then we'll talk.
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[User Picture]From: siliconshaman
2006-03-16 11:56 am (UTC)
You've studied it, and you fail to see any analogies with certain 'excutive orders' ?!


I'm not so sure debating this is a worthwhile exercise anymore.
Either you are being wilfully blind to what is bloody obvious, or you do understand what I'm saying and you wish me to 'explain' to you something you know already for some reason.

Either way I don't care for the tone of this thread anymore, since I suspect your protestions of an open mind are disengenious, and I have no wish to engauge in troll wrangling thank you.

Besides, I have work to do and it's well past the end of my coffee break.

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[User Picture]From: siliconshaman
2006-03-16 12:38 pm (UTC)
Apologies for that...
a] I really am busy, thus limited time at keyboard.
b] bad experiances with troll who'd ask me to 'explain' something and proceed to use that.

c] History seems to be repeating itself, eg the rise of the national socialist party, just not exactly. More a spiral than full circle. This pattern seems to be repeated both here and in the USA with variations due to localised conditions.

It's as if the new wave of pr-management or spin doctors that acme in with New labour has studied history with respect to how various parties/leaders have come to power, and then applied that. But haven't learnt how these parties/leaders then went 'bad' so to speak, or failed to apply suitable safeguards.

It's not that the leaders start out with evil intent, although that has happened before, but that they start out with good intent and then loose control of the situation, which is what seems to be happening here on the macro scale, and that all attempts to regain control only makes the situation worse in unpredictable ways... chaos theory in action I guess.

and now I really do have to duck and run...before I'm in trouble again!
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[User Picture]From: rirekon
2006-03-16 09:31 am (UTC)
I know I'd start with an LJ-CUT...
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[User Picture]From: siliconshaman
2006-03-16 10:27 am (UTC)
Christ people! There are more people here bitching about "Oh Noes it's more than 2 paragraphs long LJ-CUt PLZ!!!1!"

Don't you all Get It ?!

This Bill is one bloody short step away from granting the sort of powers most Dictators only dream of. And we're all carping on about flippin' style?!

Why in hell isn't people doing something about it? Or have we all grown so damn apathtic?

Or does nobody actually give a shit?

Government by ministerial order? No worries mate, I mean we trust our mate Tony, it's not like he'd lie to us now is it? I mean, he must know what's best for us...
it's not like he'd get the country mixed up in a war that has nowt to do with us, with the result that the terrorists target London now is it?

Oh sure we have nothing to fear from the Government...
I mean it's just coincidence that they're building a database full of our biometric data, and ID cards they track using built-in RFID chips, just at the same time they're quietly trying to slide this Bill in by the back door...
and it's not the least bit suspicious that the papers that are normally all over them like stink on shit, are suddenly silent about something as controversial as this.

Holy crap people, what doe it take for you all to wake up and smell the coffee? Do we have to be living the plot of V for Vendetta before anyone might possibly think that there is something rotten in the Corridors of Whitehall?
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[User Picture]From: circa
2006-03-16 11:29 am (UTC)
What he ^ said :)
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[User Picture]From: siliconshaman
2006-03-16 11:41 am (UTC)
'Dude' the fact that you, and many others, aren't outraged by this Bill that attacks one of the fundimental principles of our democracy, is sure sign that you don'tM/i> get it, not completely.

Yes, I wasn't being subtle, because so far subtlity has got nowhere.

No, New Labour isn't the National Socialist party of 1930's germany. Neither-the-less, I doubt the people that voted for them thought they were all bad either... I also doubt 'they' in general started out with evil intent. But it does show how far a party can be hi-jacked by a very few oppertunists.

The point is, we do not know 'what evil lurks in the hearts of men' and specifically those that could misuse this power. That is why we have checks and safeguards like parliamentry debate etc... remove those and who knows what'll come crawling out of the woodwork.
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[User Picture]From: siliconshaman
2006-03-16 12:10 pm (UTC)
Okay, that position I understand... please ignore comment elsethread since I didn't see this one before posting.

I think the problem is that you see my reaction here, and assume a knee jerk reaction. Truth is I've known about this for about a week now, commented on it in my own journal and engauged in debate on the point already...

