Mrs. Thatcher was an extraordinary Prime Minister for a number of reasons. Perhaps signs were already there at the start of her reign as Prime Minister when she uncovered the acts of one of Britain’s greatest all-time villains to the public and removed his knighthood and privileges. One of her first acts was the unmasking of Anthony Blunt, whose wartime treachery was deliberately kept hidden from the public to prevent outcry, more in relation to the sustained cover-up than treachery, by an institutional establishment that was too embarrassed to reveal the misfits of one of their own. For years Anthony Blunt, traitor and devil incarnate, sat in Somerset House in knowledge that he got away with the help of tacit connivance of friends in higher places. He sat in the old navy office, never once recanting his treachery, as Surveyor’s of the King’s Pictures (the man in charge of the Royal Family’s art collection). He had at his fingertips one of the most mesmerising art collections in the country. This collection includes some fantastic period pieces such as Canaletto’s 18th Century portrait of Venice, with its remarkable gaunt and thinly laden depiction of key architecture posturing amicably behind a vast encompass of river. Other highlights include a Rembrandt self-portrait, and the ‘Adoration of the Magi’ by Ricci and Lorrain’s exquisite capturing of Italian countryside in the late evening.
Prior to enjoying such delights and preserving them for the nation, during the Second World War Mr. Blunt, a distant cousin of the Queen, was into far more insidious schemes. His main activity was passing off a significant quantity of secret information about military and confidential activity to the Soviets. He was engaged in this prior to the Nazi breach of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact of August 1939. Thus, in essence, assisting Germany following Britain declaration of war against her later that year. Following this he passed significant British intelligence regarding German army and navy codes to the Russians during his time as an MI5 officer from 1940 onwards. All these activities would placed him in the clear possibility of prosecution, and the death sentence, had they been fully revealed at the time. That he did this during a time when not only Britain was under threat from invasion, but losing lives at war is wholly disgusting. Yet despite knowledge of all this no full investigation was undertaken, nor any prosecution pursued that might have lead to an appropriate
(death) sentence for almost four decades following the end of the war.
This issue, of national betrayal and the death sentence, is just as pressing today. Until Tony Blair removed Britain’s right to exercise the death penalty for traitors in the time of war by signing up to a specific part of the European Convention for Human Rights in 1997 (Additional Protocol 13) it was still possible for us to execute national traitors who put the lives of many, if not all of us, at risk. Young British Islamic radicals so often finding their real homes, thanks to multiculturalism, fighting alongside the Taliban in Afghanistan could have all received the chop. The death penalty could have acted as a disincentive and deterrent for crazy British nationals to wage war against their own soldiers when they are fighting against a foreign state. However, it seems quite bizarre that this optional part of European Legislation would be voluntarily signed up to without adequate ascertainment of the restrictions it would place on the ability of states to protect themselves in a time of war. Nor is it clear what benefits to foreign policy ratifying the Additional Protocol 13 will serve. More bizarre is the current silence from Conservative back-benchers, stolen into silence by their power craven leader to force a limping coalition to walk, at present on this issue.
Can anyone in the House of Commons dare to open the debate on Additional Protocol 13? Or have we all bayed into the silence by thinking that the death penalty is always, under all circumstances, a nasty thing AND that it ok for European Law to curtail our right to have it during war?
Abhijit P.G. Pandya Copyright 2011.
Copyright Birkenhead Society 2011.