Put a sock in it, Cherie
Published in: Daily Mail
While Britain is divided over the most appropriate way to deal with the terrorist threat, the nation's First Couple appear themselves to be on opposing sides of the argument.
On Tuesday, the Prime Minister voiced his frustration with the judiciary for using human rights law to prevent the deportation of terror suspects and sympathisers.
Yet at virtually the same moment, Mrs Blair was telling a conference of lawyers in Malaysia that human rights had to be preserved, and that the courts had to act as 'guardians of the weakest, poorest and most marginalised members of society against the hurly-burly of majoritarian politics'.
Mr Blair specifically attacked the Law Lords' ruling that the detention without trial of foreign terrorist suspects was unlawful. But Mrs Blair specifically praised this very judgment as an example of the way judges taught government and citizens about the 'ethical responsibilities' of democracy.
It is simply astounding, moreover, that she made such remarks in Malaysia - a country notorious for its human rights abuses including politically motivated prosecutions, torture and oppression of women under Sharia law.
Yesterday, the Prime Minister made light of the apparent marital disharmony. But the fact remains that at the very moment he was floating even tougher action to protect the nation, his wife was firing a warning shot across his bows not to curtail civil liberties.
If Mrs Blair had been a junior minister, she would have been carpeted for crass misjudgment and political treachery. As it is, she appears to be able to make regular such sorties into the political arena with impunity, despite never having been elected to office, and improperly exploit her privileged position as the Prime Minister's wife.
Nor is this the first time she has provoked outrage by her attitude towards terrorism. Previously, she appeared to sympathise with suicide bombers when she said: 'As long as young people feel they have no hope but to blow themselves up you are never going to make progress'.
Now, she has taken the side of the very judges whom her husband has rightly blamed for making this country a haven for terrorists. She warned of the risk to civil liberties by responding to terror in a way that undermined our 'most deeply held values and convictions' - by which she meant human rights law.
But our most deeply held value of all is the protection of human life - protection which the application of human rights law over the past few years has made infinitely more difficult.
Overriding this law would apparently 'cheapen our right to call ourselves a civilised nation', according to the 'First Lady'. But a civilised nation does not abandon the defence of its citizens by losing control of its borders, refusing to deport those who come here to incite murder or even carry out terrorist acts, or granting the demands of religious extremists (for example, allowing a Muslim schoolgirl to wear traditional full-length religious dress).
Yet that is the parlous state to which our judges have reduced us by putting human rights law ahead of the protection of this country. The Law Lords' ruling on detention without trial, for example, revealed our most senior judges striking a feverish pose over human rights and in the process taking leave of their senses.
They decided that since foreign terror suspects were being locked up without trial whereas home grown suspects were not, this constituted unlawful discrimination. But foreign nationals do not have the rights or responsibilities of British citizens, who in turn cannot be deported. So how could it be discrimination when like was not being compared with like?
This illogical reasoning was capped by some bizarre judicial outbursts. Thus Lord Hoffmann declared that Islamic terrorism was less of a threat than the laws passed to counter it. 'The real threat to the life of the nation, in the sense of a people living in accordance with its traditional laws and political values, comes not from terrorism but from laws such as these' he said.
So much for the declared intention by religious fanatics to destroy our way of life by causing loss of life on an unprecedented scale. Nor was Lord Hoffmann the only Law Lord who seemed to possess an alarmingly fragile grip on reality. Lord Scott declared that detention of foreign terror suspects was ' the stuff of nightmares, associated with France before and during the revolution, with Soviet Russia in the Stalinist era, and now associated, as a result of section 23 of the 2001 Act, with the United Kingdom'.
But the terrorist suspects he compared to the victims of a totalitarian dictatorship were in fact all free to leave prison immediately, provided they could find a country to take them - as two of them had in fact done.
In any event, the only reason the government was forced to lock up such suspects at all was that the judges had previously prevented it from deporting anyone to countries which might ill-treat them, under yet another interpretation of human rights law. As a result, this country now finds to its horror that for years it has been allowing in people which any 'civilised' country would keep out at all costs as a mortal threat to the public.
Indeed, our senior judges seem to be hell-bent on using human rights law to undermine all attempts to uphold our security and way of life. Over the years, they have repeatedly undermined immigration policy, resulting in the shambles we have today. And they seem almost automatically to side with any challenge to security and order mounted by groups with a grievance or an anti-authority agenda.
Look, for example, at the Court of Appeal's ruling that schoolgirl Shabina Begum should be allowed to wear a full length jilbab. This was despite the fact that her headmistress warned that this would leave other Muslim girls defenceless against targeting and intimidation by fundamentalists, and despite the fact that this girl was backed by just such an extremist group.
I'm afraid the truth is that the Prime Minister's plea to the judges to behave more responsibly will cut little ice. His government is clamped in the vice-like grip of human rights lawyers. Indeed, in her role as Cherie Booth QC and one of the founders of the leading human rights barristers' chambers Matrix, Mrs Blair is acting as a kind of shop steward of human rights lawyers, employing a unique and arguably improper influence over the Prime Minister to press their lucrative case.
And while Mr Blair's complaints about the judges are entirely justified, the irony is that it is he who is to blame for this perversity. For it was Mr Blair who introduced the Human Rights Act, even though he was warned that this would shift too much power to the judiciary. The judges are out of control - but it was Mr Blair who slipped the leash.
According to Mrs Blair, governments must always act strictly in accordance with the law. Indeed they must. The problem is that her husband introduced a very bad law, which has helped make this country ungovernable.
At a time of such a grave threat to national security, we can no longer afford to allow the judges to compromise our security. Human rights law should be repealed, or at very least we must derogate from those parts of it that prevent us from safeguarding this country's interests.
Mr Blair should translate his words into action - and tell his wife to put a sock in it.
But of course, that might risk a human rights action brought against him by Cherie Booth QC, defending her freedom of speech. This would doubtless be funded by Legal Aid and bring still more lucre to Matrix's chambers.