Coffee House

Abu Qatada and the who governs Britain question

13 November 2012

7:04 PM

13 November 2012

7:04 PM

No government ever wants to look like it is in office but not in power. This is why this country’s inability to deport Abu Qatada is causing such concern in Conservative circles.

David Cameron will be well aware of the symbolism of the issue. In his conference speech this year, he boasted that

“For years people asked why we couldn’t get rid of those radical preachers who spout hatred about Britain while living off the taxpayer……well, Theresa May – a great Home Secretary – has done it – and she’s got Abu Hamza on that plane and out of our country to face justice.”


Today, Cameron declared himself ‘completely fed up’ with the fact that Abu Qatada is still here. But things threaten to get worse for the government if its appeal against Qatada’s legal victory is not successful.

At some point, this government is going to have to change the law. Otherwise, this farce will simply repeat itself.

Subscribe to The Spectator today for a quality of argument not found in any other publication. Get more Spectator for less – just £12 for 12 issues.

Show comments
  • Baron

    On this issue, it’s sharing that has it, the boy is in office, the Abu guy is in power.

  • barbie

    They should so has France does and deport and argue after. In fact go even further, and repeal the Human Rights Act and change British law to suit us not anyone else. Its the Human Rights Act that is impeding his removal, and one cannot blame May, she’s done all she could. Blame Cameron for sitting on the fence on this Act. He could take action if he wanted and repeal it, and begin again, he could then remove this man on his, and the nations terms. Its no good keep talking and saying ‘Im fed up’ its action we want. It seems no MPs have enough bottel to act. Who cares what anyone else thinks, just do it.

  • Gina Dean

    Can someone answer why it is possible for other nations in the EU to put those they do not want on a plane to other places without to much trouble. Yet in this country we seem to have great difficulty in getting rid of the unsavoury charactors we have in our jails for crimes that they have committed here and in their own countries.

  • Madame Merle

    While I realise this latest ruling was by a British judge, we could, in future save ourselves a lot of ridicule and money.

    Italy and France often defy ECHR rulings and deport regardless, the fine is a mere €14000 which seems like a bargain.

  • Rule Brittania

    This ruling is a victory for what truly makes Britain Great – our values.

    The cheap and easy option would be to pack this odious man onto a plane and forget about him.

    But here in Great Britain, we don’t just do what’s easy, or what’s cheap – we do what is right. Even when it’s the hardest option, even when someone so nasty is the obvious beneficiary, we still do what’s right. We stick to our principles, regardless.

    We should take great pride from the fact that we live in such a wonderful country, that steadfastly refuses to support or in any way condone torture.

    • Hexhamgeezer

      You’ve got a superfluous ‘L’ in your name

      • Rule Brittania

        I’m sad that you don’t share my love for our great country, and I suspect you take your rights and liberties for granted.

    • Alison

      But we’re not doing what is “right”, we’re doing what is legal – not the same thing at all. “Easy” and “cheap” don’t enter into it.

      The law changes, and this one surely will, sooner or later, but our values will remain the same. Presumably, in your view, when the law changes it will suddenly become “right” to get rid of him?

      Do you believe that (legal) tax avoidance is right?

      • Rule Brittania

        No, we’re doing what’s right.

        By refusing to enter into a legal process which involves torture, we maintain our long-held position, which is that torture is NEVER acceptable.

        Had we entered into a legal process which involves torture, we would be hypocrites. And ever time we tried to tell some barbaric country to stop doing it, they would laugh, and tell us to get our own house in order first. This is why things like extraordinary rendition did us – and the world – so much damage. We must not further abandon our principles, and build upon that damage.

        So we have to spend money on this extended legal process, and we have to put up with having this vile man in our country. Which is precisely my point – the cheap and easy option would be to put him on a plane. The right option is to stand our ground, and insist that the Jordanians further improve their legal processes, to ensure that no evidence obtained through torture will appear in his trial. Then, and only then, he can go, and I’ll be as delighted as anyone to see the back of him.

        I believe tax avoidance is immoral. Not sure why it’s relevant.

        • Alison

          I assume, therefore, that you believe a country like France, which would almost certainly have deported this animal, has inferior values? I know it well and couldn’t possibly agree with that conclusion.

          The essential difference is that France would not have given priority to the welfare of someone who shows utter contempt for France.

          A “wonderful country” does not have pensioners evicted from political meetings, or send people to prison for wearing a T shirt, having a rant on a tram or possessing a pistol given as a present in reasonable circumstances.

