Cameron and Clegg betray the nation’s trust on civil liberties
This is a profoundly concerning development. In his 2010 ‘Invitation to Join the Government of Great Britain’, David Cameron pledged unequivocally ‘to restore our civil liberties’. Under that precise heading, he said: ‘We will scale back Labour’s database state and protect the privacy of the public’s information.’ He wrote:
Labour have subjected Britain’s historic freedoms to unprecedented attack. They have trampled on liberties and, in their place, compiled huge databases to track the activities of millions of perfectly innocent people, giving public bodies extraordinary powers to intervene in the way we live our lives. The impact of this has been profound and far-reaching. Trust has been replaced by suspicion. The database state is a poor substitute for the human judgement essential to the delivery of public services. Worse than that, it gives people false comfort that an infallible central state is looking after their best interests. But the many scandals of lost data, leaked documents and database failures have put millions at risk. It is time for a new approach to protecting our liberty...In his 2010 Liberal Democrat manifesto, Nick Clegg talked similarly of ‘restoring your freedoms’:
We will take further steps to protect people from unwarranted intrusion by the state, including:
• cutting back intrusive powers of entry into homes, which have been massively extended under Labour;
• curtailing the surveillance powers that allow some councils to use anti-terrorism laws to spy on people making trivial mistakes or minor breaches of the rules;
• requiring Privacy Impact Assessments of any proposal that involves data collection or sharing; and,
• ensuring proper Parliamentary scrutiny of any new powers of data-sharing.
Liberal Democrats believe it is an individual’s right to live their lives as they see fit, without discrimination, with personal privacy, and with equal rights before the law.And in the synthesised chimera that is the joint Coalition Agreement, we read:
Decades of Labour and Conservative rule have overthrown some of the basic principles of British justice and turned Britain into a surveillance state.
Liberal Democrats will protect and restore your freedoms. We will:
...End plans to store your email and internet records without good cause
3. CIVIL LIBERTIESNow, while ‘good reason’ admits an undoubted degree of latitude, the unequivocal commitment to ‘roll back state intrusion’ constituted a pledge to rebalance Labour’s ‘surveillance state’ by limiting its power and reasserting personal liberty and the right to privacy. We were assured that this Government would take a fundamentally different approach to Labour. We were assured that our personal information belongs to us, not the state.
We will be strong in defence of freedom. The Government believes that the British state has become too authoritarian, and that over the past decade it has abused and eroded fundamental human freedoms and historic civil liberties. We need to restore the rights of individuals in the face of encroaching state power, in keeping with Britain’s tradition of freedom and fairness. We will implement a full programme of measures to reverse the substantial erosion of civil liberties and roll back state intrusion...
• We will end the storage of internet and email records without good reason.
We do not live in Soviet Russia, Communist China or Islamist Iran. And by ‘We’, of course, His Grace means the British. If you happen to be visiting His Grace’s blog from Russia, China or Iran, then, of course, you probably live there. His Grace sometimes forgets that he read internationally. In fact, checking the Google Analytics stats for the past year, His Grace has received 1,793 visits from Russia, 99 from China (with a further 1,777 from Hong Kong), and 36 from the Islamic Republic of Iran. So, except for these 3,705 brave individuals, we do not live in Soviet Russia, Communist China or Islamist Iran. And because Russia is no longer particularly soviet, and not all of China is Communist, and Iran is not particularly Islamic… oh, forget it.
The point is that it is absolutely none of the Government’s damned business if His Grace’s readers in the UK wish to log in every day for their daily bread and send him the occasional missive or phone him on some important matter. And if GCHQ do begin to snoop on our email, watch our web browsing and monitor our phone calls with precisely the same invasive vigour and lust for surveillance as was proposed by New Labour, then David Cameron is going back on his word. And so is Nick Clegg. And so is the whole Coalition. They will have unilaterally decided that we are all under suspicion all of the time; we are all perpetually guilty. Big Brother will truly be upon us.
It’s all happening, of course, under the guise of ‘public safety’ in an age of global terrorism. This professing Conservative and Liberal-Democrat coalition is neither conservative nor liberal. And His Grace is beginning to agree with the Archbishop of Canterbury that it is not particularly democratic. In fact, since both parties are implementing policy which they opposed in their respective manifestos, and which was jointly repudiated in the Coalition Agreement, His Grace is struggling to understand what makes them believe they have a mandate to read his emails, monitor his internet browsing or listen in to his phone conversations.
We all know how this will end. Those powers acquired by the state under the pretext of terrorism will eventually be used by government departments and local authorities to monitor our financial transactions, tax affairs and other aspects of our private lives. Michael Portillo assures us:
"I, having been been in government, have every reason for believing that the government routinely abuses the powers it has. It's not a matter of the last resort, it's the first resort. It isn't something that happens exceptionally, it happens all the time."How will anyone ever again be able with to bring a lawsuit against the Government with confidence?