by Lancelot Casely-Hayford
I was sat, on my iPad, emailing and messaging about local elections here in Leeds (it’s a mad rush to complete nomination forms to stand), and much to my annoyance, I came across this Guardian article.
I was absolutely infuriated by what I was reading. Why would we, Liberal Democrats, and Tories in government together, even think of proposals like this? …then it struck me and I thought “The Tories idea of decentralisation, always seems to promise decentralisations, but mysteriously hands more controls to government in turn making a small terrace house from the 1700’s into an inflated powerhouse.” (That maybe has nothing to do with the issue at hand, but it was what I was thinking) My trail of thought lead me to another thing: there are Tories against the same proposal. And I know plenty of Conservative Future, right Libertarians, who would feel exactly the same as I am.
Under these proposals, Communication Service Providers and Internet Service Providers (like Sky, Virgin Media, BT, that good honest broadband from Yorkshire one…) alike, will be required to share information, in real time, with GCHQ and the police, as to what websites an individual visits, who they send emails to and whom they would receive them from, who they call – how long for, the exact date and time… Wooooaaahh! Stop. It’s making me feel nauseous just writing this! You would think that this was a Labour government. And for me personally, any government snooping on my personal life, infringing my liberty in the name of security is frankly absurd, not to mention the costs of what would essentially be hacking!
Everything we already do, via the internet, is logged. You look hard enough and you can trace everything you have every done, even down to that last word and map it out. CSPs & ISPs are already required to keep information for example who you call for up to 12 months at a time but, should governments really have access to this regardless of whether the content is accessed or not?
Let’s bring Labour into this again and look at the bigger picture. Upon research and analysis with my right sided brain* In defence of this Coalition Government I so love, (and Clegg himself) I realised, weighing up the differences between these proposals, and those that Labour were to bring in during their time in office. There are what I would consider major differences between this and what Labour proposed. There is a wide margin between the two. To put it simply, current plans are to just hack. Labour wanted to go that step further, hack and retain data on a massive centralised database to could be tapped into anytime. Hmmmm… To quote Morrissey at the coalition, “Oh, I still love you, but only slightly less, than I used to…”
Let’s not forget that we opposed the National ID Card scheme, 48 days held without charge for suspected terrorists and ended issue of child detention. We’ve continuously opposed Labour’s unjust paranoia and erosions of personal freedoms. We stopped what could have turned an authoritarian nonsensical mess, in which Labour could have become a bunch of crazy arse socially controlling, socialists and Britain transformed in to a Totalitarian state (Well, ok, fine. I am over reacting… slightly. But what do you expect from an extreme liberty loving, authoritarian despising liberal?)!
But for those of us who are raving civil Libertarians we would say this government, has had its share of authoritarian nonsensical proposals it’s self: minimum priced Alcohol – a crazy SNP idea, in order to curb binge drinking and drunken “thugs”, as the Home Secretary describes it, in city centres around the country. Fat chance it will do anything except penalize the poor. and then there is the Marriage related tax credits – another crazy idea, this time from the Tories, in order to “promote marriage” in other words penalize single parents. I also regard some of Gove’s plans to be authoritarian. I feel he is devaluing creativity and forcing those who aren’t academic enough by our education system, to be sidelined and eventually ignored, but that is a another blog post, for another time.
One thing leads to another and then BAM! What’s to stop future governments asking social media engineers to monitor comments on Facebook and other blogging sites, report back to government of the day and then prosecute anybody who has views against the state? Labour notoriously did this on a regular basis. they insist on banning extreme groups, suppressing them, giving them ammo to actually say they are sidelined and ignored by society. There was a very recent occurrence in China in which the ruling party forced a ban on individuals commenting on another individuals posts on a blogging site, because of rumours of an up coming military Coup (I would argue that it is a long time coming, I would!) And arrested those responsible. All it takes is a paranoid governments to do extreme things, in the case of Labour and the ruling Communist party in China.
Let’s also look at profiling for a second. If you have ever watched ‘Criminal Minds’ (If not, I recommend it, it is a brilliant TV show) then you will see the group of FBI agents working on cases, in which they build up a character profile of a murder or serial rapist, terrorist, based upon statistical evidence collected and amalgamated from previous attackers behaviours. The Asian community or anybody that has been perceived as Muslim, or Arabic, have suffered this in some form since 9/11 in the name of the “War on terror”. Black people, have suffered this in recent times due to the “war on drugs.” and Stop and Search. If police officers are given these powers they won’t be used as just anti terror laws. I’ve been directly involved in a case in which police officers have use the anti terror act to unjustly enter a person’s home. An example of such abuses by the state. Profiling would giving police officers more powers to just tap into phone calls of a particular person that fits a profile, if they so wish by just allowing them to see who an individual is calling, and for how long and so on.
So, hang on: Is this not what we were doing our very best to curb on principle, when we opposed the list above? There will always be a struggle between authority and liberty, balancing liberty with security, but over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign. This is another part of the struggle between authority and liberty that John Stuart Mill spoke of. Our beloved Mr Mill along with other liberals, William Gladstone, David Lloyd George, John Locke, John Maynard Keynes , Thomas Hobbes, to name a few, would all conclude that this is frankly creeping tyranny of government authoritarianism. Not only is this an infringement of civil liberties, but it will further encourage institutional racism and discrimination.
Our ministers (Lynne Featherstone, being one sadly) have failed to reassure me that this isn’t snooping.
I am a raving Civil libertarian. And I trust Clegg, but as a raving Civil Libertarian, this piece of legislation comes a cross as something Orwellian AND on the basis of everything above, must be quashed. Clegg along with our ministers, don’t seem to be doing much quashing.
I CAN NOT support the government on this one peeps. I can not be persuaded. Sorry, but I wouldn’t like ‘Call me Dave’ or should I say ‘Big Dave’ as my ‘Big Brother’…
*I was not referencing my what some would call my slightly right leaning tendencies but the fact that my brain is majority right brained when it comes to Lateralisation of brain functioning and skills 🙂