UK Liberty

Defend Liberty

Posted in database state, ID Cards, law and order, surveillance society by ukliberty on October 26, 2008

Simon Jenkins, in his last regular column for the Sunday Times:

Is Jacqui Smith, the home secretary, a pocket dictator? Is there no drop of liberalism in her veins, no concept of personal freedom, no fear of a repressive state? Or is she just another home secretary? This month she apparently felt obliged by dark forces beyond her control to add another weapon to the armoury of illiberal power.

Smith’s GCHQ “interception modernisation programme”, reportedly at a staggering £12 billion, will run alongside the ID card register, the driving licence centre, the numberplate recognition computer and the CCTV network in a “pentagon” of control. Its data bank will one day and for sure fuse with banking and employment records and that stumbling giant, the National Health Service personal records computer, each polluting the other with crashing terminals, uncorrectable inaccuracies and false trails.

The spider at the centre of this web of control, GCHQ’s Iain Lobban, appears to have so mesmerised Smith that officials at the Home Office last week leaked a warning that his demands were “impractical, disproportionate, politically unattractive and possibly unlawful”. Smith was unmoved. Like every home secretary, she wants, at the flick of a switch, to know who is doing what, when and where anywhere in Britain and in real time. This is truly Big Brother stuff.

Smith parrots the totalitarian’s answer that “the innocent have nothing to fear”. But they do. They know from experience that government cannot be trusted with private information. In addition, any errors in that information are almost impossible to correct. Ask anyone whose credit rating has been falsely challenged by a bank computer.

The war on terror has been a wretched blind alley in British political history. It has revealed all that is worst in British government – its authoritarianism, its sloppiness and its unaccountability. Yet restoring the status quo ante will be phenomenally hard.

In all my years of writing this column, from which I am standing down, I have been amazed at the spinelessness of Britain’s elected representatives in defending liberty and protesting against state arrogance. They appear as parties to the conspiracy of power. There have been outspoken judges, outspoken peers, even outspoken journalists. There have been few outspoken MPs. Those supposedly defending freedom are whipped into obedience. I find this ominous.

It’s a shame he’s standing down, as the above column proves.  We need more articles like that in the national media, not less.

Luckily we still have Henry Porter and one or two others.


One Response

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  1. britishpolitics said, on October 31, 2008 at 1:03 pm

    I agree. It may be worth reading his comments in tandem with a recent statement given by Home Office Minister, Meg Hillier. I have written an article about this here:

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