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This page provides occasional items, linked to the original articles, as we attempt to keep up with the rapidly changing situation on civil liberties.
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2002 - 2004

1st Jan to 9th Sept 2005


David Davis for Freedom

Update: Davis’s site has a set of debate forums where registered users can debate topics.

David Davis’s campaign site is up and has a weblog, which includes an article explaining his stance on 28 days pre-charge detention vs 42 days (which I’ll respond to later). You can also donate to his campaign.

Why David Davis’s stand is important

On Wednesday, not only did the government win the “42 days” votes, but prior to that opinion polls were published which suggested the public supported the government’s line on the issue.

As someone deeply opposed to the erosion of civil liberties, both of these events would be depressing events for David Davis. They also point to a wider depressing fact about the political climate in Britain. For many years now, the idea that one must erode civil liberties in order to be “tough”, or at least to be seen to be “tough”, on crime and on terrorism has influenced both the government’s political strategy, the media’s handling of the issues and many people’s perceptions of the issues.

We have had draconian measure after draconian measure pushed onto the statute books, and part of the argument against the opponents is that by opposing these measures they are being “soft” on crime and terrorism. It’s not merely a party-political thing but something that permeates the political arena generally.

And it seems to me that whilst the current government is likely to lose the next election, it is not clear that this is because people are outraged over eroded civil liberties. The issues of “spin”, sleaze and sheer incompetence on the part of this government are the more likely candidates for explaining their poor showings in the polls at this point. Civil liberties concerns may have contributed to the poor showings to some degree, but not yet as a major factor, as far as I can tell.

Thus the idea that standing up for civil liberties means being “soft” on crime or terrorism, holds enough sway in the media and with the public, that it will hamper any efforts of a would-be Home Secretary (or PM) to halt and reverse the erosion of civil liberties Davis refers to. It will need to be confronted if any lasting changes to strengthen civil liberties are to be made. I suspect it’s why, whilst we’ve heard some encouraging noises from the Tories (e.g. pledges to scrap the national identity scheme), it’s also why Cameron’s approach on these issues has had a cautious air to it.

By resigning his seat and fighting the by-election on a civil liberties platform, David Davis has created an opportunity for this idea to be challenged, and the political climate changed, before the next general election is held, thus giving an incoming Tory government a freer hand to strengthen civil liberties than would otherwise have been the case.

Thus the opportunity here is to alter the political landscape that the shadow cabinet and probable next government will be operating in, to strengthen the hand of those who believe in civil liberties. This seems to me to be Davis’s intention.

Because it involves thinking and acting outside the currently normal parameters of the Westminster “bubble”, I think those in the media and in politics who have been attacking him are misunderstanding the nature of what he is doing (or possibly understand too well and don’t like it).

But there is also a risk here for the cause of civil liberties. Suppose Davis loses his by-election. Won’t that damage the cause? I think it would, potentially seriously so and this is an outcome to be avoided.

I suspect he’ll win though. Nevertheless, I think anyone who believes in civil liberties should help Davis fight this fight, and make the debate on civil liberties he’s called for become a reality. By doing so, they will give this opportunity to alter the political landscape in favour of civil liberties the best possible chance of succeeding.

Buy David Davis a pint…

…suggests the Pub Philosopher. I may well heed his advice. He makes the following case:

At last, we may be about to have a proper debate on civil liberties in the UK. In the past couple of days I have heard about conversations in pubs, clubs, churches and round family dinner tables, discussing the DNA database, ID cards, curbs on free speech and the erosion of privacy. Previously, it seemed, these were just the hobby-horses of curmudgeonly old bloggers.

Whatever you think of David Davis, he hasn’t just got us all talking about these issues, he’s somehow made it OK to get angry about them too. He has provided a channel for a pent-up frustration that many people have felt for some time. For that alone he deserves our thanks. If I ever meet David Davis, the first round is on me.

I’d add that the whole thing is worth reading.

Pledge to support David Davis’s re-election

Over at Pledgebank.

David Davis and the “slow strangulation” of fundamental freedoms

Update: I left out the excellent Spy Blog from the list below. This site has covered the attacks on civil liberties at a detailed level.

David Davis, until yesterday the Tories’ shadow Home Secretary, has announced his resignation in protest at the Commons passing the law enabling 42 days pre-charge detention. He will fight in the resulting by-election on the general issue of civil liberties. In his speech he refers to the “slow strangulation” of fundamental freedoms in Britain.

Anyone wishing to look-up chapter and verse on the attacks on civil liberties is directed to the following links:

  • Prime recent and proposed attacks on civil liberties. This documents most of the attacks from 1994 to 2005, with direct links to the legislation concerned. For documentation of more recent attacks, the other articles in this blog, alongside the briefing documents are worth perusing.
  • UK Liberty has been documenting the attacks on civil liberties for a couple of years now and doing a sterling job of it too.
  • Taking Liberties is a documentary available on DVD, with a book to accompany it that also documents many incidents in which draconian powers have been used against peaceful protesters in Britain.
  • Henry Porter’s articles in the Observer have also been a good source of info.

David Cameron’s pledge to scrap the National Identity Register

Posted by James Hammerton @ 9:31 pm on 22 May, 2008.
Categories site news, privacy and surveillance, British politics, the database state.
Edit This Permalink to this article

I had linked to this at an earlier article, but the link expired. I have now dug out the new link and updated the earlier article so that it works again.

British government considers database of phone calls, web site visits and emails.

Summary: The proposed central database logging details of who people phone, who they email and what websites they visit, at first glance, merely duplicates the storage of such information by internet and phone companies. However, by creating their own central database, the government will make it easier to look up any British resident’s calls and emails, easier to extend the retention of this data and easier to share the data across government departments and public bodies in the future. It will also create a valuable target for information thieves. All this assumes, of course, that they can manage to get such a large-scale IT project off the ground in the first place…


The National Staff Dismissal Register

Yet more guilt by accusation in Britain. From the BBC:

To critics it sounds like a scenario from some Orwellian nightmare.

An online database of workers accused of theft and dishonesty, regardless of whether they have been convicted of any crime, which bosses can access when vetting potential employees.

But this is no dystopian fantasy. Later this month, the National Staff Dismissal Register (NSDR) is expected to go live.

Organisers say that major companies including Harrods, Selfridges and Reed Managed Services have already signed up to the scheme. By the end of May they will be able to check whether candidates for jobs have faced allegations of stealing, forgery, fraud, damaging company property or causing a loss to their employers and suppliers.

Workers sacked for these offences will be included on the register, regardless of whether police had enough evidence to convict them. Also on the list will be employees who resigned before they could face disciplinary proceedings at work.

And who’s behind this? The AABC, a group set up under a partnership between the Home Office and the British Retail Consortium:

The register is an initiative of Action Against Business Crime (AABC), which was established as a joint venture between the Home Office and the British Retail Consortium “to set up and maintain business crime reduction partnerships”.

To be fair to the Home Office they say they’ve stopped funding this group.

NIS briefing document updated again

Posted by James Hammerton @ 8:59 pm on 10 March, 2008.
Categories privacy and surveillance, British politics, the database state.
Edit This Permalink to this article

Now the government has published its revised delivery plan for the National Identity Scheme, I’ve updated the briefing document to reflect the changes.

Roundup: Britain’s National Identity Scheme

Posted by James Hammerton @ 10:08 pm on 7 February, 2008.
Categories privacy and surveillance, British politics, the database state.
Edit This Permalink to this article

To catch-up on a backlog of material I’m doing a number of roundups. This one is on stories related to Britain’s National Identity Scheme over the last few months.

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