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EDITIONS
Tuesday, 30 July, 2002, 15:55 GMT 16:55 UK
Blunkett's haste backfires
Anti-terror laws followed the 11 September attacks

There is a view in some parts of the government that the home office is in a spot of bother.

David Blunkett's desire to be seen as steely tough has backfired on numerous occasions since he became home secretary last year.


Mr Blunkett had been in a particularly bullish mood when pushing through the anti-terrorism powers last December

He has appeared too sensitive to criticism and some would argue, more outspoken than is wise for someone frequently tipped as a possible successor to Tony Blair.

Even within Labour there are those who, while welcoming some decisions, such as the reclassification of cannabis, have serious doubts about others.

And the successful appeal by nine foreign terrorist suspects being held without trial after being arrested in the wake of the 11 September attacks will certainly give more encouragement to his critics.

Indeed, whatever the home office says in response to the decision, it is a serious setback to the government's legislation, and a bruising blow for Mr Blunkett.

Bullish

The decision will be taken as vindication by those who said the laws were unfair and rushed through without sufficient consideration.
David Blunkett
Blunkett rounded on his critics over anti-terror plans

Mr Blunkett's critics will undoubtedly suggest his position appears rash and ill-thought out compared with the measured tones of Tory spokesman Oliver Letwin.

The home secretary had been in a particularly bullish mood when pushing through the anti-terrorism powers last December.

Under the new legislation the authorities can intern without trial non-British citizens suspected of involvement in international terrorism and who they view as a threat to national security.

The plans came under substantial criticism from some MPs and civil liberties campaigners, and that alone was a problem for Mr Blunkett.

'Stupid'

But his handling of the opposition that came his way was also criticised as ill-judged and a little intemperate.

He described the Liberal Democrats, for instance, as "stupid", saying they had made a "complete backside" of their amendments to the legislation.

Other critics in the House of Lords and the judiciary fared no better.

Then he astonished some MPs when he warned peers opposing the plans of the possible consequences of their prolonged consideration of the package, declaring: "God willing, there won't be an attack on us over Christmas and new year."

Sleep

This doesn't appear to be the only area where Mr Blunkett has lost friends.

From ID cards to asylum seekers to cannabis and reform of the legal system, the home secretary is making a habit of rubbing people up the wrong way.

So will he be losing sleep about this latest decision?

It seems doubtful. Certainly it is a blow and no doubt Mr Blunkett will seek to challenge the court's findings.

His tough-at-all-costs image is safe, and he remains in the running as a potential successor to Tony Blair.

But this latest battering - on top of so many others - is a reminder of the high political costs of being home secretary.

See also:

30 Jul 02 | UK
20 Dec 01 | Politics
14 Dec 01 | Politics

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