No-one really expected the Government’s proposals for reserve powers to detain terrorists suspects for up to 42 days to pass through the House of Lords. Even with all the safeguards – judicial oversight of each individual case, the proposals only triggered after a tortuous process to confirm the circumstances ware really extreme, and even then the longer detention period automatically lapsing after two months – heavy opposition was inevitable.
The majority against was larger than expected – I had guessed 170 (and been told I was pessimistic) – but in the end the Government lost the vote by 191 votes. Having been part of the Light Brigade arguing in support of the proposals (Radio 4’s Today programme, Radio 5 and the debate itself), I was however taken aback by the speed with which the climbdown was announced – less than two hours after the vote. It did feel like the Grand Old Duke of York was settling the Parliamentary tactics …..