I see from the BBC News headlines that the House of Commons has voted to overturn the Lords' rejection of the new offence of glorifying terrorism.
I heard Charles Clarke on Radio 4 yesterday morning unconvincingly attempting to defend the government's position. The giveaway was when the interviewer asked how such a law would affect gable-end murals on both sides of the sectarian divide in Northern Ireland. Clarke dismissed this comparison as 'simply absurd'.
In these two brief words Clarke reveals the sheer cynicism of the government on this issue. The whole point of the loyalist and republican murals is to glorify terrorism (or armed struggle or whatever). The idea that they are not is 'simply absurd'. Yet the government would not dream of enforcing such a law in Northern Ireland and tearing symbols of support for paramilitary organisations, let alone prosecuting those responsible for them. That would upset the fragile 'peace' that reigns in the province.
In other words the glorifying terrorism clause is not to be fearlessly and impartially used against any manifestation of support for terrorism. Rather it is little more than a way of putting artificial distance between the British political parties in the hope that Labour can then use any future atrocity for party advantage.
Don't get me wrong here! I am sometimes exasperated by those on the left, whether in its extreme or liberal varieties, who play down the threat of terrorism and the particular difficulties that tackling it poses for democratic societies. There is a tendency on the left always to believe (whether out of naivety or cynicism) that terrorism can be easily cured by some simple change in policy by western governments.
But over this issue it is the government which is most worthy of opprobrium for exploiting the fear of terrorism to boost its own popularity. Fortunately, the feebleness and vacuity of Clarke's arguments gives me hope that the tactic won't work.