I've had time to think about it... and the more I think and the more I read, the more alarming it gets.

Yes, the national socialists started out as a party of facists, which Labour did not... as far as we know. That does not negate where we are going. Nor does it fully explain the discrepancies between what they profess to believe, and what their actions are.

As you point out, there is long established trend of them chipping away at civil liberties, and promoting an ever more draconian regime. The point that was made earlier is that in effect what we have is a similar situation, with a party in power with analogious basic attitudes, even though they aren't their stated beliefs.

The words change, but the intent is similar enough to be worrying.
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[User Picture]From: mylastchance
2006-03-16 04:17 pm (UTC)
I don't see why using the comparison to a piece of Nazi legislature is in anyway counter-productive when explaining to people who are not politically savvy what is going on.
In fact, I think comparing it to Nazi legislature is entirely valid, because it informs people what can be done with such measures, should they be passed.

Oh, and no LJ-cuts, 'cos it's funny to see who whinges about it and what interests they have and laugh at what little fuckin' bubbles they must live in to care about nothing but how it's messed up their friends page.
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[User Picture]From: mylastchance
2006-03-16 04:41 pm (UTC)
Well, it's a counter-productive comparison because it makes people less likely to take you seriously.

Making a legitimate legislative comparison is now liekly to make you be taken less seriously? Must have missed that memo.
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[User Picture]From: starsforlovers
2006-03-16 12:42 pm (UTC)
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From: sensation_rag
2006-03-16 12:18 pm (UTC)
Germany between the end of WWI and 1933 was in a sorry state of affairs indeed: the Nazis provided hope to many German people that both economic stability and national pride would be finally restored. Germany was crippled after WWI, and therefore was vunerable to a Hitler.

Britain before the 1997 election was evidently not in this way. To compare Blair's government to that of Hitler's is facetious and unrealistic, to say nothing of paranoid.
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[User Picture]From: mylastchance
2006-03-16 04:19 pm (UTC)
It compares legislature and what can be done with such legislature. That's an important point to make.
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From: sensation_rag
2006-03-16 06:47 pm (UTC)
Sure, but the Opposition here have not been banned like in Nazi Germany. If this was a REAL threat then MPs from many parties would have kicked up a stink by now. They wouldn't have anything to gain from it, after all.
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[User Picture]From: mylastchance
2006-03-16 06:55 pm (UTC)
Or perhaps they want to have that power available as a possibility after the next election when they might get in? Not an unreasonable assumption.
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From: sensation_rag
2006-03-16 07:00 pm (UTC)
Perhaps, but I still think that the Tories etc with their opposition to a lot of new anti-terror stuff would be afraid of this new source of power. I find it suspect that nothing at all has been said before..well, I haven't heard anything.
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[User Picture]From: starsforlovers
2006-03-16 12:42 pm (UTC)
Yeah it would be really nice if you'd use a cut. It's not an incentive to actually read whatever it is you posted that took up half my bloody friends page.
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[User Picture]From: mylastchance
2006-03-16 04:18 pm (UTC)
Oh no! Scroll for half a second? I feel so sorry for you!

Seriously, get a grip.
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[User Picture]From: starsforlovers
2006-03-16 04:59 pm (UTC)
Seriously get lost like it was anything to do with you. I feel sorry for you for being such a imbecile
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[User Picture]From: mylastchance
2006-03-16 06:33 pm (UTC)
Wait, it was my post, so it had *everything* to do with me.
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[User Picture]From: ebon_bear
2006-03-16 04:22 pm (UTC)
"the Bill allows for Orders to bind the Crown, so the Monarchy is no defense"

Can you say "constitutional crisis"? This would upend the principle of Parlimentry Supremacy. The theory is that Parliament draws it's powers from the Crown (hence the reason, law lords are technically appointed by the Crown), this would reverse that; a sweeping change we've stayed away from (for good reason) for 700 years.

"an Order implementing the report could be slipped through quietly late one night when only a handful of MPs are about"

Worryingly, they've always been able to do that. There is no minimum number of MP's who must vote on a Bill for it to pass into statute.