          We should fix this country’s serious shortcomings before judging Jordan. It’s Abu Qatada’s own culture, not ours.

    • Barry

      Do our “values” and “principles” include locking up Barry Thew for wearing an offensive T shirt?

      Got things the wrong way around, I think.

      • Rule Brittania

        No, I believe that’s wrong.

  • Art

    Thank you

  • Art

    I feel that the comment below from Mr Cronin should be removed from this blog.

  • Cassandra1963

    The real scandal is that the government does have all the powers and sovereign authority it needs to deport Qatada and his family today if they had the will to do it. Yes you heard that correctly, the government chooses not to use those powers and instead chooses to go through the courts. This is the reality, this is not being reported and no MSM hack has yet confronted the regime with the facts and demanded an answer.

    The government has freely chosen to keep Qatada in the UK and chooses to use its influence to keep that fact secret, lawyers getting rich from a fund we could not access and a criminal terrorist playing the system because the government chooses to allow it to happen and chooses not to use the powers and authority it has. Think we live in a free country? Still think we have a free press? Cameron and his freak show Mekon aided by the ever ridiculous May dressed up in her usual clown outfit know the truth and have to be challenged, they have handed over sovereign powers and we have to live with the consequences.

  • eeore

    Surely the question should be why he has not done a Dr Kelly. Which perhaps suggests he is still of some value in the wider game.

    • Sarah

      He’s need to be read the English press to do a Dr Kelly. As he probably doesn’t, he’s largely immune from its effects.

      • eeore

        I’m sorry?

  • Thomas Paine

    Actually Peter Oborne has it right in the Telegraph – this is a good day for justice and we should be proud that we uphold the rule of law and don’t have an executive which can override it on a whim (and have had for 800 years since Magna Carta, in theory at least).

    If Theresa May is all that bothered why doesn’t she have him arrested for breaking UK law after all they’ve had 10 years to investigate and bring charges. If he’s really such a dangerous terrorist, that is.

    It’s precisely the rule of law that differentiates us from these barbarians and we should celebrate that rather than getting all Daily Mail about it.

    • Barry

      Quite right.

      Having this man in our midst, at our enormous expense, proves how civilised we are.

      If we had a few more, we’d be even more civilised.

    • Sarah

      Perhaps because he hasn’t broken UK law (much), he’s wanted for trial in Jordan for breaking Jordanian law. Hence the extradition request.

  • Hexhamgeezer

    Who governs Britain?

    When it comes to deporting Islamist scum and, say, regulations concerning flush toilets it is not Parliament.

  • salieri

    Who governs Britain, you ask. We all know the answer, and it sure as hell isn’t the British government.

  • Andy

    This is a ridiculous mess and has been for years. This scum ball is NOT a British Subject. He has no right to reside here no matter if asylum was granted – that which was give may also be taken away.

    I do not believe that there is not a way around this even if it means use of the Prerogative.

  • Alex R

    “at some point, his government is going to have to change the law.” – by that I presume you mean, withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights? The UK Tribunal was applying undertakes it received from the UK government to the standard laid down by the European Court of Human Rights. And surely that’s not going to happen in coalition with the Lib Dems?

    • HooksLaw

      We existed for many years without a Human Rights act and UK citizens were still free to go to Strasbourg to appeal cased based on Human Rights.
      So we could repeal the HSR or amend it or replace it, but still stay signed up to the ECHR as before.

      • Alex R

        The HSR makes no difference in this instance. The Tribunal’s judgement wasn’t made with reference to the HRA, but to the judgement made by the ECHR.

  • True Bred Pomponian

    Now let me see, Ted Heath asked this question in 1974 and the electorate thought, “if you need to ask this question, then it’s obviously not you, mate”, and duly voted for Harold Wilson.

  • Noa

    “At some point, this government is going to have to change the law. Otherwise, this farce will simply repeat itself”.

    As Peter Oborne says, in the DT, we should be proud of the judgment, which is a triumph for the rule of law.
    Besides it will soon pale into insignificant irrelevance as the results of a new home grown generation of muslim ‘activitists’ start to explode in our midst.

  • jeffrey davies

    do as the yanks do fly him out on a redishion flight end of or grow a pair and just do it any way as whot rights have the dead people got who he,s help to kill none as there is nobody to ask them

  • Raz

    They should ignore the ruling and deport him immediately. He’s made a mockery of us for years.

