Gordon Brown was last night accused of shaming his office with underhanded dealings after scraping through a Commons vote on new laws to detain terror suspects for up to 42 days.
As 36 Labour MPs rebelled, Mr Brown relied on a coalition of a renegade Tory and right-wing Ulster unionists to save his skin, getting the controversial amendment through by 315 votes to 306.
But there were angry claims he had bought the result by offering a series of amazing concessions, including:
Millions of pounds extra for Northern Ireland’s power-sharing executive in the next few years.
A pledge to oppose tighter sanctions against Cuba.
Terror suspects released without charge will get up to £3,000 for every day behind bars past the current 28 day limit.
Guarantees the Government would block efforts to use the Human Embryology and Fertility Bill to loosen abortion rules in Northern Ireland.
Backing for compo for ex-miners struck down by lung disease.
Whips offering everything from safe seats for MPs, knighthoods and help saving Post Offices in return for votes.
Defeat would have plunged Mr Brown into a fresh leadership crisis that could have seen him ousted from No 10.
But hardline Labour rebel John McDonnell insisted it was a hollow victory.
He said: “There will be widespread consternation among our supporters seeing a Labour Government prepared to use every tactic available in its determination to crush essential civil liberties.
“This is no way to run a Government. Securing votes by threats, bribes and personal pleading demeans the role of the Prime Minister.”
Veteran former Labour MP Tony Benn went further, fuming: “I never thought I would be in the House of Commons on the day the Magna Carta was repealed.”
Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg said: “We have seen the sacrifice of principle to save the skin of a sinking PM. It is a sad day for the tradition of liberty in this country.”
Tory spokesman David Davis echoed his views: “We won the argument. They bought the vote. That is the reality. Mr Brown cannot be proud.”
Gregory Campbell, one of the Northern Ireland DUP MPs who saved Mr Brown, said: “It was a close call because of the complicated nature of safeguarding the UK and preserving civil liberties.”
Asked why they had taken until today to reach a decision, Mr Campbell rejected accusations they had been bribed with political benefits. “We wanted to hear the arguments of either side,” he said. “Also, we had to be clear that we had concerns.”
There was also anger over an 11th-hour concession from Home Secretary Jacqui Smith that suspects will get up to £21,000 a week for being wrongly locked up.
The Home Office refused to confirm figures, but suspects who do not end up in court are set to get up to £3,000 for every day behind bars beyond 28 days.
Mr Davis said: “Not only does it admit innocent people will be locked up but it could be an incentive to waste police time.” Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty, said it was an “admission of guilt”: “If people are lawfully imprisoned there is no need to compensate.”
Human rights lawyer Edward Fitzgerald QC added: “The proposal is legal nonsense. Compensating people detained by the police but not charged will be seen as recognition that the detention breached human rights.”
The amendments to the Counter-Terrorism Bill still have to get through the Lords, where they will face stiff opposition. But Mr Brown is determined to succeed and could resort to the Parliament Act – overruling peers.
HOW PM BOUGHT THE VOTE
Millions in cash incentives for Northern Ireland
Up to £3,000 per day for terror suspects released without charge
Promise to back compo for miners with lung disease
Opposition to tighter sanctions against Cuba
Diane Abbott, Richard Burden, Katy Clark, Harry Cohen, Frank Cook, Jeremy Corbyn, Jim Cousins, Andrew Dismore, Frank Dobson, David Drew, Paul Farrelly, Mark Fisher, Paul Flynn, Neil Gerrard, Dr Ian Gibson, Roger Godsiff, John Grogan, Dai Havard, Kate Hoey, Kelvin Hopkins, Glenda Jackson, Dr Lynne Jones, Peter Kilfoyle, John McDonnell, Andrew Mackinlay, Bob Marshall-Andrews, Michael Meacher, Julie Morgan, Chris Mullin, Dr Doug Naysmith, Gordon Prentice, Linda Riordan, Alan Simpson, Emily Thornberry, David Winnick, Mike Wood.
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