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Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Just When You Think You're Out of Date...

About ten years ago I wrote a short play called Fantasy Terrorist League about the changes we were making in the law that would damage our democracy.  It seemed topical at the time.  I expected it would have a short life span.  I have officially retired it as a piece of my acting repertory a few times now, primarily because the play was giving me crows feet (the play involves a lot of rictus grinning).  But it just won't bloody die.
I wrote couple of follow up pieces, variations on a theme, if you will, which I had performed with it a few years ago - I called this The Fantasy Terrorist Variations.  I then thought, enough, and put it to bed.
And then Boris Johnson piped up and started the ball rolling again.  http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/aug/25/boris-johnson-britons-visiting-iraq-syria-presumed-terrorists
In response to the crisis in Iraq and Syria, to the numbers of British citizens travelling abroad to support terrorism, he wrote that: "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."  Basically, shift the burden of proof - if you return from a terrorist state then you are automatically presumed to be a terrorist and you must prove you aren't.  Which is exactly what my plays have been about - a shift towards a presumption of guilt.  Once again, they are no longer a bit out of date.
The governments response was swift and dismissive (thank goodness) but I wonder whether this was just because they saw it as a genuinely stupid idea, rather than a knee-jerk response to anything Boris says - i.e. that the response was more about domestic politics than good governance.  I hope it was both.
So, what is my response?  Well, we shall see.  I have a project in hand this year.  In fact I have written a new Fantasy Terrorist Variation to add to my collection.  It is called A Swift and Minor Change. And I'm about to record it now.

Additional - I've just posted my response online.  You can listen to it below.

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