British Politics’s Blog

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

Posts Tagged ‘police state

MP’s to use new ‘Reasonable Discretion’ law to avoid prosecution

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A draft Bill is due to get its second reading in Parliament on the 24th April 2009. This Bill is designed to exempt all public servants from prosecution, civil or criminal, if they can demonstrate Reasonable Discretion. In spite of the fact that this Bill, if drafted into law, will provide public servants with virtual immunity from prosecution, has anyone actually heard of it? Not me, that is for sure, so I would like to thank political blog, Power to the People, for highlighting this issue.

He is a summary of what the Bill (Exercise of Reasonable Discretion Bill 2008-09) aims to achieve:

The Bill aims to ensure that public authorities and public servants would not be subject to any criminal or civil penalty as a result of the exercise of reasonable discretion in the performance of their functions. Its provisions would cover public authorities, public servants and contracts for public services. The term public authority is defined by the Bill and includes the NHS, the police, local and central and devolved Government and non-departmental public bodies. The formal intent of the Bill is to indemnify public servants, central government, local government and other public agencies from legal action if they take decisions in good faith, as a result of the exercise of reasonable discretion, in the public interest.

The author of Power to the People says:

I would urge all fellow bloggers with an interest in justice to use their blogs to publicise this outrageous attempt provide public servants, especially MP’s with a ‘get out of jail free’ card. If this legislation gets through, as it undoubtedly will, then no public servant can truly be held accountable to the public, because a ‘good faith’ defence will always be available!

I am happy to oblige. Little wonder that more and more people believe that our Members of Parliament hold the public in such contempt.

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Is government the servant or master?

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Gordon Brown says that banks should be the “servants of the economy and society and never its master“. What a pity he does not apply that same logic to government, because lets face it, that was supposed to be how things were. Instead, we have had nearly 12 years of a government that has lectured, cajoled, bullied and mislead its people.

This government has made promises to the people that is has not delivered on, then, quietly shelved the initiative without telling us. This government in general and Gordon Brown in particular has consistently failed to deliver on its financial targets. Whether we are referring to the economy, or something like child poverty. Rather than admit that they have failed, they simply re-write the rule book, no apology, no explanation, just carry on as if nothing has happened.  Just take a look at UK Plc’s debt mountain to see how government has manipulated the figures, with countless examples of ‘off-balance sheet’ accounting. PFI, public sector pensions etc.

When it comes to our civil liberties and right to privacy, this government has driven a coach and horses through everything that our forefathers fought for and we valued, all in the name of protecting us against the threat of terrorists. This, in spite of the fact that this country faced 30 years of terrorism from the IRA, without the need for draconian legislation. Now, as a result of this government believing that it knows best, or to put it another way, government is the master, not the servant, we can do little without being tracked by faceless government officials.

We have 4.2m CCTV cameras watching our every move, ANPR cameras tracking individual movements of cars and if you have an Oyster card, your movements will be recorded and retained. The details of every call, text message and email will be recorded and retained for use by government officials. As will your internet browsing habits. If you go on holiday, the government will now record where you went, for how long, how you paid and where you were seated. If you have young children, our government will record every detail of their educational needs, welfare, carers, psychological well-being and education results. This government wants to record the DNA of of every individual in the country that is questioned by the police, irrespective of whether they are subsequently charged, they then want to retain that information, even if the individual is acquitted.

This government wants to introduce ID cards, even though most people don’t want them. They want to use biometrics and even include a chip that could potentially record the movement of every citizen with a card. This government has allowed 780 individual government agencies and/or private companies access to our most private information, with little or no oversight. There are now 250 agencies that can legally break into our homes. This is a government that believes that it is the master and not the servant of the people.

Like it or not, this Labour government, with the tacit approval of any MP who failed to speak for the people, has run roughshod over the people of this country. Even now, no major party will speak up for the people, yes, they may make the odd comment, but they do nothing about it. None of the major parties have included in their policy an agreement to review and if necessary, repeal legislation that has wrecked our liberty and right to privacy. It is high time the people of this country said that enough was enough, members of parliament are supposed to serve the public, government is the servant, not the master and we demand the return of our liberty and our right to be free from an overbearing, know it all state.

