By Binoy Kampmark
We know what the election victory for the Tories in the United Kingdom signifies. Britain, festooned in the confetti of democratic freedoms, is heading for a further trimming, a pruning that will privilege surveillance powers over that of privacy. Home Secretary Theresa May has been at the vanguard of this movement for some time. Even as David Cameron seemingly runs out of gas – his own campaign having been oddly disengaged – there are others nipping, not merely at his heels, but his arteries.
The Draft Communications Data Bill, more appropriate known as the “snooper’s charter” is the usual spawn of a misguided security establishment. They, it would seem, can barely find the enemy. The result is a form of mad blind man’s buff, screeching away before the altar of irrelevance. The bill was set to be cemented last year, but Nick Clegg, in a brief attack of conscience, decided to withdraw his support for it. That particular Lib Dem manoeuvre was not something the Tories ever forgave Clegg for. In May’s words, “We were prevented from bringing in that legislation into the last government because of the coalition with the Liberal Democrats and we are determined to bring that through” (The Guardian, May 9).
In an interview with the BBC, May explained that a “Conservative government would be giving the security agencies and law enforcement agencies the powers that they need to ensure they’re keeping up to date as people communicate with communications data.”
Cameron’s stance on this has been clear: liberties are easy to move around; the greater the perceived threat by that amorphous indefinable phenomenon called terrorism, the more frantic the need to move more rights around. In what seemed to be a strange cocktail of daftness and institutional paranoia, the prime minister even went so far as to suggest limitations to encrypted communications in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo killings in France.
Unfortunately, the attitude is a largely bipartisan one. The manifestoes of both the Tories and Labour prior to the election read like echoes of the terrified security state. What they both did was promise greater regulation of surveillance even as such powers were being enlarged to pry into the everyday affairs of citizens.
Philosophers stone – selected views from the boat
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