A fairly reasonable definition of this freedom and liberty stuff is that you might get jugged for doing bad stuff but you don’t get jugged for not doing bad stuff. The definition of whatever is bad stuff being what was defined, in law, as being bad stuff on the date that you did it.
Thus importuning in Praed Street Gents, what did for John Gielgud, was then illegal and is now likely to be celebrated with a rainbow flag march. OK, times change, so does the definition of what is bad stuff. Equally, the sort of casual racism of Britain in the 1950s was not a crime then but probably would be now.
At which point our current Home Secretary and those jihadis over in Syria:
The ancient law of treason may be rewritten to make it easier to prosecute returning jihadist fighters and their supporters, the Home Secretary has said. Sajid Javid said that the idea of updating 650-year-old legislation to catch more home-grown extremists was “worth looking at carefully”. It comes amid concerns that too many jihadists and their brides are escaping prosecution after returning to Britain. Ministers are currently examining ways to legally prevent 19-year-old Shamima Begum from finding her way back to the UK after she ran away from her London school to join Isil.
She’s a British citizen. We can’t keep her out – that’s what being a British citizen means. And no, we don’t get to go all Soviet on people and strip them of their nationality just because we don’t like them any more.
But rather more importantly we might most usefully have a conversation – a national one if you like – over what we’ll do to the next group of teens that run off to the
circus jihad. What we can’t do is have one over how we’re going to change the law to catch those who have already done so. For the relevant law is whatever it was on the day they did whatever.
Maybe we should have a law stating “No skipping class to go fight in Syria”. Maybe we shouldn’t. But the fact is we didn’t and to prosecute those who did under a new one would be an abomination.
A number of years ago I stood up at a candidate selection meeting and said that I wasn’t really all that worried about bearded nutters blowing me up. I was very worried about what our own politicians would do to us to “protect” us from bearded nutters. So here. We pretty much invented the rule of law, we Brits. A cornerstone of which is it’s got to already be illegal when you do it for it to be illegal.
OK, bearded nutters etc. But we’re not going to give up the rule of law over this, are we?