  • John Cronin

    the prophet mohammed had anal sex with camels

    • Colin

      I hope John Cronin is a Non de Plume…

    • the viceroy’s gin

      It appears the mohammed anal sex with camels is getting multiple thumbs up.

      (Submitted without additional comment)

    • Stan

      This is truly offensive to camels everywhwere.

  • toco10

    It is just a question of time and money before this dreadful man exits the UK but if only his family could also be deported we could use the huge welfare benefit payments to help our own people.

  • Tumers

    Fucked up well and truly like a trussed up turkey Mr Cameronandon!

    • 2trueblue

      Yep, and when did all this happen? Well, hello Mr Blair, who then trussed us up with the EU laws and left us where we are now. Easy when you can then walk off and leave just another problem for someone else………Liebore. No one does it better.

  • Ron Todd

    ‘Completely fed up’ hardly inspiring its like immigration or Europe which ever faction of the ruling class is in power they will not act against the liberal concensus.

    • 2trueblue

      Yep, but how long has this man been in prison? This is not something that Cameron can be shackled with, it happened on Blairs watch and who was it that gave the Eu such power that we were neutered when it came to doing what we want? Lovely to be able to pass the buck to Cameron. Liebore are great at that.

      • HooksLaw

        it was Blair who brought in the Human rights Act- not the EU. As drafted it allowed UK judges to go beyond the principles being followed in Strasburg.

        In 1997 the Government rejected an opposition amendment to clause 2 of the Human Rights Bill which would have bound UK judges to follow the jurisprudence of the Strasbourg courts. Lord Irvine, the then lord chancellor, said, “We believe that clause 2 gets it right in requiring domestic courts to take into account judgements of the European Court but not making them binding”.
        As a result, Tory MP Edward Leigh commented that, “We are in danger of not simply incorporating the Convention in our law, but going much further. What we are creating is an entirely new Bill of Rights”.

        Dominic Grieve pointed out that the HRA “afforded an opportunity for our own courts to develop their own jurisprudence in relation to the ECHR” and, Grieve has said that judges have used the HRA as a ‘floor’ and not a ‘ceiling’ when going about their judgements. Grieve has also pointed out that our courts have been ‘willing at times to go much further than the Strasbourg Court has ever gone, contributing to ‘rights inflation’.

        The problems are in the way the law was drafted by labour and the way judges interpret it.

        • 2trueblue

          Still back to Blair and his merry gang.

    • barbie

      You could say we are fed up with Cameron for sitting on the fence over the Human Rights Act, either obey or repeal it can’t have it both ways.

  • Colin

    The government should do the right thing and deport him.

    Who will be upset ? The leaders of some left wing pseudo charities, a couple of fat cat celebrity barristers and the spokesmen for some UK based terrorist organisations. That’s all.

    In two weeks time, when the more intelligent of the dissenters sense how far off the pace they really are, they’ll shut up. Nobody will remember this animal in a month. And, Cameron will see a bounce in the polls that will make his post Euro veto bounce look like a pound of mince hitting tarmac.

    • Ali Buchna

      But if a government starts overruling legitimate judicial decisions based on some kind of assumed consensus of public opinion, it is in danger, one suspects, of taking the first steps along the road to ochlocracy.

      • Colin

        Agreed, but:

        In this case, the continued thwarting of the will of parliament and the will of the overwhelming majority of the people, by what is starting to look like a judiciary, with a very narrow, but overtly political bent, is bordering on being morally wrong.

        • Ali Buchan

          Is justice an application of universal, fundamental concepts, is it a democratic construct there to reflect public opinion, or is some kind of amalgamation of both? Or even none of the above!?

          Fascinating question; one to which I can offer nothing that would even approach a semi-comprehensive answer!

        • HooksLaw

          Parliament can pass the laws and provided they frame them correctly the judges will have to abide by them.

          • Vulture

            Laws should be the expression of the popular will formulated by a sovereign, elected Parliament.

            The ‘law’ under which this dangerous Godfather of terror has been released to inspire more murderous mayhem was enacted by a foreign court and rubber-stamped by British judges obeying them.

            This has brought our Government into such disrepute that the whole rule of law is being besmirched. (Not to mention making them look weak and absured.) A state that cannot defend itself against its declared enemies has lost the right to claim our loyalty.

      • Daveyyy12

        Human rights act is undemocratic which means we have a duty not to obey it.
        When you think about it Human Rights lawyers seem to love people who do not obey the law then tell us to obey it.

