Thursday, 3 June 2010

Hannan: a welcome end to declamatory legislation

An excellent piece today from Daniel Hannan:
Theresa May has behaved bravely and correctly by resisting the temptation to review our firearms laws following the Cumbria tragedy. The aftermath of these diabolical events is the one time when we shouldn’t rush to make policy. We wouldn’t be human if, at such moments, we didn’t allow our emotions to rule us.
Yet, again and again, we have seen governments panicked into essentially declamatory legislation – legislation, that is, proportionate to the volume of tabloid coverage, rather than the need to address a specific problem.

It started during the late Thatcher years. The Football Supporters Act, the War Crimes Act, the Dangerous Dogs Act, Section 28: all were asinine laws passed because politicians wanted to signal that they were concerned about something, to “send a message”. Things became far worse, though, under Tony Blair, especially after the attacks of 11 September 2001, when all manner of Draconian measures were passed, not to deal with identified threats, but to advertise the government’s toughness.

Hannan contrasts May's handling of the Cumbrian tragedy with Tony Blair's response to Dunblane:

Can you be certain that, if Labour were still in power, it would not be treating this calamity as yet another reason to enlarge state power? It happened after the Dunblane killings. No one argued that a ban on handguns would have made the slightest difference in that case: Thomas Hamilton had held his weapon illegally. Nor did anyone seriously take issue with the Cullen Report’s eminently moderate proposal that pistols should locked up at registered gun clubs. Instead, a filthy tabloid campaign suggested that anyone who voted against a total ban somehow didn’t care about the dead children. Tony Blair’s most nauseating speech as Labour leader was the one he gave to his 1997 party conference, in which he brandished the shrouds of the murdered infants:

Some Tories accuse us of being emotional. Well, if they had been in that gym, if they had met those parents, sitting in those tiny chairs where once their children sat, they’d have been emotional, too”.

In fact, of course, the Tories had been in that gym. In an act of bipartisan decency, John Major had invited Blair, as Leader of the Opposition to accompany him. This is how he was repaid.

Unlike Hannan, I have no love for the Conservative party, but it seems that on this issue they have resisted the urge to make things worse, at least for now.

I'm inclined to agree that New Labour would not have shown such restraint.

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