Good old Boris! The funny, mad haired buffoon who is currently Mayor of London has won the hearts of voters everywhere with his funny tales of whiff-whaff, getting hilariously stuck on a zip wire and cameo appearances on Have I Got News For You. What a character!
Of course, what people rarely talk about is his politics which, for Boris, is probably a good thing. Especially when, as he has today, he suggests stripping away the presumption of innocence for UK nationals who travel to Iraq or Syria without informing the authorities.
” We need to make it crystal clear that you will be arrested if you go out to Syria or Iraq without a good reason. At present the police are finding it very difficult to stop people from simply flying out via Germany, crossing the border, doing their ghastly jihadi tourism, and coming back. The police can and do interview the returnees, but it is hard to press charges without evidence. The law needs a swift and minor change so that there is a “rebuttable presumption” that all those visiting war areas without notifying the authorities have done so for a terrorist purpose.”
Now, don’t get me wrong, the logic is clear. Why would anybody go to a war zone like Iraq or Syria unless they were terrorists? We must do something about these awful jihadis now and what better way than stripping a basic right enshrined in British law for centuries?
Unless, of course, they work for an aid charity. Or have a house or family there and want to get what or who they want out of the country as soon as possible.
“Ah,” you say, “but this is a small price to pay to protect our liberties.” Well yes, when it’s not your right that’s being taken away I suppose it feels that way.
However, imagine that we actually do take away the presumption of innocence for people who travel to war zones. Then what? I mean, it isn’t much of a leap to do the same for us to do the same to, say, suspected paedophiles. Clearly they potentially pose a very serious threat to our children which we must protect. It’s a small price.
But why stop there? If we presume the guilt of suspected paedophiles then why not all those suspected of violent sex crimes. I mean, we can hardly take the risk.
What about all accused of sex crimes, then? Or of murder? Or GBH? Or armed robbery? Or assault? Or affray? Or burglary? Surely all of these crimes are committed by people who pose a threat to life, limb and liberty and could be treated in the same way.
And, if we remove the presumption of innocence for those crimes then what’s to stop it being taken away all together? I mean, it hardly seems worth having any more if we’ve scrapped it for so many crimes.
Ok, you may think that I’m over reacting to this. After all, it’s just a suggestion by a man who is not even in government.
But, he is standing as an MP at the next election and is widely tipped as the next Conservative Party leader. Even if that doesn’t happen, the suggestion is out there now for people to digest, debate and seriously consider.
And this is where erosion of basic liberties start. By removing them from a small, already demonised section of society. Once it’s accepted it just gets bigger and bigger until, before you know it, a basic principle you have always taken to be true is gone.
If you are happy for that to happen in the name of fighting terrorism, then fine. Good for you. I, however, don’t want to see that happen. I don’t want to see one of the underlying principles of a free, democratic legal system taken from me or anyone else.
But good old Boris does.
Seems a bit sinister for a funny old buffoon with scruffy hair if you ask me.