Following the old maxim of not believing anything until it has been officially denied three times, I think it is safe to now accept that even if we’re not yet a police or surveillance society we’re definitely heading that way at a considerable rate of knots and it’s no longer paranoid to be worried about it.
A short while back Stella Rimington was reported in the Independent as saying that British citizens “live in fear and under a police state”. Now generally when an ex-spook is speaking out saying that laws are being brought in to undermine civil liberties then there’s probably a problem. When the Police are also expressing concern about anti terror laws infringing civil liberties then alarm bells really start ringing, but the thing that removes all doubt is when it starts getting denied. Thus we have Tom Harris MP, Tom McNulty and David Blunkett all saying it’s nonsense. Not quite the gold standard of three official denials I know, but I’m sure given time we’ll get that. The main defence all three seem to make is along the lines of:
“This isn’t a police state it’s not nearly as bad as X”
where X is a South American or some “real” police state. Which isn’t exactly reassuring, and doesn’t address the more wide spread concern that it’s the direction we’re heading in. Acting against the formation of a police state is a far more sensible course of action than waiting until people are routinely being dragged from their beds and locked up without charge. That our glorious leaders seem unable to even comprehend why any of us might entertain concerns about the direction we seem to be heading, can’t help but add fuel to the fire. Our current leaders may very well not intend to create a police state, but one the laws are in place they’ll be in place if a less kindly power ever gains control and they’re in place now if any official were minded to misuse them. After all if a law is written such that it can have a wider and less reasonable interpretation, if the letter of the law were followed, then it must surely be sensible to at least consider what the affects of such an application of the law would be. If the laws that are causing people to be concerned about their liberties aren’t in fact intended to be used in the way that people have observed they could be then either our parliament is incompetent or simply not fulfilling its remit of properly scrutinising and considering new laws before enacting them. Looking at the long term I’m not sure it really matters if potentially oppressive laws are passed out of maliciousness, incompetence or indolence. Being told that any given law “would never” be used in an oppressive fashion is of no reassurance (“never” is an awfully long time) we should told clearly and simply how these laws “could never” be used to destroy hard fought for liberties.
Compulsory links to other peoples articles which are probably far more informative than me:
Sceptic Isle, The appalling strangeness, Long Rider, Long Rider again and for balance(?) Harry’s place.
And just for good measure two other very related articles:
Revealed: the full extent of Labour’s curbs on civil liberties (Independent)
Britain 2009 (Tilting at Windmills)