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"Simple sailor"

I’m enjoying Lord West at the moment. A former Admiral, he was ennobled by Gordon Brown, given a ministerial post in the Home Office—I initially mistyped that as “posy”, but I don’t think that’s a parliamentary tradition—and assigned the task of reviewing anti-terrorism measures. The full title he chose was Lord West of Spithead, a choice that raised a few eyebrows among those who know their naval history (i.e. not me; I had to have all this explained): Spithead is a naval base and was the site of the naval mutiny in 1797, as a result of which naval officers to this day are apparently not allowed to wear their ceremonial swords at official occasions but have to carry them in front of them in full view.

Yesterday he spoke about ID cards:
Lord West of Spithead: I did not answer the question asked by the noble Baroness, Lady O’Cathain. I am terribly sorry; I went away with the fairies or something. The noble Baroness made a valid point about ID cards. She is absolutely right that people can create exact copies of them. However, it is rather like someone robbing one’s house. One may have a burglar alarm, bars and all these things, but if someone focuses totally on robbing one’s house, it is very difficult to stop them getting in. I am afraid that the same is true of ID cards. You need a real specialist to spot a fake one that someone has put a huge effort into creating.
He thus blithely contradicted the Government’s line, which they have been sticking to for years, that only some kind of wizard could even hope ever to replicate the Home Office’s unforgeable creations.

He also said this about detention without trial:
Lord West of Spithead: It is worth noting that, since the maximum period was extended beyond 14 days, eight other people have been charged after being held beyond that 14th day. We believe that there is a case for going beyond 28 days in future, but again only in exceptional circumstances.
At 8.10 this morning on the Today programme, however, he said this:
I want to have absolute evidence that we actually need longer than 28 days. I want to be totally convinced, because I am not going to go and push for something that actually affects the liberty of the individual unless there is a real necessity for it. I still need to be fully convinced that we absolutely need more than 28 days and I also need to be convinced what is the best way of doing that.
Then, 80 minutes and a brisk meeting with the PM later, he said this:
My feeling is, yes, we need more than 28 days. I personally absolutely believe that within the next two to three years, we will require more than that for one of these complex plots.
In a statement he made shortly afterwards to clarify that he had actually, somehow, been expressing unequivocal support for extending the detention period all along, he said:
Being a simple sailor and not a politician, maybe I didn’t choose my words well… Maybe my choice of words wasn’t very clever.
Trouble is, in the short time that he has been a minister, that is exactly how he has come across: a terribly nice chap—not a word I’m given to using but nothing else will fit the bill here—but in no way a politician and thus given to doing inadvisable things until he’s firmly told not to. Like, for example, saying exactly what he thinks.


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 15th, 2007 11:46 am (UTC)
I liked that too. "I'm not a politician, I'm just a Home Office minister." Oh. Okay then.
Nov. 15th, 2007 11:58 am (UTC)
Thank you for writing this—I've been following it vaguely on the radio 4 news but not really looked into it. He really does look like a nice bloke trying to be honest and getting words mixed up, and not quite towing the party line.

Refreshing, in a way, but also rather funny.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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