The economist and philosopher Damian Tomaso, author of two books on libertarian issues, made clear today he is prepared to declare a "state of philosophical emergency" to suspend intellectual support for the legitimacy of the UK government, if the Law Lords overturn — as Home Secretary Dr John Reid has demanded — a series of judgments that have
weakened the anti-terrorist control order regime partially reaffirmed British civil liberties.
Tomaso's warning follows Dr Reid’s acute embarrassment yesterday when he had to confirm to MPs that three terror suspects whom he had placed under "control orders", to prohibit them from travelling to Iraq (supposedly to prevent them killing British troops), had all absconded on Monday night. (None of the three men has been charged or prosecuted for terrorist offences.)
MPs fear the
control order regime attempt to get round civil liberties by using “prisons without bars” is in danger of becoming a public laughing stock, since six of the current seventeen terror suspects subject to orders have managed to disappear.
Dr Reid is threatening to "opt out" of a key part of the European human rights convention. Such a move — which can only properly be justified by war, or a public emergency threatening the life of the nation — will represent a new round in the continuing struggle between ministers and
the courts the public, over liberty versus the fight against terrorism goal of creating a police state.
"There is a very serious threat to our liberties," said Tomaso, "and I am the first to admit that the means we have of opposing it are so inadequate that we are fighting with one arm tied behind our backs. So I hope that, when the government brings forward its dubious proposals in the next few weeks, we will have a little less misplaced utilitarianism and a little more support for basic moral principles."
Dr Tomaso said he was prepared for the first time to take the "nuclear option" of refusing to accept the legitimacy of the democratically elected (Labour) government, if the Home Secretary proceeds with the plan of "derogating" from Article Five of the European Convention on Human Rights (which guarantees the right to liberty).
Apologies to: The Guardian.