Gordon Brown on Civil Liberties

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Whilst browsing the No.10 website, I came across a transcript of a speech given by Gordon Brown on the 25th October 2007 at the University of Westminster. I make no apologies for being selective in what I have reproduced because they are his words, not mine. Readers are then free to decide which, if any, of these commitments he has delivered on, or reneged on in light of recent announcements and laws on the subject of liberty, freedom and privacy. Over to Gordon Brown, the unelected prime minister of Great Britain…

I believe that together we can chart a better way forward. In particular, I believe that by applying our enduring ideals to new challenges we can start immediately to make changes in our constitution and laws to safeguard and extend the liberties of our citizens

To include:

respecting and extending freedom of assembly, new rights for the public expression of dissent

respecting privacy in the home, new rights against arbitrary intrusion

in a world of new technology, new rights to protect your private information

“…crucible of great events, have, in my view, forged over time a distinctly British interpretation of liberty —— one that asserts the importance of freedom from prejudice, of rights to privacy, and of limits to the scope of arbitrary state power, but one that also rejects the selfishness of extreme libertarianism and demands that the realm of individual freedom encompasses not just some but all of us

So instead of invoking the unique nature of the threats we face today as a reason for relinquishing our historical attachment to British liberty, we meet these tests not by abandoning principles of liberty but by giving them new life

To claim that we should ignore the claims of liberty when faced with the needs of security would be to embark down an authoritarian path that I believe would be unacceptable to the British people.”

In my view, the key to making these hard choices in a way that is compatible with our traditions of liberty is to, at all times, apply the liberty test, respecting fundamental rights and freedoms, and wherever action is needed by government, it never subjects the citizen to arbitrary treatment, is transparent and proportionate in its measures and at all times also requires proper scrutiny by, and accountability to, Parliament and the people.”

First, it is the British way to stand up for freedom of assembly, speech and press.”

Wherever and whenever there are question marks over the ability to express dissent I believe that the balance should be with those taking action to defend and extend the liberty of individuals and their freedoms to express their views within the law.”

“…there is a case for applying our enduring ideas of liberty to ensure that the laws governing the press in this country fully respect freedom of speech.”

When anything is provided without cost, it does risk being open to abuse. However the Government does not believe that more restrictive rules on cost limits of FoI requests are the way forward.”

The advancement of individual liberty depends upon the protection from arbitrary interference of the person and private property and, above all, the home. ”

I share the concerns about the need for additional protections for the liberties and rights of the citizen.”

And this is how he ended his address;

The challenge for each generation is to conduct an open debate without ever losing sight of the value of our liberties.  Indeed the character of our country will be defined by how we write the next chapter of British liberty – by whether we do so responsibly and in a way that respects and builds on our traditions, and progressively adds to and enlarges rather then reduces the sphere of freedom.

And as we make these decisions, we must never forget that the state and the people are not equivalent. The state is always the servant of the people. We must remember that liberty belongs to the people and not governments.

It is the challenge and the opportunity for our generation to write the next chapter of British liberty in a way that honours the progress of the past – and promises a wider and more secure freedom to our children.”

I can’t help wondering if the man that is running our country, is the same one that spouted these words, because to me at least, they seem incompatible with each other. You can make up your own mind!

Democracy has already disappeared

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Much has been said over the weekend regarding the Damian Green affair, with most commentators suggesting that our democracy is damaged, at stake or in peril. I would not argue with any of these descriptives other than to say our democracy was under threat a good deal earlier than this high profile incident.

Whether it is detention without charge, law officers being able to store telephone call details, text messages, email content and web browsing habits, or the ability of the police to take DNA off a subject even if they haven’t been charged. All of these new laws have been brought in, ostensibly to aid the fight against crime and terrorism, but as we have already witnessed, neither the police nor the government are shy of using anti-terror laws in completely inappropriate circumstances. As each new piece of legislation has been passed, so we have had to wave a fond farewell to some of the fundamental rights that we have lost in the process. Rights that we have enjoyed for hundreds of years. Yet crime is not falling and terrorism remains the same threat as it was before.

