Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Labour MP's And Capital Punishment

For fifty years, the Labour Party, and virtually all Labour MP's have opposed the death penalty.  That includes opposing the death penalty in other countries, such as the US, Saudi Arabia and so on.  In fact, Britain refuses to send people back to other countries, even to stand trial, where they may end up facing the death penalty.  The reasons have been well established over that period.

History is replete with the number of people, who after the most extensive, thorough and impartial of trials have been wrongly convicted, and, in the past executed.  The number of people who have been wrongly convicted, just in Britain, whose trials have not been so extensive, thorough or impartial, is probably even greater.  One reason for scrapping the death penalty, therefore, was that, if there is a miscarriage of justice, although someone cannot be given the years of their life back they have spent in gaol, they can be compensated for it, and at least be able to enjoy the rest of their life.  If you have been murdered by the state, which is what the execution of innocent people is, then you have not possibility either of being compensated, or of living out the rest of your life.

The other reasons that capital punishment was scrapped was that it served no purpose.

Yet, it appears that some Labour MP's want to reintroduce capital punishment by the back door. What is worse, they apparently want to reintroduce the right of the state to murder people, without any of the legal requirements for due process, and trial that were previously some kind of basis of state executions in the past!  That is what the "shoot to kill" policy is.  The question over the last few days, should not have been about why Jeremy Corbyn rightly refused to support such a policy, but why so many MP's, of all parties, and the media apparently wanted to support it!

When Vladimir Putin uses such a policy in Russia to deal with his opponents, he is rightly condemned for it.  When police in Ferguson in the United States employ such a policy against black people, they are again rightly condemned for it, and for the riots its subsequently provokes.  Indeed, although it has taken more than forty years, and millions of pounds, in expenses, Britain was roundly condemned for such a policy during "Bloody Sunday", in Ireland.

So, exactly what is the defence today for giving the state carte blanche to kill people without trial and due process?  All of the arguments have been heard before, in relation to Bloody Sunday, in relation to the US cops need to kill rather than to contain and so on.  These are the arguments put by a totalitarian state and its defenders, not of an even bourgeois democratic state, with the basic rights and freedoms that entails.  That conservatives, who seek to turn the clock back to a time before the bourgeois democratic revolution, and dominance of industrial capitalism, is not surprising.  That is what they exist to do, on behalf of the social forces they represent, but why would any liberal, let alone social-democrat want to adopt such a political stance?

Have all those who support this position forgotten the consequence of relying upon the "impartial" intelligence and information possessed by that state and its cohorts that led to an illegal war in Iraq? Have they forgotten about the murder by the state on the basis of such intelligence, of the totally innocent Jean Charles De Menezes? Not to mention the Bloody Sunday Inquiry, or all of the documentaries by Peter Taylor and others, about the "Shoot To Kill" policy implemented by that British State, against the Provisional Ira, such as "Death On The Rock".

If it is a matter of a shoot out, on the streets, as in the case of Paris over the weekend, this is a different matter to endorsing a policy of "shoot to kill".  But, even in such circumstances, we should be very careful about giving the state, such a power.  The current law on self-defence, for example, requires someone under attack to do all in their power, to avoid having to defend themselves, for example by running away, if possible, before any physical response is a legal defence.  As has been pointed out in relation to the actions of US cops, it is possible to shoot to disable your opponent, without needing to kill them, and a state with massive firepower at its disposal is more than capable of such measured action.

The response of MP's in general seems to be the normal knee-jerk response of something must be done, and that something that is first picked up as a response, is usually the wrong one, which would have been realised with more consideration.  That so many Labour MP's have fallen into this trap appears to be just a symptom of the extent to which over thirty years, they ahve simply adopted a conservative and so authoritarian mindset, and the extent to which, therefore, they lack any ability for independent thought, and simply respond to the latest moral panic, and media pressure.

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