UK. In January, Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy
resigned after admitting he had alcohol problems. Behind his
departure there were also internal tensions within the
party. Scots Menzies Campbell temporarily took over the
party leader post, a position he was then allowed to retain.
As a result of the bombing in London in 2005,
anti-terrorism legislation was tightened. However, the
government had some problems getting through its proposals
and in January suffered a defeat in the lower house. But
after what was described as a "ping-pong" match between the
government and the upper house, which feared that the vague
wording of the legislative text could be used to limit
freedom of expression, a new law was adopted in March that
made "glorification of terrorism" punishable. The
government's case had been strengthened in February after,
among other things, protesters had paid tribute to the men
behind the London attacks. In July, the new law was used to
ban two small British-based Islamic groups. See
In March, new legislation was passed to introduce ID
cards for British citizens and all persons living in the
country for more than three months. However, the government
was forced to compromise after objections from the upper
house, and the new ID cards would thus become mandatory only
A contentious school reform that would allow new groups
to start new and more independent schools and collaborate
with private interests was also approved. In order to get
through its proposal, the government became dependent on
votes from the Conservative Party after some 40 Labor
members voted against the reform.
In February, Egyptian-born radical imam Abu Hamza al-Masri
was sentenced to seven years in prison for possession of
documents that could be used for terrorism and for
soliciting the murder of Jews and other non-Muslims.
A judge in the High Court rejected in April and June the
restrictions, so-called control orders, imposed against
suspected terrorists without any prosecution being brought
because they violated their right to have their case tried
in court. The first case involved a British citizen, the
second six Iraqis. The High Court's decision was upheld by
the Court of Appeal, but the Interior Ministry also wanted
to have the case tried in the upper house. The Ministry
emphasized that the measures were needed to protect the
public. The legislation, which made it possible, among other
things, to put terror suspects in house arrest and to
monitor them electronically, was adopted in 2005. In
mid-November, 15 persons, nine of whom were foreign
nationals, were subjected to such restrictions.
The government continued to criticize the Iraq war.
Retired General Michael Rose at the beginning of the year
demanded that Blair be brought before national court for
going to war on false grounds.
Increased violence in Afghanistan led the United Kingdom
in July to send another 900 men to the NATO-led force there.
The number of British soldiers in Afghanistan was estimated
to reach over 5,000 during the fall. At the same time, the
British had 7,200 men in Iraq.
In March, it was revealed that both Labor and the
Conservative Party had borrowed large sums for the election
campaign in 2005 without this being publicly disclosed, as
the law prescribes. Several of Labor's lenders were later
nominated for seats in the upper house and the government
was accused of promising noble titles in exchange for money.
It turned out that Labor's treasurer was unaware of the
loans that had been made by Lord Levy, the party's
fundraiser and a close friend of Blair. Later, Labor
presented a list of names of businessmen who lent nearly £
14 million to the party. The Conservatives also named the
people who loaned them £ 16 million. The Liberal Democrats
were drawn into the deal in April. The police investigation
was expected to be completed in January 2007.
On April 21, Queen Elizabeth celebrated her 80th birthday
at Windsor Castle in southern England.
According to British law, the authorities must consider
whether persons sentenced to more than one year in prison
should be expelled from the country after serving a
sentence. In April, it emerged that over a thousand
prisoners had been released from February 1999 to March 2006
without following the procedure. Remains in the country
included three other people who had been convicted of
murder. It turned out that Interior Minister Charles Clarke
had known the shortcomings since mid-2005 without taking any
action and he was forced to leave the government in May.
On May 4, local elections were held in England, including
32 London municipalities. The Conservatives made a good
choice, while Labor made big losses. The elections also
meant success for the right-wing British Nationalist Party
(GDP), which got a total of 32 seats against the previous
In late spring, the Department of the Interior and
Parliament's Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) came
up with their report on the London bombing in 2005,
confirming information that two of the assailants, including
supposed leader Mohammad Sidique Khan, were known by MI-5
before, but acknowledged that it was "understandable" to
lose sight of them because of other events. The ISC had not
found any evidence that the al-Qaeda terror network had been
directly involved in the attacks. Later came a new demand
for an independent investigation after revealing that a
computer engineer alerted the police that the two men could
pose a threat.
In July, it became clear that charges would not be
brought against the two police officers who shot Brazilian
Jean Charles de Menezes at Stockwell Metro Station in July
2005 in the belief that he was a suicide bomber.
On August 10, 24 people, primarily of Pakistani origin,
were arrested in London and Birmingham on suspicion of
planning suicide attacks against a dozen passenger planes to
the United States. According to police, the men had planned
to use liquid explosives and the arrests led to, among other
things, stricter rules for hand luggage. 17 people were
prosecuted shortly thereafter.
Plans to tighten the asylum law so that people who have
been denied entry will actually leave the country were
presented in September. For example, people could be placed
in special camps awaiting rejection. In some cases, it would
be possible to make a rejection decision within two weeks.
According to the Ministry of the Interior's figures, the
number of asylum seekers had decreased by almost a quarter
in 2005 compared to the previous year.
In September, war rights were opened against seven
British soldiers who had been charged with abusing an Iraqi
civilian, Baha Mousa, to death in Basra in 2003. One of the
defendants had admitted he had committed inhumane treatment
of prisoners, while the others refused to crime.
Tony Blair said on September 7 that he would resign as
prime minister within a year. He did not, however, specify a
time, but the pressure on him to give a message increased as
even party comrades who had previously supported him
demanded his departure. But when the Prime Minister
delivered an emotionally charged speech at Labor's party
conference in Manchester at the end of the month, he was met
by standing ovations. Blair now promised to put as much
force into the Middle East conflict as he did in Northern
Ireland. Later in the fall, he opened for increased dialogue
with Iran and Syria to try to reach peace in the
In October, the government decided to impose restrictions
on labor from Bulgaria and Romania that would become new EU
members in 2007. One reason for this was that labor
migration from the countries that became members in 2002 had
become so extensive. By June, 427,000 people, almost two in
three of whom were Poles, had come to the UK to work. New
rules were also introduced that would make it easier for
highly qualified workers to immigrate, while at the same
time making it more difficult for those without special
Several government officials criticized the US Guantánamo
camp in Cuba, where the United States detained "illegal
combatants" from the war in Afghanistan. However, the
authorities decided in September that three prisoners who
had previously been resident in the UK, but who were not
British citizens, would not receive any help. In April,
then-Foreign Minister Jack Straw had appealed for the
release of an Iraqi who had previously worked for the
British security service MI-5.
In November, Dhiren Barot was sentenced to 40 years in
prison for planning terrorist acts in the United Kingdom and
the United States. Barot, arrested in 2004, was considered
to have a prominent role in the al-Qaeda terrorist network.
On November 23, Aleksandr Litvinenko, who previously
worked for the Russian security service FSB, passed away
after he was poisoned by the radioactive substance
polonium-210. On his deathbed, he accused Russian President
Vladimir Putin of the act, but it was unclear who had
murdered him. Litvinenko had been granted political asylum
in the UK in 2002. Traces of polonium were measured in
several locations in London.
On December 14, the public police investigation into
Princess Diana's death in 1997 was completed. There all
theories were rejected that Diana and her friend Dodi
al-Fayed had been murdered and it was established that it
was a tragic accident.