British Politics’s Blog

The ravings of an individual, UK voter frustrated with our politicians

Posts Tagged ‘big brother

Welcome to Big Brother Britain

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Well all is not as it seems. This is not a sign in the arrivals hall at Heathrow, although it probably should be, instead it is a big welcome to the new political blog Big Brother Britain & Civil Liberties. The initiative of the author of Power to the People, with contributions from David Davis, it is destined to become a leading site for resisting and highlighting attempts by the Labour government to do away with our long held and highly prized civil liberties.

There are quite a few blogs that deal with civil liberty issues and political blogs that touch on so called Big Brother issues, however, this particular blog is intended, as I understand it, to bring all of these topic under a single umbrella. The author has made it clear that he is keen to have as many people as possible contributing posts and comments in order that it can quickly become an authorative reference site and be used as a campaigning blog.

I have agreed to write posts for the Big Brother Britain blog and I would urge others to offer similar tangible support. Together with the RESIST initiative introduced by Shrewd Mammal, there is a real opportunity for some momentum if people with similar concerns get behind this initiative and support, contribute to and visit the blog.

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Smokers banned from fostering in London borough

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Has the world gone mad? In a world where discrimination and stigmatising the individual is frowned upon, illegal and/or considered immoral, Redbridge Council have stated that from 2012, they will not permit smokers to foster children, unless there are “exceptional circumstances”. Now, forgive my ignorance on this subject, but I thought there was a shortage of foster parents, at least that would appear to be the case, with all of the radio advertising going on at the moment. Now we have a council discriminating against smokers, who by implication, are seen as not being able to offer a good environment for foster children. Surely, foster parents should be judged based on their ability to provide a child with a safe, loving and fulfilling environment?

I am a smoker, so I put my hands up, although I am not a foster parent, but I most certainly do take my hat off to those that do provide this care. I choose, as do many of my friends that smoke, not to do so in the house or car. That is my choice, come rain, sun or snow, I smoke outside. As a consequence, according to Redbridge Council’s criteria, I would not be able to foster a child, even if I fulfilled all of the other criteria, how logical is that. In my view, the people responsible for this decision at Redbridge Council, have demonstrate that they encourage and endorse discrimination, as such, they should not be permitted to retain their positions, something I earnestly hope the voters will consider at the next elections.

I am sick to the back teeth of these do-gooders, who lord it over the rest of us, many of whom are councillors. Can they really be thinking of a child’s well-being and best interests, when they openly discriminate in a way that could exclude an otherwise perfect set of foster parents? A spokesperson for Redbridge Council said that they wanted to protect children from “the damaging effects of passive and second-hand smoke“. Laudable indeed, but most responsible parents and therefore I assume many foster parents, already do this. I know of many.

I am not alone in my thinking, because a spokesman for the national charity Fostering Network was quoted as saying: “We certainly view this as a good move in terms of creating a smoke-free environment for a child, but we don’t agree that a blanket ban on any smokers becoming foster carers is the right thing.” So now the councillors of Redbridge know better than a charity set up purely to support fostering.

I have often wondered what motivates someone to become a councillor, they are paid allowances, but receive no salary. But because Redbridge Council believe in discrimination, I feel certain they will not be able to object to me claiming that they are all ego-driven, control freaks, that have nothing better to do in their lives other than to intefere in the lives and well-being of others, just because they can. Sorry, if this offends the councillors that did not vote for this initiative, but I am following the lead of the ‘other’ Redbridge Councillors and insisting that everyone should be tarred with the same brush.

It is time to stop stigmatising and discriminating against smokers simply in order to grab the headlines or get a name for yourselves. Grow up!

Could smoking ban be extended to homes and private cars?

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It is hard to believe in a free and democratic country that I am even asking this question, unless of course, you look at the backdrop to the recent National Health Service consultation on such a ban. But, before that, I would just like to ask who the hell they think they are, the NHS are care providers, a public service paid for by taxes, not a political party. According to their own figures, which are always exaggerated to include fixed, rather that just variable costs, smoking related illnesses cost the NHS £1.7bn a year.

So lets put that in perspective. Under the guise of attempting to protect smokers from themselves, successive governments have introduced duties and tax on all tobacco related products. So, much so, that they now rake in £10.5bn a year, so even excluding the so called ‘cost’ to the NHS, the smoking pimps, sorry, the government still profit to the tune of nearly £9bn every year. Or to put it another way, if every smoker was to give up tomorrow, the NHS would not hand back the £1.7bnand the basic rate of income tax would have to rise by 3% to cover the loss of tobacco taxes. Just for the readers own edification, duties and VAT on alcohol products, raises another £9bn a year..or if you prefer a figure equal to 3% on our basic rate of tax.

