WORDS: Lee Higgins
“Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” - Benjamin Franklin
As utterly unsurprising as this is, I feel the need to comment on the fact that the Conservative government may have set a new record in lying to us. Barely had the dust settled on the Conservative victory before Theresa May, Home Secretary and MP for Maidenhead, stated that she would be seeking to introduce the controversial (and quire frankly terrifying) Draft Communications Data Bill to government.
In a nutshell, the Draft Communications Data Bill (commonly known as the Snooper's Charter) would require British internet service providers and mobile phone providers to keep extensive logs on the activities of their customers (including but not limited to internet browsing activity, emailsm voice calls, internet gaming and mobile messaging services such as SMS/iMessage/WhatsApp etc), and make this information available to the government and security services.
As a matter of interest, similar spying by the NSA was found to be illegal in the United States the day before the UK general election.
How have the government lied to us this time?
Let's turn to page 61 of the Conservative 2015 General Election manifesto, as can be found on the official party website here: http://bit.ly/1FPYN2z
“we continue to reject any suggestions of sweeping, authoritarian measures that would threaten our hard-won freedoms”
There is one teeny, tiny problem with that quote. The Draft Communications Data Bill IS a sweeping, authoritarian measure that would threaten our hard-won freedoms!
This Bill might sound familiar. That is because it was originally introduced back in the 2012-2013 legislative session with the intention of the Bill being enacted into law in 2014. Former Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg completely withdrew his support for the Bill in 2013, and the Lib Dems blocked the Bill from being introduced.
Except the Lib Dems are no longer in power and probably won't even get a sniff of it for a long time following their utter decimation in the polls. Say what you want about the Lib Dems, but if nothing else they were a filter. This time round we have an industrial-sized load of unfiltered, premium Tory bastard on our hands.
So how are they possibly going to get this to pass? The Human Right Act specifically forbids gross invasions of privacy such as the DCDB. Besides, the EU would never allow it.
The Human Rights Act. The EU.
The Human Rights Act that the Tories are planning to scrap. The EU that the Tories are planning on getting us out of as soon as they possibly can.
At first glance, scrapping the Human Rights Act might not seem like the catastrophe that it is made out to be. It'll be replaced by the British Bill of Rights, it'll take control away from Europe and let us decide our own rights. Fantastic?
No. Not fantastic. Absolutely terrifying.
There is much more to the Human Rights Act than the list that follows, but these are the fundamental freedoms that all individuals in the UK have access to under the Act:
Right to life
Freedom from torture and inhuman or degrading treatment
Right to liberty and security
Freedom from slavery and forced labour
Right to a fair trial
No punishment without law
Respect for your private and family life, home and correspondence
Freedom of thought, belief and religion
Freedom of expression
Freedom of assembly and association
Right to marry and start a family
Protection from discrimination in respect of these rights and freedoms
Right to peaceful enjoyment of your property
Right to education
Right to participate in free elections
I'm not a gambling man. But I am willing to bet everything I own, including the shirt on my back, that when the so-called British Bill of Rights comes to light, there will be a few of those fundamental freedoms missing from it. Respect for your private and family life, home and correspondence will almost certainly be gone. Freedom of assembly and association probably will be as well. A lovely Snooper's Charter-shaped hole right in the middle of our human rights.
Now then, surely all of this is just speculation? I have no real evidence that the Tories want to stifle freedom of speech or ban protesting.
Oh wait, they enacted the Gagging Bill last year.
And on that bombshell, we now we turn to the matter of the EU.
I won't waste your time singing the praises of the EU or tearing it to shreds. There's plenty of other articles that do both of those at length and better than I could if you would like to read them. The EU isn't perfect, but there is one thing that the EU does for us that is very relevant here. The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg enshrines all of our human rights in EU law, legislation that all EU member states must observe as a condition of membership. The Tories have already seeked to override decisions made in Strasbourg to, as they put it, “restore sovereignty to Westminster”.
If we left the EU, that pesky court and legislation wouldn't be a problem for the Tories anymore, would it?
Doesn't exactly take a genius to put two and two together.
My prediction is that in the run up to the scrapping of the Human Rights Act and the EU referendum, the Tories will be running a campaign via the media centred around fear, uncertainty and anti-Europe sentiment. They will be working at absolutely full tilt to ensure that the British public not only gives up their rights, but that they give up their rights because they think it is the best thing for them. No doubt the words “terrorism” and “paedophiles” will be dropped on a regular basis, the twin bogeymen that the British government and media love to wheel out when it comes to pruning back our rights. Those speaking out against the campaign will be smeared as “unpatriotic” or a threat to British society in the media.
Putting on the political scuba gear and diving into the turbulent waters that are the right-wing media comment sections, we can already see this in action. Many users are stating that they will happily give up their freedom to catch potential terrorists and paedophiles. What a shocker.
But by far the most parroted line is “If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear”.
Christ on a bike.
Everybody who has ever spouted this utterly ill-informed and dangerous rubbish, I invite you to prove that you have nothing to hide. Take all the curtains and blinds down in your house, and put them on a bonfire. Do the same thing with all your clothes. Oh, and all of your doors and locks. Install CCTV in every room of your house and give the government 24/7 live access. While you're there, live-Tweet your every move to @GCHQ_UK. Wearing an ankle tag won't hurt either.
Shouldn't be a problem if you've got nothing to hide, eh?
Privacy is a basic human need. Whether it is as simple as a lock on the bathroom door or the right to communicate in private with the people we love, it is something that we all require to feel safe and secure. Anyone who says otherwise is either ill-informed, lying or would benefit from the dismantling of privacy laws.
This article in short:
1. The Human Rights Act and the EU prevent the UK from spying on its citizens en masse.
2. The Tories intend on scrapping the Human Rights Act and leaving the EU, most likely to enact the Snooper's Charter into law without European resistance among other things.
3. They will use their considerable power in the media to convince you that this is a good thing.
Please don't let that happen. If the Snooper's Charter is passed into law, it certainly won't be on its own merits or for our benefit. As daft as it looks, I don't fancy The Shard being replaced by the Ministry of Love.