Friday, September 16, 2005

Telegraph | News | Clarke bungle reveals his doubts over terror law

When President of the National Union of Students, Charles Clarke was already a "young fogey". Affecting a Karl Marx beard and representing a "Broad Left" grouping which included Communists of various shades, he nonetheless looked and sounded like the old-fashioned public school boy and Cambridge man that he was and is. Not very surprising then that he's not up to speed on the modern world, and inept enough to send out Word documents complete with tracked changes.

Every law firm secretary knows to PDF documents unless tracked changes are being used on purpose to follow the course of a negotiation. Apparently the Home Office is staffed, as well as headed, by IT-illiterates. Come back Sir Humphrey, with your neat handwritten marginal notes.

I can understand why Clarke is nervous about his measures. Anyone with any experience of student politics knows that young intellectuals play with ideas; the more extreme - in many cases - the better. The new rules on "glorifying" terrorism would have captured almost every Lefty with whom Clarke played in his student years, including - quite possibly - him. Never an NUS conference passed without resolutions in support of this or that set of mangy third world "freedom fighters".

For that matter, the proposed new laws would have caught me in my day. I was briefly a Maoist; supporting the greatest terrorist state in history. I was also an active supporter of Palestinian terrorists, selling "Free Palestine" newspapers at my school gates. Thankfully, I grew up - at least politically.

"Glorifying terrorism" is something that is done on the national day of many now-respectable states. The French Revolutionaries were terrorists. The founders the Republic of Ireland and Israel too. I won't extend the list. You can do that yourselves, to your heart's content.

The State is entitled to regulate our actions, but not our thoughts or the expression of our opinions. Attempts to do so will criminalise, and therefore radicalise, more and more people. Left to work through their youthful intellectual confusions, such people might otherwise grow up to be a Home Secretary or a respectable libertarian blogger.

Telegraph | News | Clarke bungle reveals his doubts over terror law

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