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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

Blunkett's Interment Law Struck Down

Eamonn McCann • Derry Journal, 19 December 2004

Angela Hegarty bounced into the Bloody Sunday centre in Foyle Street on Thursday, beaming, to announce that the Law Lords had just ruled the 2001 Terrorism Act out of court.

“Mind you,“ she cautioned. “They say that jailing people without charge goes against everything Britain stands for. So what happens here doesn’t count.”

It was an apt point on the particular occasion. The original Bloody Sunday march was, of course, a protest against internment.

There’s another connection, too. The Terrorism Act was introduced by David Blunkett, whose political career has just come a cropper on account of him having threatened to have civil servants slowly roasted over a spit if they didn’t issue his lover’s nanny with a visa. Something like that. If the visa wasn’t rubber-stamped in double-quick time, Blunkett’s lover would have had to look after her child herself while on holiday.

(We should keep this in mind the next time we hear Blunkett explaining that he has been driven throughout by a fierce commitment to family duty and the necessity for people to take responsibility for their own actions. If he had told his lover to take responsibility for wiping her own baby’s bum, there’d have been none of this bother.)

Blunkett had a reputation as a very left-wing socialist altogether in his days as council leader in Sheffield. Raised the Red Flag high over Sheffield Town Hall one splendid May morning. What prompted him, then, to turn his back on his ideals and start long-term planning to arm the traffic wardens with machine-guns?

In the early years of the 1980s, as firebrand Blunkett strutted the south Yorkshire scene, the political topography was shifting. In ‘83, under Michael Foot, Labour had lost its second election in a row to deranged Thatcher. Queasier comrades were beginning to believe that the only way they’d get into government was to look and sound and act like Tories. Everywhere in the party, the ambitious were quietly discarding ideas.

Blunkett wasn’t well placed to accomplish this transition. Too stridently and famously associated with the Left. He needed an issue to dramatise disillusionment with Old Labour, a plausible reason to embrace the new orthodoxy. Twenty-one years ago this weekend, the Provos provided it.

On December 17th 1983, a Provisional IRA car-bomb exploded outside Harrod’s in London, killing five innocent people and wounding 80. Outrage was exacerbated by its happening within the octave of Xmas. Up in Sheffield, Blunkett saw his chance.

A Bloody Sunday march through the city centre had been planned for the last Saturday in January. A clamour arose for the council to ban it. The majority Labour group was split. There were Labour Leftists among the march organisers---the sitting MP for Sheffield Brightside, Joan Maynard, among them.

On the council, the issue was settled when its leader and Sheffield’s numero uno socialist shocked local pundits by coming out stridently in support of a ban. Naturally, he was roundly denounced by former comrades. Automatically, he was warmly welcomed as a fresh convert by the emerging new Labour establishment.

The march issue remained raw within Sheffield Labour and was a factor the following year when Maynard was removed as candidate for Brightside and replaced by the new kingpin of the local Kinnockites, Blunkett. He duly won the seat in the 1987 general election. And thus began the rise and rise which many believed was fated to take him to the top---until the debacle of recent days.

The Bloody Sunday centre was an apt place, right enough, to hear of the Law Lords’ decision to strike down the discredited Blunkett’s internment law.




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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



All censorships exist to prevent any one from challenging current conceptions and existing institutions. All progress is initiated by challenging current conceptions, and executed by supplanting existing institutions. Consequently the first condition of progress is the removal of censorships.
- George Bernard Shaw

Index: Current Articles

23 December 2004

Other Articles From This Issue:

The Spectre of Imprisonment
Marian Price

Bad Santa
Anthony McIntyre

Blunkett's Interment Law Struck Down
Eamonn McCann

Trust Us, It's Not What It Looks Like
Brian Mór

ARN & Street Seen: End of the Year Comments from Davy Carlin
Davy Carlin

21 December 2004

3rd Intl. Conference Against Isolation: Speech by IRSP Delegates
Liam O Ruairc and Gerard McGarrigle, IRSP

Spot the Light
Anthony McIntyre

Unionism in the Dáil
Dr John Coulter

Let's Get Penitent!
Brian Mór

Street Seen Sleeping Bag Appeal
Jon Glackin

Life Among the Ruins: The Peru Reader
Seaghán Ó Murchú

Listen to Sharon's Little Helpers
Paul de Rooij



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