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Public mood has hardened

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Feb 14, 2005
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Southern SD

Public mood has hardened over terror cases, Blair tells judges

Michael White, political editor
Wednesday July 27, 2005


Tony Blair yesterday warned judges who have been 'blocking' deportations and other features of his anti-terrorist legislation that the public mood has hardened against such moves since the London bombings began.
The prime minister used his monthly Downing Street press conference to express trenchant condemnation of suicide bombing, and to criticise those who claim that western policies in Iraq, Afghanistan and other Muslim states provide some justification for such tactics.

He denied that he had ever said that the attacks on London's transport network had "nothing to do with Iraq" - only that it was an excuse and that the roots of the crisis go much deeper.

Mr Blair also rebuffed claims that he had not addressed the Islamic fundamentalist challenge in Britain early enough.

In an oblique reference to the law lords ruling against the detention of foreign terrorist suspects in Belmarsh prison without trial last December and related deportation issues, Mr Blair said: "Other countries have managed perfectly well, consistent with human rights, to expel people who are inciting in other countries.

"We have tried to get rid of them and been blocked ... I think there has been too great a caution in saying 'Sorry, this is unacceptable'. Go back to the court records and read them. People recognise there is a different mood today," he said.

As such he implied that judicial claims in the Belmarsh case that the "real threat to the life of the nation comes not from terrorism, but from laws such as these" were wrong. While not directly citing the case or any one judge Mr Blair said: "I doubt if those words would be uttered today."

He made clear he expects the judiciary to uphold the new laws. "The independence of the judiciary is a principle of our democracy and we have to uphold it but ... it is important that we do protect ourselves," he said.

But the main thrust of his aggressive analysis of the attacks in Britain, Egypt and elsewhere was to urge people "not to give an inch" in terms of abandoning their normal way of life, allowing faith communities to be divided, or "turning round and saying 'it's our own fault'".

Nor should Britain abandon its alliance with the US. Instead people should speak out in Muslim communities against what he called the "Crusader Zionist Alliance rubbish" on Islamist websites and the claims - also "rubbish" - that the US seeks to suppress Islam.

Mr Blair told reporters: "Let us expose the obscenity of these people saying it is concern for Iraq that drives them to terrorism. If it is concern for Iraq then why are they driving a car bomb into a group of children and killing them?

But he faced criticism across a range of related policies including his support for faith schools, which are often blamed for intensifying sectarian divisions, and his reluctance to act sooner against potential Islamist extremists after the 9/11 attacks in 2001.

Mr Blair insisted that most faith schools - Muslim, Jewish, Anglican and the Catholic ones his own children have attended - preach respect for other faiths and "realpolitik" would prevent him closing them even if he wished to do so. "September 11 for me was a wake-up call. A lot of people woke up for a short time, rolled over and went back to sleep again ... We need to confront these people at every single level, not just their methods, their ideas."

Mr Blair insisted that - unlike the IRA whose goal of a united Ireland could be supported by non-violent nationalists - Islamist extremists have goals "no sensible person" could accept.

Guardian Unlimited ¿ Guardian Newspapers Limited 2005
Mr Blair insisted that - unlike the IRA whose goal of a united Ireland could be supported by non-violent nationalists - Islamist extremists have goals "no sensible person" could accept.

I didn't know Blair met disagreeable?

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