Troubling times

I really can't wait for this week to be over. I am looking forward to seeing my beloved Brighton again.

I haven't been away from it but rather, it's been taken from me by the Labour party conference. Everywhere you look, you see Labour posters hanging from street lamps, the streets are full of policemen carrying automatic weapons and the air is decidedly un-Brightonesque and so are the goings on.

Last week, Paul, who's doing some J2EE programming for us on a current project and who cycles in to work told me that the police had closed off the cycle-lane by the sea-side. No doubt afraid of suicide bombers on bicycles pedalling into the conference. Unfortunately, as a sorry example of the state of affairs, there actually have been suicide bombings, in Iraq and Israel at least, where suicide bombers did use bicycles.

We need a stronger word than madness, it just doesn't cut it any more.

Yesterday, Walter Wolfgang, an 82-year man who fled Nazi Germany and who has been a member of the Labour party for over fifty years was forcibly removed from the Labour conference and held under the Terrorism Act. His crime? Yelling out "That's a lie and you know it" during Foreign Minister Jack Straw's speech when he stated (apparently with a straight face) "We are in Iraq for one reason only - to help the elected Iraqi government build a secure, democratic and stable nation - and we can and will only remain with their consent." He later reportedly yelled "Nonsense!" when Jack Straw tried to compare Iraq to Germany after World War II.

This led to widespread criticism. My favorite being the Conference Sketch in the Telegraph that concludes "The Blairite regime has suffered a disaster in its battle for hearts and minds. Last night it was loading its possessions into armour-plated limousines and preparing to abandon Brighton."

Tony Blair issued an apology today but it had more to do with Mr. Wolfgang's age than his being thrown out for voicing his opinion or his being held under the Terrorism Act. "We will obviously have to make sure in the future when that happens and someone is elderly ... we should make sure that people handle it sensitively." So what about when someone is not elderly, Blair?

In other news, the family of an innocent man who was murdered on the London Underground by being shot repeatedly in the head by police are in London to visit the scene of their son's death. Jean Charles de Menezes, 27, was killed aboard a subway train on July 22 when police misidentified him as a terrorist. There is currently an investigation into the apparent cover-up that followed the incident. The police did nothing wrong in that case according to the current law in the United Kingdom which allows them to shoot and kill anyone they believe to be a potential terrorist.

It is a very scary time indeed to be living in this country. I, personally, am unsure which fundamental freedoms we still have under the Terrorism Act and have some reading up to do...