Emailing my MP in a moment...
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[User Picture]From: ebon_bear
2006-03-16 04:55 pm (UTC)

The Crown (which is more than the reigning monarch, in a legal sense, it also covers the Royal household and a few associates) is subject to the rule of law but (and it's never been tried so this is theoretical) the reigning monarch can't be charged with a crime. The reasoning is that the courts draw their power from the monarch (QE2 in this case) and therefore, charging the monarch with a crime would require the crown to be charging itself, creating a legal absurdity and the whole thing collapses.

All laws must be submitted for the Royal Assent before they become statute. Now these days, that's purely a rubber stamp but the power to veto the legislation is still there. If this law came into effect, the executive would, effectively, be able to remove the power of veto, either by enacting legislation to remove the Royal Assent or just removing the power of veto entirely. That's a very big constitutional change and one that would force a crisis.

In a way, the situation is a very British one whereby Parliament can theoretically pass laws binding the crown (parlimentry supremacy) so long as they never try to actually enforce them on the person of the monarch (thereby preserving both Royal neutrality and the Crown's role as head of state).

If that seems a little garbled, my apologies. Constitutional law classes were a *very* long time ago.
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From: sensation_rag
2006-03-16 06:51 pm (UTC)
Yes but why is the Crown having no power at all a bad thing? I've never heard of the Crown vetoing a law (with regards to our present Crown) anyway so why does it make a difference?

(forgive my stupid tonight if it's very obvious)
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[User Picture]From: ebon_bear
2006-03-16 07:38 pm (UTC)
The Crown hasn't vetoed a law in hundreds of years so it's no surprise you haven't heard of it.

Why is it important? Well, firstly, it provides a check on the power of Parliament. Look at it like this: Labour currently has a majority in the Commons. Let's say Blair introduces a Bill to ban the drinking of caffeinated beverages (as an example). Under normal circumstances, he can count on the support of the majority of his party (the current endless revolts are unusual in that regard) so the Bill passes the Commons and goes to the Lords. Now, because the hereditary peers have been kicked out and Blair has been creating life peers faster than any PM since the war (and see teh current "loans for lordships" scandal), he can probably count on the Bill passing there too and even if he can't, the Lords can't ammend a Bill without Commons approval and if they refuse to pass it after a year, he can invoke the Parliament Acts and bypass the Lords entirely.

In short, that means that a bill presented for the Royal Assent could have been passed on a vote made purely on party lines, and bypassed the Lords. This is where the veto becomes important. Granted, it hasn't been used in centuries but the threat of the veto has acted to stop Parliament passing truly silly laws (such as the example above). So in that sense, it's more symbolic than practical.

Secondly, the last time we had a Parliament acting without the restraining force of the veto, it didn't turn out too well (Cromwell).

Thirdly, only the reigning monarch has the power to dissolve Parliament and call an election. Now, imagine that the veto is gone. What is to stop Blair, or any future PM, from passing a law declaring a state of national emergency and suspending elections for the foreseeable future? Granted, that's so unlikely as to be impossible but without the veto, the law would support him (although Parliament probably wouldn't). Under the current system, the reigning monarch can (and probably would) say "piss off, I'm not signing this" but if the veto is removed, the monarch has no such right.

So, in essence, it's a system of checks and balances which was originally meant to balance the Commons against the Lords with the monarch watching both of them but, with the Lords emasculated, that leaves the power of veto (and more precisely, the threat of veto) as the only check on the majority Parlimentry party.

Obviously, how you feel about that depends a lot on how you feel about the monarchy generally. I'm a monarchist.
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From: sensation_rag
2006-03-16 09:13 pm (UTC)
Heh, I'm most decidedly NOT a monarchist (is it the Coventry blood, I wonder?) so I don't think the monarch should have any say, but I do agree that there should be SOMEONE with power of veto.

Regarding Cromwell - I think the vast majority of problems that arised during his rule were down to his and his followers' religious beliefs, that did not tie in with those of most people. I'm not sure any polititian with such strong religious views would even get voted in as an MP.