The government has become the ‘bitch’ of the police service, giving them have whatever they want, whether it be detention without charge, 30,000 taser guns or the ability to monitor telephone calls on the say so of a senior officer rather than a judge. Opposition parties, by contrast, have acted like the governments lapdogs, providing a less than spirited defence of the rights of the individual. In an effort to preen themselves in front of the TV cameras, or gain a few column inches from a compliant newspaper, members of parliament have forgotten that they are responsible for upholding the rights and liberties of the citizens of this country. They have failed miserably….look at how many departments that have been labeled “not fit for purpose”, now consider how this label could be identified with most of the government and a large number of other MP’s!

As a consequence of this governments preoccupation with gaining more and more state control, we as a people have become all the poorer. Not in economic terms (that was for different reasons), but in terms of freedom. Our right to privacy has gone forever, because this government has allowed nearly every aspect of our lives to be monitored and/or recorded and then allowed upwards of 800 agencies, both public and private, access to that information. It is an outrage. Worst of all, every MP that failed to speak up for the people of this country on this issue have been complicit in our demise, further, every newspaper editor that has failed to raise these issues for fear of losing scoops from a minister have failed their readership.

Of course you can’t get the genie back into the bottle, but members of parliament on all sides should seek to use the Damian Green affair as a signal that a complete review is now needed of all legislation passed that has provided government and the police service with unprecedented powers over the people of this country. British citizens are supposed to be the masters, not the servants, New Labour policies have dispensed with this long held tradition. Purists may say I am wrong, but it is my contention that when so much power has been passed to government and the tools or agents of government, such as the police service, security services and so on, the people of this country become the servants of state, not the other way around.

We may retain the vote, but little else and if we allow further removal of our rights, we could end up being a basket case like Zimbabwe, with question marks over our entire electoral system. Melodramatic maybe, possible most certainly, after all, Hazel Blears has already indicated that she wants the legal power to prevent publication of certain stories in the mainstream media and has pointed out that she is not in favour of bloggers. Who 20 years ago would have guessed that we could lock people up for a month with no charge, seize the assets of another country using anti-terror laws, monitor and store every telephone call, text message and email, force identity cards on a reluctant public? The list goes on, but you get the picture, it isn’t just possible, we are already well on our way.

If ever there was a justification for a public enquiry, something I do not normally advocate, it is now. It should be wide ranging and concentrate on the legislation that has been drafted by this government which as a consequence of its introduction, has removed, reduced or eroded the civil liberties and rights of the people of this country. Further, they must look at what the original intention was and find out how these laws have been used, abused or mis-used. This enquiry must then have the power to order that government introduce legislation to allow either an amendment to, or the repeal of any legislation that is not as intended or has simply gone too far.

David Cameron could lead this charge and I suspect he will have a great deal of support, certainly from the public and most likely from the LibDems and a few Labour backbenchers. Or, he could let the opportunity pass by and be picked up by Nick Clegg. For as sure as night follows day, there will be a massive public backlash when it starts to sink in just how many of our rights have been sacrificed in a fight against terrorism, something, incidentally that this country has faced for most of its existence.

If as a consequence of the Damian Green affair members of parliament only seek an exemption for MP’s, then I think the public will have a very good idea who our elected members look out for and it would most certainly not be us. They could be reminded of this at the ballot box assuming we manage to retain that right. Don’t laugh, it could happen, just look at our ruling elite!

Prostitution, pimps, trafficking and criminal intent

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There is an interesting post over at Power to the People on the government announcement that they intend to introduce new legislation to protect women that have been forced into prostitution by people traffickers or pimps. The post does not cover the rights and wrongs about prostitution, but instead the issue surrounding a fundamental change to criminal law, in that there is no need to demonstrate intent only “strict liability”.

The following paragraph probably sums up best the argument contained in the post:

I am no law expert, but by introducing a “strict liability” clause into criminal law, (I believe it is already used in civil law), means a serious criminal offence can be committed without there being any intent. Now I know that ignorance of the law is no excuse, but this legislation means that even if a man asked the necessary questions and was given the appropriate responses, he is still playing a game of Russian Roulette, with odds that would not be lawful in a casino! Worst still, the man doesn’t even need to have sex in order to commit the offence, he just has to conduct the transaction.

If true, this is a very worrying precedent being set by government ministers, perhaps made worst by the fact that Harriet Harman is actually a QC. She more than anyone must know the consequences of a piece of legislation that can find a man guilty of rape simply because he conducted a transaction for sex with a prostitute.

