David Cameron is off in Australia, surfing with the dudes first then addressing the G20 and outlining another crackpot idea which, like his EU reform plans, might sound good on the face of it, but is ill conceived and impractical on closer examination.
His big idea is to exclude British citizens who have been involved in the Syrian civil war from returning to the UK for a period of 2 years. It ticks all the Cameronian boxes of sounding dynamic, radical and sensible, while being unachievable and ill thought out.
Citizenship is something you own, and British citizenship gives you the right to be in the UK which should also ensure the right to a fair trial before appropriate legal punishment. It's not something that can or should just be suspended on the whim of the government of the day. If it can be suspended for taking a side in this horrible and far from clear cut civil war, then why not for people who campaign for Tibet? Or Burmese dissenters in a couple of years time when it too is a peaceful democracy? Or any other regime that the government of the day feels it expedient to cosy up to?
Of course like most attacks on civil liberties in recent years it’s being pushed as anti-terrorist, but it’s not too much of a leap to see it being used a lot more widely to exclude anyone the government deems it convenient to have out of the way for a while.
Secondly if the government decides to take a stand now, on this, and essentially deprive British citizens of their citizenship then they are by extension condoning the actions of other British citizens engaged in some political activity abroad, leaving the door wide open for foreign governments to make the accusation that we are complicit in supporting certain causes. What pressure might future British governments come under from Peking, or indeed Washington, not to extend the rights of citizenship to anyone taking an unfashionable view.
Thirdly, this ridiculous idea is a prime example of kicking the can down the road. What does Cameron suppose these Islamic fundamentalists will do for two years in the midst of the Syrian civil war? And what will happen after the two years is up? David Cameron probably doesn’t care. He’s a shrewd enough politician to either blame it on whoever his unlucky coalition partner is at that point or make it a problem for a beleaguered Miliband government. We should care though.
It’s as simple as this: If it can be shown in a British criminal court to the required standards of proof that someone has committed treason or some other significant act that is contrary to British interests then try them for it in court and give them an appropriate punishment. The appropriate punishment for treason was death until relatively recently, which is in a very real sense a revocation of citizenship. Life meaning life in prison would be almost as good.
This won’t happen because it would involve facing up to the problems that the British government has itself created over decades of handing out citizenship freely and “tolerating” the behaviour of people who enriched us with ideas like radical Islam, and brought their “culture” of ignorance and violence with them. Not only are these people British citizens in the legal sense, many of them were made British citizens under the prevailing orthodoxy pedaled by Cameron just as enthusiastically as it was pedaled by Blair before him. They are proto-citizens of modern Britain, not the messy old kind. What is more, all of them were radicalized and inspired to go and fight on behalf of an Islamic caliphate right here in the United Kingdom. These aren’t some alien invaders who happen to have British passports by a bureaucratic slip up, and they’re not a handful of lunatics on the extreme fringe. This is hundreds if not thousands of British citizens who have decided to take up arms. It’s a demographic.
This is just one result of that stupid orthodoxy, and it won’t be fixed by some half cocked temporary plan to grab headlines and act tough.