Monday, April 02, 2012

E-mail and web snooping idea - why I'm worried

I'm breaking into my highland idyll of frolics in the park with my family, late night card games, last minute wedding preparations and admiring the beauty of the scenery, undiminished by the pouring rain and freezing cold, to have a bit of a rant about reports that the Government is planning on allowing real time e-mail/website snooping and forcing ISPs to keep records of websites visited.

I am perfectly sure that it would be a complete and utter waste of time for them at GCHQ to know that I bought a bra online, or that I texted a colleague to tell them that they were looking sinister (Brownie points if you can guess which one). More to the point, it would be none of their business. Privacy and personal liberty are incredibly important to me and every other Liberal Democrat.

That's why I'm relieved that we are in Government. Our back bench MPs dealing with this are Julian Huppert, ex Liberty Council member and Tom Brake who spent a lot of time arguing against excessive policing methods like kettling after his experience at the G20 summit 3 years ago.

Nick Clegg himself is a powerful advocate of civil liberties, saying during his leadership campaign that he would go to prison rather than be forced to carry an ID card.

We can rely on our lot to put forward the case for civil liberties within the Government and, I hope, to vote against any silly measures. We have to remember that there isn't a specific proposal out there yet.

One thing we must never do, though, is take lessons on civil liberties from the Labour Party. I was reading Twitter last night and laughing my head off at their mockrage. These, after all, are the people who tried to introduce similar measures in 2006 and tried to bring in 3 months of pre-charge detention. John Prescott was, I believe, Deputy Prime Minister for 10 years and I don't remember his resignation on principle on that issue. He seems to care very much about civil liberties now, all of a sudden, tweeting his hypocrisy to anyone who'll listen. They managed to make it 6 weeks, a ridiculous amount of time that the Coalition slashed as soon as it could. Coincidentally, Labour brought in 42 days with the help of the DUP at the same time as women in Northern Ireland were quietly denied access to abortion services. Funny, that.

When it comes to it, will Labour vote against any proposals which come up?Yvette Cooper might not want to support them, keeping her credibility intact for a potential leadership election, but we all remember her participation in and enthusiastic support for the authoritarian measures Labour forced through. If they do vote against, it will be more about political mischief than principle.

We have to remember that we haven't seen any actual proposals yet, just a vague newspaper report saying something would be in the Queen's Speech. We'll have cause to gripe if our lot look like they're letting something horrendous go through but for the moment, let's trust them to work within the Government to make sure that what emerges is proportionate, liberal and sensible.

I am a bit out of the loop at the moment, so I may be totally wrong on this, but it strikes me that our contribution to the debate has been a bit earnest. When you've got David Davis ranting on one hand and Labour's amnesiac hysteria, you need the likes of Farron out there kicking their backsides.

Internal comms have been getting more and more brilliant recently - now's the time for them to improve even more and get stuff out to members and activists which will reassure them on an issue that's part of our DNA.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Lovely highland holiday cottage

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