I always like being on Jo Coburn's Politics Live show, and today was very enjoyable. I was on with Conservative MP Bim Afolami, Labour rising star Florence Esholami and Laura Hughes from the Financial Times.
Naturally, we were all asked to react to the terror attack in Streatham yesterday. What can be done to ensure Daesh adherants are never in a position to attack people in the way that happened yesterday or on London Bridge a few weeks ago.
I said the simple answer is that it is impossible to stop all attacks. Florence pointed to a lack of police resources, but that played no role here, given that the attacked was being surveilled at the time. Just because someone is being surveilled doesn't necessarily mean that the operatives are able to stop an attack taking place.
I then said something which has rather set Twitter alight, but has been completely over interpreted or deliberately misinterpreted.
I said this:
Clearly there need to be changes in the law. The simple way through this would be to say that anyone who pledges allegiance to IS is put in prison indefinitely. Legally, that would create an unfortunate precedent in many ways, but we are in an age without precedent.
Broadcaster @IainDale suggests anybody who pledges allegiance to Islamic State could be put in prison indefinitely— BBC Politics (@BBCPolitics) February 3, 2020
"Legally that would create an unfortunate precedent... but we are in an age without precedent"
#politicslive https://t.co/yQFpdVPdRZ pic.twitter.com/LcQBQxMtEc
Politics Live is a fast moving show. You get about 30 seconds to say something before the host or one of the other panellists interrupts, so in some ways there's little time for nuance.
Twitter has accused me of wanting to bring back internment, wantint imprisonment without trial etc etc. Let me add a bit of meat onto the bones of those thirty seconds.
I do not believe in internment. I do not believe in imprisonment without trial. I was very much against the Blair government's 90/42 days pre charge detention, so my record speaks for itself on that. We make ourselves little better than the terrorists themselves if we go down that road.
But I do believe in restoring the offence of treason, which the Blair government effectively abolished nearly twenty years ago. I believe it is treasonous to pledge allegiance to a proscribed terror organisation what seeks to bring about the destruction of the United Kingdom by random acts of terror. If people still pledge allegiance to Daesh when they know the consequences, then I believe they should be tried in a court of law for that offence, as well as any others they have committed. They should then receive an indeterminate sentence which enables them to be kept off the streets of our towns and cities for as long as is deemed necessary by the parole authorities. Yes, the human rights lawyers will scream very loudly, but the balance of legal scales has tipped far to firmly in their direction over the last twenty years.
I am not a great fan of knee jerk legislation. To come forward with definitive new proposals only 24 hours after a terror attack is perhaps not the best way to make new law or legal precedent. Understandably, the general public is calling for action this day. I merely present the above as something for consideration and due debate.
The problem is, there is no single answer to this problem. Short term solutions rarely work. It's a bit like the knife crime issue. It needs a long term solution, not all of which is about law or policing. A lot of it is about attitudinal change, which is necessarily long term.
You could treble the policing budges, double the amount of money going into MI5 and the prison system, but if you can't root out the cancer of Islamist Jihadism, it will all be for nothing.
One thing that could change is to stop the game of musical chairs at the Ministry of Justice. We have had seven Justice Secretaries in the last nine years. So each incumbent spends about 15 months in the job. By the time they've read themselves into the job, they're off again. That's why our prisons policy is such a dog's breakfast. If you go from the liberal Ken Clarke to the authoritarian Chris Grayling, to the liberal reformer Michael Gove, then back to the more authoritarian Liz Truss and then to the liberal David Lidington, don't be surprised if chaos ensues. I think Robert Buckland has shown all the right instincts in his first six months in the job, but it would be good if he could remain in post for the next five years and achieve something meaningful.
I am not a great fan of locking people up in prison for any longer than they need to be. Indeed, some people think I'm wet as a lettuce on prisons in that I don't believe anyone who isn't a danger to society should be sent to prison at all. Instead, we should find other ways of punishing them.
However, I do believe that those who are a danger to society should be locked up for longer. On the face of it, it is outrageous that the Streatham attacker only got three years and was out after 18 months, but that's what the law stipulates.
The question the government has to answer is this: Why has it taken you ten years to confront this ridiculous situation, and what are you now going to do about it?