Will limiting liberty lose Labour’s liberals?

Will limiting liberty lose Labour’s liberals?

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    What’s the political impact of extending the detention limits?

Those papers that cover the government’s latest plan to extend the detention without trial period won’t make comfortable reading this morning at the Home Office and Number 10. The Home Secretary’s paper proposing a two week extension to 42 days has triggered off bitter protests and there must be a possibility that it will fail to get through the commons.

According to the Guardian the plan “appeared to be foundering last night” although “government business managers claimed they were confident they had provided enough parliamentary and judicial oversight for ministers to win the vote”.

The Independent has a hostile main leader which concludes “..when even the Shadow Home Secretary, David Davis – who yields to no one in his enthusiasm for punishing felons – produces an ardent defence of civil liberties to support his opposition to longer detention for suspected terrorists, the Government should know that it has lost the argument and retreat with what remains of its dignity intact”.

One question which nobody has answered is what political advantage the Brown government would get by proposing and forcing through such a change? What groups of voters would stay or stick with Labour because of the Brown-Smith stance on this issue?

For to get back into electoral contention Labour needs to focus on two groups of voters – the LAB>LD waverers who switched to Kennedy’s party in 2005 in their droves and the 10%-13% of Labour voters last time who now tell pollsters that they plan to vote Tory.

    These are centre ground electors who are less likely to respond to tough law and order rhetoric than other voters. The next election is about “niche” marketing and it is these largely ex-Labour supporters who will be crucial.

In the first months of Brown’s premiership all the signs were that the new man fully realised this. His objective, we were told repeatedly, was to push the Tories off the centre ground. With the detention extension proposal it appears that this strategy is not being followed any more.

On the spread betting markets there’s been an easing of the Tory prices suggesting that some profit taking has been going on. I got out of part of my Tory buy and Labour sell positions at the weekend when the Sporting Index spread was 300-306 seats. It has now dropped to 294-300.

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Mike Smithson

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