I've always thought ALL Lordships should be scrapped, to be perfectly honest, but I am glad that heredity peerhood has been abolished because the idea that someone has been given all these perks just because of who their parents are revolts me, which has a lot to do with why I disagree with a monarchy.
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[User Picture]From: ebon_bear
2006-03-16 09:27 pm (UTC)
"is it the Coventry blood, I wonder?"

Doubt it, I was born in Coventry.

"Regarding Cromwell"

Not my area of history so I can't say much here.

"I'm not sure any polititian with such strong religious views would even get voted in as an MP"

Well, Blair has been voted in three times so far and his religious views are starting to appear rather extreme (he has no problem with teaching "intelligent design" in schools, divine judgement for the Iraq war, messianic tendancies, etc).

"I am glad that heredity peerhood has been abolished because the idea that someone has been given all these perks just because of who their parents are revolts me"

It's not the abolition of the hereditarys which is the problem. The problem is that firstly, that's emasculated teh Lords and secondly, the speed at which Blair is creating life peers threatens to tilt the Lords in favour of Labour for teh next twenty or thirty years. Regardless of one's stand on the monarchy or the peerage, the idea of an unrestrained government is really not a fun idea.
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From: sensation_rag
2006-03-16 10:03 pm (UTC)
With regards to religion, what I mean is that it's not a core feature of Blair's manifesto - though define extreme! I wouldn't consider his view that God will judge his actions regarding Iraq as extreme, it's just a basic, commonly-held religious view that God judges everything we do, but the intelligent design thing is yes, very creepy (and I belive in it to a point).

Ah, I didn't know exactly what was happening re the life peerages, that is really not a fun idea =/.
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[User Picture]From: ebon_bear
2006-03-16 10:16 pm (UTC)
I'm for "guided evolution" myself (the idea that evolution was started or guided by a deity) but "intelligent design" is really just literal 7-day creationism under a new name.

The "God will judge his actions" thing, I'm not explaining this very well. All Christians believe that their actions will be judged (even as a Luciferian, I believe that) but the implication of that statement (and similar ones he's made in the past) seemed to be that ONLY God could judge him, that the electorate and Parliament couldn't or had no right to. Remember his "God will forgive me" statement when the Iraq war started? The unspoken addition to that statement seemed to be "so who cares if the electorate do?".

I work for Americans so the damage that hyper-religiousness has done to their political system is even more obvious to me than to others and I'd hate to see Blair drag religion into British politics where we're (sometimes) more sensible.
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From: sensation_rag
2006-03-17 12:52 pm (UTC)
I thought intelligent design pretty much was guided evolution? Heh, looks like my definition is again different to the standard one. In that case, guided evolution is more like my stance.

Ahh, I didn't see the show and I didn't pick up on how it was implied. Yes, that IS bad. (btw, I'm a non-denominational Christian (but I go to a Pentecostal church) :D)
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From: aidan_skinner
2006-03-16 07:37 pm (UTC)
This is, essentially, a turnkey totalitarian state bill. It is all to easy to conceive of situations where a government less concerned with preserving our ancient civil liberties or protecting our human rights than the present benign and benevolant Labour administration could use this to remove things like the right to trial by jury, or to freedom of movement or assembly, or imprisoment without trial are removed because nobody could "reasonably expect" to retain them after a large enough terrorist incident.

write to them
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[User Picture]From: bengirrl_tiger
2006-03-16 09:50 pm (UTC)
I wish people would stop getting hung up on the little things like the lj-cut business and the nazi comparisons. Isn't that just missing the point?

From my understanding, this bill will bypass parliamentary debate on legislation in the houses of commons and lords which is a necessary function in a democracy, providing checks and balances to what the govt wants to do.

Surely the fact that the govt is giving itself the power to not have to go through parliament when it wants to do something should be something that is worrying. Regardless of what the govt says it will use it for, the fact is once its there, it could be used for a lot more than what they said. Isn't that always the case?

I'm going to write to my mp about this I think.
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From: angryside
2006-03-18 01:11 am (UTC)
Bless you. The voice of reason.
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