There are an estimated 9.5m smokers in the UK, equivalent to approximately 20% of the adult population. By no means a minority. However, imagine any other group of people being subjected to such draconian legislation? I agree, that a ban on smoking in the workplace was an excellent idea, but equally, many organisations had already introduced this without the need for ‘nanny state’ legislation. But, to extend this legislation to include all public places, company owned vehicles, pubs, clubs and restaurants was a step too far. Any government that were to offer support to the consultation process currently under discussion at the National Health Service, (to ban smoking in private cars and homes) would be committing political suicide.

This Labour government was so short-sighted, that it did not take account of, or it was so arrogant, that it chose to ignore the effects of their legislation. It is estimated by the BBPA that some 36 pubs a week are closing, for the most part, as a direct result of the smoking ban. Each closure has real people affected, families, people wanting to try and do their own thing (tenants), real living and breathing individuals! But it is not just pubs, it is companies that supply services to pubs, soft drinks, food suppliers, beermat printers, caterers, the list goes on. This government could have allowed pubs to opt out, or become ‘smoking clubs’, as they have in Germany, instead, they insisted on a one-size fits all strategy. Clubs, entertainment centres and restaurants across the country are suffering and closing as a direct consequence of this ill considered legislation. This Labour government, once again, pandered to the PC brigade, another crusade, one day, coming to the rescue of foxes, the next day targeting smokers.

As I have already stated, I believe that non-smokers have a right to enjoy a meal, or a pint in a smoke-free environment. In fact, in my personal experience, most smokers, were always cognisant of the feelings of non-smokers and refrained from smoking in their presence. But the adult population make their choices, some may choose to drink in a club, others at a wine bar and another group may prefer a public house. Similarly, given the choice, the same adult population could, given the choice, opted to decide whether they wanted to go to a pub, club, bar or restaurant that permitted smoking or one that did not. There was no need to treat all of us like children and no justification in taking the law so far, as to turn 9.5m people into a colony of lepers. It was and remains an appalling piece of legislation, the New Labour government got so caught up in their own sense of power and invincibility that they went ahead and drove through legislation that far, far exceeded their election manifesto commitment.

I am a smoker and I know as many smokers as non-smokers. I have run businesses in this country and abroad. If I received complaints about smoking in the workplace, I always allowed the matter to go to a secret vote, with the only proviso, that there must be a majority in favour a change. On each occasion I did this, without exception, there was a vote in favour of a ban (with smokers catered for) and a good proportion, perhaps, up to 50%, of the smokers voted for the ban…yes for! In other words, left to their own devices, the adult population can and will act responsibly, decisively and collectively. These groups did not need, nor did they seek a Big Brother approach from a nanny state.

Treating adults like children is likely to lead to a temper tantrum and no government, particularly one that is prone to look down its nose at the very people that are paying the bills, can afford to ignore the affects of such draconian legislation. This government needs to tell those pampered, isolated, busybodies at the National Health Service to wind their collective necks in and keep out of politics. Then I would suggest this governent looks at some exemptions to this smoking ban, before it is too late and they end up killing the golden goose.

Before I get the anti-smoking lobby knocking at my door with the usual rhetoric, I want to make the following points. Smoking maybe a choice, but it is also a habit. I do not advocate smoking in the workplace, nor do I believe it is right to smoke where non-smokers congregate, if the non-smokers have no choice but to inhabit the same space. My argument is that the legislation went too far and in particular, much further than was proposed in the manifesto. 

9.5m smokers also have rights, to go out and enjoy themselves in a smoke-filled environment, if they so choose. Businesses, should have the right to apply and receive exemption, leaving non-smokers the choice of whether or not they will provide said businesses with their patronage. Our freedom and civil liberties were hard-fought for and won, but we are also supposed to have a tolerant society. If any government had targeted 9.5m ethnic or other minority groups in the same way as they have the smokers in this country, there would be worldwide condemnation. It would not be a retrograde step to allow exemptions, it would show political maturity and demonstrate that non-smokers can show the same level of maturity and good grace that the smokers offered them, when I asked them to vote on whether to smoke in the workplace, before the legislation was imposed.

