"On a matter of principle, I cannot support 42 days' pre-charge detention.... I don't see on a practical basis, as well as a principle one, that these proposals are in anyway workable". Thus spoke Baroness Manningham-Butler, the former Head of MI5 who stood down last year and made her maiden speech in the Lords yesterday.
Such a short, succinct point made by the spook that was in charge of MI5 during July 7th and subsequentterrorist investigation, is, to use a cliche, a 'hammer blow' to Gordon Brown. After all, she should know, right? This does pose the question, what will be the Government's response to this. They're unlikely to rubbish her as being out of touch with new realities, after all, once a spook always a spook. You may not officially work for Five anymore, but you never leave, especially when you get to that level.
There is also the question of 'sub-text' in her words. The current director of the Security Service has been careful to express that he and the service has no view on the proposals. Absolutely righht of course because he's a civil servant who doesn't want to get into the politics. However, Manningham-Butler is not a civil servant anymore, and you have to wonder if when she speaks of 'her' view she is also actually speaking of the services' view as well?
I would be surprised if her words do not come up in PMQ's today. The response will be interesting if it does. After all, I don't think Gordon is doing them given is Japanese excursion for the G8. How will Harriet Harman (assuming she does it) brush aside the view of someone that cannot be easily brushed aside?