        • dalai guevara

          wowowowow – hold the horses, exuberant one. The chap in question is clearly no threat to any of us in his current position – in fact, he is utterly irrelevant and does not deserve the press he is getting. Ok, he has shown some skill in using the legal system, but the likes of you are playing into the hands of extremists big time by sharing their values. You will utter ‘but the process has cost a few bob’ – wha’eva!

          AQ has not been charged with anything. Why not? Is there nothing that would stick? Was plan A (extradite him) the only plan? If there is no charge, there will be no conviction, otherwise we are close to moving into Guantanamo territory here and that would be a truly shocking move and rightly branded the new all time low of western values.

      • anyfool

        But if a government starts overruling legitimate judicial decisions.

        What legitimate judicial decisions, the Labour Party signed the country up to this type of charade to change the country for its own political purposes. it is an illegitimate travesty which is the usual outcome of most things that politicians do to further their own ends.
        The lawyers and judges then jumped in to push their advantages and we are left paying for this crap as politicians are afraid to undo their own disastrous failings.
        Deport him as it was never a matter of justice so no legal worries that could not be taken care of by another political decision to serve the politicians.

      • Russell

        A governments first and most important duty is to protect its people, no ifs, no buts.
        If the UK government decides a ‘foreigner’ in this country is a danger to its people, it must have the power to deport this person.
        I too hope that this government will put the safety of its people before any Judges opinion.

    • Daniel Maris

      Correct. The idea that somehow judges are a guarantor of good and just government is a nonsense. Hitler had plenty of judges. As did Stalin. As do the Chinese tyrants, the Iranian tyrants and all the rest.

      We need to apply some common sense.

      This Abu Qatada guy is a member of an organisation that declared war on our society and had pursued that war without regard to the Geneva Convention.

      Either we incarcerate him until the end of that war or his death (whichever comes first – his death will) or we deport him to Jordan in order to get him off our hands.

      I would be happy with either outcome. This Government has no balls and won’t do either.

      • Ali Buchan

        In the examples you have highlighted, there were/are judiciaries that were/are, largely, tools of the governments/regimes etc.

        Here we are talking, it seems, about a judicial decision that is frustrating the will of the present government. Regardless of the particular case in question, the fact that that can happen is surely an indication, though not a guarantee, of a healthy relationship between government and judiciary.

        In addition, the fact that UK law cares deeply about the right of one individual to a fair trial – even one who is so deeply antagonistic towards us – is a sign that we are, or are at least trying, to be a civilised society.

        I feel that JS Mill would have been proud.

    • telemachus

      The government should do the right thing and deport him
      They will not
      But there are powerful voices suggesting MI5 have the solution
      The permanence of this solution has a resonance

    • Hannah Scott

      72% agree with you Colin

  • anyfool

    The trouble with your supposition that a change of law will suffice is, Cameron and co have not got the strength of character to push this through, nor i suspect the political conviction.

    • Ian Walker

      Nor I suspect would any modern politician, because it’s complicated and deep and requires hard thought, conviction and the ability to make the right decision no matter who it upsets.
      Not something that a couple of years in party PR really lines you up for.

      • anyfool

        No it is easy to do, you need politicians of conviction as opposed to politicians on the lookout for the soft option.
        That is something that the electorate will have to decide on, politicians are reflecting the weakness in society which is precisely what New Labour bargained on when they started to debase society.

        • Daniel Maris

          What you need are politicians disconnected from the dinner party dicatatorship. People like Cameron are forever dining out with various potentates who tell them X, Y and Z and they feel they will lose face if they don’t subscribe to X, Y and Z.

          If we had a referendum democracy politicians would pay less attention to the dinner party consensus.

    • 2trueblue

      At least think how this all happened. This man was imprisoned under the Blair regime and they left the problem for the next chap. In the meantime they tied us up even closer to the EU which is why we are unable to solve this right now.

      • HooksLaw

        What has the EU got to do with it? This is an issue of the ECHR and our interpretation of it.

  • DavidDP

    “No government ever wants to look like it is in office but not in power”

    True, but surely no electorate wants its government to be able to act with impunity.

    • Colin

      Agreed, but:

      This is one of those occasions where doing the right thing completely trumps any academic argument. The right thing is to remove him.

      • Garry

        The right thing surely was to never allow such people in…It saves so much trouble later.

      • Colonel Mustard

        Who decides what is “the right thing”? It is a discussion terminating phrase beloved of our politicians but how is it to be measured? Without the rule of law it is meaningless.