UK government seek more control over citizens

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I have decided to take up the offer of fellow UK Politics blogger, Power to the People and copy, verbatim, his article in relation to the latest Data Communications Bill, due to be debated in parliament and supported by Jacqui Smith. This Bill seeks to further erode our right to privacy and to be free from state interference, with sweeping new laws regarding the storage of all email, internet browsing habits, telephone calls and text messages of the British Public. This government has spent 11 years, introducing law after law, permitting more state inteference, less privacy and causing blatant infringments to our civil liberties.

I wholeheartedly support the views of PttP and would also urge people to view his proposed letter, vary it, personalise it and then send it to your MP. Maybe we can have a voice after all?

Enough is enough, the UK is becoming a police state by our control obsessed government and we are sitting back and allowing it to happen. It makes me angry to see such lethargy. Everytime a new act is brought in, far more sinister aspects are buried in the detail, which further curtail our civil liberties, freedom and privacy. This has got to stop and now, state should not be permitted to control the people, it should be the other way around. As it stands, just 650 members of parliament are pushing some 65m people around, yes, I mean 650, because whilst this government may have a majority, the MP’s from other parties are not making enough noise about this massive intrusion into our lives, they should be fired, the lot of them. We are quick to condemn the bankers (rightly so in many cases), but we do nothing about the MP’s that have consistently introduced or supported Acts of Parliament that intrude into our lives, in a way that will affect us for many years to come. We must put a stop to it.

It is expected that plans to collect more data on people’s phone, e-mail and web-browsing habits will be included in the innocuouslysounding “Communications Data Bill”, due to be introduced in the Queen’s Speech in November. By all accounts, these proposals are supported by Home Secretary Jacqui Smith, Gordon Brown and much of the Labour government. Once again, the government is expected to justify this gross intrusion into the personal lives of 65m people under the auspices of ‘counter-terrorism’, this is utter garbage, they know it and we know it. Yes, there are terrorists out there and they don’t wear badges, but this country has faced terrorism before and the security forces managed to investigate and prosecute without such laws.

I don’t know how many terrorists are out there, but it is not 65m and is probably less that a couple of thousand, why should the privacy and personal of 65m people be invaded by this government because of a few people that mean us harm? This whole thing needs to be put in perspective, more people in the UK die on the roads than as a result of terrorism, more soldiers are killed abroad, that in the UK as a result of terrorism, in fact, more people are killed in farming accidents that as a consequence of terrorism. This government have invested massively in the security services, allowing them to go on a substantial recruitment drive, there should be no need for a massive Big Brother surveillance operation of the entire population of the UK. Before some smart-arse suggests that it is this surveillance and investment in the security services that has reduced the number of terrorist incidents in the UK, I would ask them to provide further evidence that this is the case and then to put it into perspective. For example, it is well know that the airline industry work out whether safety mechanisms are worth introducing on their planes on the basis of a cost/benefit analysis. In other words, will the costs associated with an accident outweigh the cost of implementing the safety programmes. Fact of life, they all do it, they just rarely tell us!

Of course the government will issue the usual platitudes and assurances that they will not misuse this information, but can we believe them. The Icelandic authorities had their assets frozen using anti-terror laws, in spite of the fact that there were other laws that could have been used and would have been just as effective. A local council used anti-terror legislation to spy on the parents of a child that they throught was in the wrong ‘catchment area’. This list, trust me, goes on and on. We also know that this government ant it’s private sector partners are incapable of securing data, which means our personal lives could be open to all and sundry. Some will argue that if you have nothing to hide, then there is nothing to hide, these same people probably still believe in Father Christmas. As we know information, any information can be used in different ways, depending on the the intepretation of the recipient, how many times have we said or done something that was completely misrepresented?

I have nothing to hide, but I object strongly to my personal calls, web browsing habits and email being monitored and invaded by the state. Government’s could even misuse this information to find out how we intend to vote! It is an appalling proposal and it is high time the British public called time on the control obsessed government and it’s supporters, irrespective of which party they represent. This goes beyond party politics, it is a direct attack on the very fabric of our society and no-one will be safe from government interference if it is allowed to pass into law. If the government believe that this act is so important, then they should allow the British people to vote on it through a referendum, I believe they will get a resounding No…and they know it!