Surely this is what is wrong with this government. They try and intefere in everything, with little or no knowledge of the problems, issues or implications. It is always a sledgehammer to crack a nut, draconian and penal laws introduced against a backdrop of political correctness or a wish to grab the headlines. The Big Brother Database was one way in which this government attempted to run roughshod over the civil liberties of the people of this country. Now they seek to introduce a strict liability clause which means that no ‘act’ has to take place for a very serious offence to have been committed which could result in a life sentence.

Vulnerable girls forced into prostitution are entitled to and must be protected. However, the laws are already there for the police to use, so why don’t they? If 70% of the girls are working under duress, then the police should have no problem bringing prosecutions. I don’t know how many ‘sex transactions’ take place everyday, but if 70% of them could lead to a serious offence being committed, surely the courts will be inundated with criminal cases. Also, we need to start building new prisons now, because I suspect, that this law will not stop the oldest profession in the world. In a worst case scenario, it could make the girls more vulnerable and drive it underground where it will be impossible to protect them.

Those that sponsor or support this bill in its current form should hang their heads in shame for they seek to change a fundamental aspect of criminal law in this country and fail to achieve the objective set. As for Jacqui Smith and Harriet Harman, they should resign immediately, because they have demonstrated that they are not fit for the high offices that they hold.

Has Hazel Blears been reading our blogs?

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Based on an article written by Communities Secretary, Hazel Blears for The Guardian newspaper, it is a reasonable question. Especially given she naively attacked political bloggers a couple of weeks ago. Now she appears to have used these same blogs for her own research into what is wrong with politics. In this particular article, she was specifically taking a swipe at the BNP, no doubt because they make an easier target than other mainstream political parties. But, as we know, her comments could apply to any party that is gaining votes at Labours expense. Here is a summary of some of the points she made.

  • Politicians from all parties must work hard to win back the trust and confidence of disaffected voters by proving that mainstream politics has the answers they seek
  • Politics required a revival of local political culture, a significant shift of power from the centre to the community and politicians who look and sound like the people they represent
  • Estates have been ignored for decades; voters taken for granted; local services that have failed; white working-class voters who feel politicians live on a different planet

Now of course, delivering rhetoric is one thing, delivering solutions is quite another. As we know, Hazel Blears may be vocal and enjoy getting her name in the press, but lets face it, not many people hang onto her every word. So whilst it is a pity that a more serious politician did not make these comments, lets hope one of them can read, because she does get to the root cause of why so many people feel both disenfranchised and disaffected with politics.

Of course there are many other issues, such as the creation of a nanny state, the constant waste of taxpayers money, the government’s introduction of Big Brother, voyeuristic, privacy invading, civil liberty busting programmes designed to control and oppress the people of this country, as well as, of course, the complete screw up of our economy. However I believe there are two comments that she made that are particularly relevant today and those are ‘politicians need to look and sound like the people they represent’ and ‘voters feel politicians live on a different planet ‘ . 

These two comments could not be applied exclusively to the Labour Party, although that would be an excellent start, they would apply to MP’s of all parties. With only a few exceptions, once our members of parliament are elected, and they enter the house of commons, they really start to believe that they are a cut above everyone else and power goes to their heads. The only time they become ‘human’ again, is when they are begging for our votes! Most MP’s are, or become in a very short period, pathetic self-serving, self-righteous, self-obsessed dickheads, interested in the position, rather than the responsibility or why they were put there.

Nonetheless, as always, Hazel is keen to highlight problems. However as with most Labour MP’s (and David Cameron), short on ideas of how to address them. May I suggest therefore, that a good start is for the main political parties to start selecting the person they want to represent them at election time and in parliament, from ordinary citizens, rather than career politicians or party activists? Party activists and career politicians lose their personality or individuality on the way, learn to do as they are told, rather than what is right and more often than not, are the very people that see getting the job as more important than doing it. Better surely, that prospective MP’s are selected based on a passion for their local community, values and making a difference, rather than simply seeking a political career?

Anyway, at least we know that whilst Hazel Blear may not like the home truths that arise from those prepared to take the time to comment on political issues, at least she is prepared to accept some of them may be quite pertinent. Even if she is not capable of making a difference.

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.