Page last updated at 17:14 GMT, Tuesday, 10 June 2008 18:14 UK

Stars urge MPs against 42 days

By Justin Parkinson
BBC News political reporter


(L-R) David Davis, Vivienne Westwood, Shami Chakrabarti, Diane Abbott, Honor Blackman, Chris Huhne
Haute couture, Hollywood and honourable members came together

They were impossibly glamorous - at home on film, keen for column inches in the next day's papers, posing in the afternoon sunshine.

But enough about Chris Huhne, David Davis and Diane Abbott.

The Lib Dem and Tory home affairs spokesmen, and the outspoken left-wing Labour MP, were outshone as James Bond actress Honor Blackman and fashion designer Vivienne Westwood came to Westminster.

They were all there for a photoshoot, organised by the pressure group Liberty, to protest against government plans to extend pre-charge terror detentions to a maximum of 42 days.

As dozens of Labour MPs were deciding whether to inflict Gordon Brown's first Commons defeat as prime minister in Wednesday's vote on the plans, the press corps were more interested in Pussy Galore and the Godmother of Punk.

Ms Westwood, as befits her profession, was fashionably late - but deadly serious.

'Horrible'

Her hair dyed orange and with miniature "devil's horns" protruding from her head, she said: "The problem is that once they arrest somebody, everyone accepts that they are a terrorist.

"It's just totally wrong and all about Gordon Brown wanting to show he is as tough as the horrible Tony Blair.

"What they really are doing is saying 'they don't need the protection of the law anymore'. I think that's outrageous."

Vivienne Westwood and Honor Blackman
It seems to me they are about to try to push through something which is so unjust and unfair
Honor Blackman (right)

Her point made, Ms Westwood joined the others for the unlikely line-up, featuring Parliament in the background.

While the cameras clicked and flashes went off, Liberty's director, Shami Chakrabarti, gave an address calling for the government to "defeat terrorism within the rule of law".

The assembled photo corps, as if conscious of the usual political differences between the likes of Ms Abbott and Mr Davis, shouted: "A bit to the left. A bit to the right."

The vote on the 42-days plan is expected to be "very, very tight", according to the government.

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith has offered a series of concessions, including limiting the time in which police are able to use their extended powers.

But on the pavement opposite Parliament, the view was unanimously against longer detentions.

Ms Blackman, who starred as Pussy Galore in the 1964 Bond film Goldfinger and as Cathy Gale in The Avengers, was in strident mood.

'Frightening'

She said: "It seems to me they are about to try to push through something which is so unjust and unfair, something that will alienate the Muslim population.

"Nobody thinks it's useful, it seems. It's the same as the run-in to the Iraq war - frightening people to death.

"It's thoroughly unjust to spend 42 days in detention with no charge against anyone. It ruins people's lives, ruins family relationships and probably stigmatises people for the rest of their lives."

The government is adamant that changing the law is vital to deal with ever more complex terror plots.

As the photoshoot came to an end, 42 red and white balloons carrying the slogan "No Extension" were released.

The wind took them in a westerly direction - Downing Street lies to the east.

What any undecided Labour MPs watching from across the road made of it all is anyone's guess.


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