On Thursday, an open revolt by Labour backbenchers on Tony Blair's draconian anti-terrorism bill led to a temporary backdown on detention without trial, with the government offering a week's "emergency consultation" with other parties rather than risk seeing the clause fail. Friday saw Blair railing against his critics, and insisting that the Police should be given whatever powers they asked for - effectively reducing Parliament to a rubber-stamp for their wishes. Understandably, his critics were unimpressed. Now, finally, Blair seems to have gotten the message. While continuing to bluster in public, he has accepted that he will have to back down, or else see the bill fail in the house - an event which would immediately call his position into question.
Needless to say, I'm pleased. It's good to see British MPs finally standing up to defend fundamental civil liberties such as Habeas Corpus and the right to a fair trial. But it gets better: the bill is also likely to run into significant trouble in the Lords (where Labour does not have a majority), and the government is already signalling a backdown on the "glorification of terrorism" and "indirect incitement" clauses as well. Given their consequences for freedom of speech (the clauses would have made it an offence to say anything which might encourage terrorism or the overthrow of any government, no matter how oppressive, and regardless of actual intent), that can only be a Good Thing.