People often tell me that there is “not much we can do”, but there is. Our members of parliament are worried sick that they may lose their seat at the next election, we must emphasise to them that if they support this attack on our civil liberties that we guarantee they will. We must demonstrate to our MP’s that they should be more in fear of the wrath of the British public that the Chief Whip of their own parties. Opposition MP’s should do their jobs and oppose this draconian piece of legislation. We must also warn our local members of parliament that if they vote for this Act, that we will not vote for them, we must make it clear, that we have a voice, not once every 5 years, but throughout their tenure and that we will have it heard. Everyone that feels this Act is a direct infringement of our civil liberties, right to privacy and an attack on the very fabric of our society, should write to their MP and tell them so. I have provided a ‘draft letter’ which can be viewed, personalised and sent to your MP. Draft Letter to MP

I would also invite all fellow bloggers that feel as strongly as I do on this issue to reproduce this article in part or full, topped and tailed if they wish, to publicise this issue to as many people as possible. Let us all stand up and fight in this issue, and remind this government who is actually in charge.

Full Article: Power to the People

 

RESIST!

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Steady erosion of the rights of a UK citizen

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If you have ever felt that there is a steady erosion of the rights of a UK citizen, then an excellent article written by Shrewd Mammal will probably confirm your worst fears. The UN Charter of Human Rights outlines what we are entitled to expect from this Act, Shrewd Mammal has provided a summary of some of these rights together with his take on whether or not they apply to UK citizens. Shrewd Mammal – UN Charter of Human Rights.

For example, Article 9 states that “no one shall be entitled to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.” Now consider how this fits in with the new 42 day detention rule. This rule is supposed to be for suspected terrorists, but anyone that does not believe the authorities will not abuse or ‘work’ this ruling needs to look at the way our other rights have been diluted or eroded over time.

Now consider Article 12. “No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.” Now consider this in relation to interference with our right to privacy, there are more CCTV cameras in the UK than anywhere else in the world.  It is worth reminding ourselves, that the UK has 1% of the worlds population, but 20% of the worlds CCTV cameras. That is a staggering 4.2 million cameras, or 1 camera for every man, woman, child and politician in the UK.

Internet service providers are required to snoop on their customers regarding downloads and emails, mobile phone service providers are required to retain call details, text messages and even GPS data (if available) for a period of up to 12 months (2 years if the EU gets its way). Council workers are entitled to look inside your bins to see what type of rubbish you are throwing out. Private companies such as those parking or wheel clamping companies are entitled to obtain your personal details from the DVLA in return for a fee.

The police are seeking to persuade the government to allow them to obtain a DNA sample from every citizen in the UK. However, they already have close to 2m DNA samples because anyone arrested for a minor offence, must provide a DNA sample and even if they are not charged or found innocent, the records are retained. Some will argue that is you have nothing to hide, then you have nothing to fear from DNA samples, that ignores both our fundamental and supposedly entrenched right to privacy, and it assumes that the DNA information will not be subsequently sold or leaked (see DVLA information), or perhaps lost in the post!

Of course these  additional state powers are not limited just to the police. Government departments such as Custom and Excise, the Scottish Drug Enforcement Agency and the Financial Services Authority are also routinely requesting information on internet and mobile phone customers. Even local authorities are entitled to snoop, for example, Last year, councils and government departments made 12,494 applications for “directed surveillance”, according to figures released by the Office of the Surveillance Commissioner. In one example, Poole Council authorised such a surveillance operation, where council workers subsequently spied on a family they suspected of living in the wrong school catchment area. This example truly places the whole thing into perspective.

The government wants to pry even further as it is trying to ensure that the next census, due in 2010 includes, for the first time, questions about income and people’s sexual habits. The supermarkets for example, are already tracing our buying habits through analysis of the ‘loyalty cards’ used by shoppers and of course, any information that is gathered and stored electronically must be released if required by a court order, or insom cases, depending on the government department, on demand. I won’t even bother covering the whole issue of ID cards.

But can we trust our government? It is woth noting that in 2006, a ‘world league table’ was published for the first time placing the UK at the bottom of the western democratic world and ranked alongside Russia for the poor protection of individual privacy, this did not take into account data losses. Interestingly the two worst-ranking countries in the 36-nation survey are Malaysia and China. More tellingly, the UK was the worst-ranking EU country and the only one in the black category, which defines countries demonstrating “endemic surveillance”. Also noteworthy, according to the Royal Academy of Engineering, is the fact that it is proposed the biometric data on new passports is stored on radio frequency microchips. This is the same technology which will be used for ID cards and could be used to eavesdrop. RESIST!

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