Thursday, July 13, 2006


Bad Timing

One of the Labour Party’s favourite pieces of hypocrisy is to pose as the class warriors they once were, hoping to claw back some of their deeply disgruntled core voters. This was on view yesterday in the Nat West Three debate, as the government ignored that pesky ‘innocent until proven guilty’ thing to smear the Lib Dems and Tories as defenders of, woooh, scary nasty rich people. Two problems with this pose: doing over bankers with alleged millions to suck up to a Texas multi-millionaire President isn’t backing the little guy; and the unfortunate timing of wealthy Lord Levy’s arrest.

I don’t know if the Nat West Three are guilty of any wrongdoing. I don’t know if Lord Levy is guilty of any wrongdoing. I’m prepared to treat each as innocent unless and until they’ve been fairly tried and found guilty of any British crimes under British law. But look at Labour’s reaction to ‘the class enemy’, that it doesn’t matter if there’s no evidence under British law and if the USA has no business trying them, they can just be posted off to receive less favourable treatment than American businesspeople would and it probably serves them right. Then look at their reaction to their chief ‘getting dodgy cash from even richer people’ dealer being arrested, that they’re shocked and appalled and it’s grossly unfair. A Liberal view is to stick up for fair treatment for everyone, rich, poor or even Labour. The Labour Government’s approach is to do anything their friends say, even if it’s George Bush and even if their friends aren’t reciprocating, and loudly criticise the justice system if it has the temerity to think the same laws that apply to the rest of us apply to them.

The Liberal Democrats were the only party that voted against the extradition rules when they were brought into force, and Lib Dem Shadow Home Secretary Nick Clegg has been doing sterling work in Parliament against the lop-sided 2003 Extradition Treaty. He certainly won the debate yesterday, when at the close even our shameless Government could only find four Labour MPs – about 1% of their total numbers – shameless enough to vote for their argument. I’m sure all readers know that this treaty grants fewer rights to British citizens than to American citizens, and that though its terms have been incorporated into UK laws the US Senate still thinks even extradition agreements that are lop-sided in the US’ favour are too unfair to US citizens to ratify.

The Nat West Three are the first big case under the new rules, but there are plenty of others coming up. If you want to do something to protect their rights to a fair trial, please write personally to the Solicitor General and ask him to support Nick Clegg’s Extradition (United States of America) Bill that would repeal parts of the Extradition Act 2003 and bring an end to these unfair extradition procedures:

Mike O’Brien MP
House of Commons

Update: There’s now a direct link to this Lib Dem campaign in the array of ever-changing buttons I nervously let the party stick to the side of my blog. Go on, give it a click.

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