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Homeland security in the UK

Typical – I snuck off to munch paella on the Costa del Sol and so missed piles of news, finding myself unable to apologise to anyone for slavery, or to to pick apart the Unspeak on all sides about Iran’s taking of the British “sailors”, or to blog about the creation of a new Ministry of Justice in the UK, which will no doubt be just – after all, the US “Justice Department” under George W. Bush’s administration has been a hotbed of ingeniously creative efforts to bypass laws, for example those forbidding torture. The Lord Chancellor promised that the new Ministry would “deliver sense in sentencing”, which rather raises the question of why the Home Office’s sentencing policies have apparently been nonsense for ten long years. Still, we can all agree that more sense in the government’s sentences promises to tickle our ears like a cool refreshing breeze.

The Home Office itself will be left to concentrate on the issues of “terrorism, security” – and, what is just as terrifying, “immigration”. Home secretary John Reid, in his characteristically rude and contemptuous reply to challenge by David Davis (Mr Reid being the stereotypical thuggish bully among the assembled Parliamentary schoolboys), said that the reorganization was necessary because the threat of terrorism was a “seamless challenge” that demanded a “seamless response”. ((Thanks to Dave for nominating this one.)) Seamless? It makes one wonder about the cunning possible construction of tubular Al Qaeda-style robes. Reid had previously told the Labour party conference last September that terrorism, following the supposed airline “plot” of August, was a “now seamless threat”, implying that previously – during actually successful attacks – there had still been seams in the suicidists’ ideological garments, now magically vanished and smoothed over. Oh, all right, what Reid actually means by “seamless” he explained in evidence to the Home Affairs Committee in December:

This is now a seamless threat, it is no longer easily divided into foreign affairs, defence or domestic affairs.

So the name of what will remain the Home Office looks like it is edging closer to Unspeak. Under the warm and comforting rubric of “home”, it will actually be devoted to protecting us from filthy foreigners who want to come here to blow themselves up, or – what is nearly as bad – to perform some casual plumbing or decorating jobs, which on the face of it might seem to count as home improvement. Really, Mr Reid’s department should be renamed the Fortress Office.

  1. 1  Bastion  April 4, 2007, 11:38 am 

    Glad to have you back, Steve-o.

    Hope you had a nice time.

  2. 2  Richard  April 4, 2007, 4:37 pm 

    it is no longer easily divided into foreign affairs, defence or domestic affairs

    This sounds like a classic case of conflating the object with its representation: the divisions he refers to are departments in the government, not, I’d’ve thought, the ‘affairs’ (or events) themselves, which, I suspect, have been ‘seamless’ for a long time.

    If you’re investigating and interfering in someone’s activities no matter where they’re located, why not just say so? Perhaps because the implication is that you will be trespassing on other sovereign states?

  3. 3  Steven  April 4, 2007, 10:44 pm 

    Thanks Bastion!

    Richard, that’s a nice point: it’s not as if those things are natural categories. Given that Reid also irritably reminded Parliament that there is already a counterterrorism minister, I’m not sure exactly what this extra reorganization is meant to accomplish, other than to sound grand and to take some of the heat off Fortress Secretaries.

  4. 4  redpesto  April 10, 2007, 4:29 pm 

    No, no, no! It should be called the ‘Ministry of the Interior’ – a catch-all description usually reserved for fictional totalitarian regimes to dentote how evil they are. They’re usually run by some slab-faced brute who murdered and tortured his way up the ranks. (Face it, John Reid does look the part) Or, given the govt’s paranoia about foreigners getting into Britain, the ‘Panic Room Deprtment’.

    Also, I’m reminded of the episode of Futurama where Fry, Bender and Leela all acquire superpowers and form themselves into the ‘New Justice Team’ (complete with theme tune).

    New Justice Team? Hmmm…how very New Labour.

  5. 5  Steven  April 10, 2007, 9:30 pm 

    John Reid does look the part, you’re terrifyingly right.

    Tough on Justice, tough on the causes of Justice.

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