In praise of Stella Rimmington

Dame Stella is right today to complain that the government is using fear of terrorism as an excuse to take away liberties and create a police state. The only thing I take issue with in her statement is that the government is not using the fear of terrorism of the people so much as its own fear of terrorism.

We need a government which polices our borders better, but respects our traditions of innocence until proven guilty, trial by jury, no detention without charge or trial, and the right of most to go about their daily lives without government spying and intrusion.

Above all we want a government which targets its enforcement activities against violence on those who can be reasonably suspected of possible violence, not by placing everyone under surveillance. Guards and gates are expensive, clumsy and often do not work if there are dedicated groups who want to carry out acts of violence.

Place suspects under surveillance, and uphold the freedoms of the rest of us. Learn to target. Most people are not potential terrorists, so don’t waste time checking them, and don’t waste money watching them as if they might be. If you watch the borders better, you can interview people who arrive who have a history of association and statements that causes concern, and can interview UK citizens who have been to places where terrorist training occurs. Those are two small groups most worthy of investigation.

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22 Comments

  1. Ian Jones
    Posted February 17, 2009 at 7:26 am | Permalink

    The new laws are all about delivering the utopian society that Brown has dreamt of. It has nothing to do with terrorism and all to do with enforcing “equality” and the levelling of society. It is amazing the Establishment has let it get so far!!!

    Not a big step from here to communism/fascism……….

  2. Colin D.
    Posted February 17, 2009 at 8:15 am | Permalink

    It’s all a case of ‘too little too late’. The police state is coming, little by little, with each retrograde step justified to seem reasonable at the time. Identity cards, the Lisbon Treaty, abuse of terrorism laws and now threat of arrest if you as much as photograph a policeman. We can be sent abroad to face trial on the basis of a European Arrest Warrant and no British court can stop it.
    I remember being told the fear of the knock at the door in the middle of the night in Nazi Germany. How long before it happens here?

    • Stuart Fairney
      Posted February 17, 2009 at 9:06 am | Permalink

      I missed this one, can you now be arrested for photographing a policeman?

      • alan jutson
        Posted February 17, 2009 at 9:56 am | Permalink

        Yes you can, in fact taking any sort of photographs in a Public place if the Authorities deem you are a risk (terrorist threat).
        New law came into being this week acording to National Press.

        One more law to add to the one a day being passed by Labour.

        • Stuart Fairney
          Posted February 17, 2009 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

          Does anyone have the actual source of this as I would like to look at the primary legislation to see what it specifically says.

          I’m not entirely sure how a middle-aged Welsh aetheist could be a terror threat…… so I’d best check.

          (If this is correct), it’s worrying because it’s not what you do, it’s the intent you are deemed to have by the people enforcing the law ~ who could vote for such a law?

        • Adrian Peirson
          Posted February 17, 2009 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

          The reason being is because we are headed for a Brutal police state, and cameras might be alittle too embarrasing.
          Britain about to be abolished and Parliament closed down.

          http://www.eutruth.org.uk

  3. Robert Eve
    Posted February 17, 2009 at 9:37 am | Permalink

    When will the Government react to the European Court’s unanimous ruling regarding the retention of DNA and fingerprints from people never charged of any offence?

  4. Chris H
    Posted February 17, 2009 at 9:41 am | Permalink

    I felt quite uplifted when I read Stella Rimington’s comments this morning. But……I fear that Parliament has allowed laws to progress too far already. The Home Office is desperate to shove ID cards on everyone and build its Big Brother N.I.R computer; the biometrics, the travel databases, ContactPoint, data-sharing…. the whole thing is endless and seemingly an unstoppable train. A lot of ordinary folk have seen this all coming for a long time, but have been powerless to do anything about it. With over a year still to another election, I worry about how much more irreversible damage will be done to us all. As for photographing the police, yes, some new law came in on February 16th, I believe….no doubt conveniently buried under some more sensational headline.

  5. arthurgreenwood
    Posted February 17, 2009 at 9:44 am | Permalink

    I prefer the phrase “unless proven guilty”. “Until” has a certain inevitability about it.

  6. alan jutson
    Posted February 17, 2009 at 10:24 am | Permalink

    Yes I too was uplifted for a while, and good on Stella.

    David Davis was right to make a big thing about freedom, although I think he did it in the wrong way.

    Our way of life and freedom of speech is now being eroded at an increasing rate. Why can we not see that the terrorists are winning the war on freedom, not with bombs but by restricting our traditional way of life.

    Why is it that we normally have to wait for people to be retired before they reveal their true thoughts. Probably because they are fearful of the sack and losing a good Pension.

    We need more influential people to stand up and say enough is enough, we have gone far enough.

    Yes we would probably all be safe if we were all held within a barbed wire fence, but would life then really be worth living.

    John you hit the nail on the head when you suggested we regain control of our borders for a start, but I am afraid that this is now probably too late, athough much better late than never.

    Its a very simple analogy, I do not let anyone into my home who I do not know or whom I have not invited.
    Reason, to protect my family and my belongings.
    The same sort of reasoning should surely apply to our Country.
    We only want people to enter who we are sure (or as sure as can be) will not do us any harm, beit either financially, employment wise, health wise, crimewise or who have political motivations which do not fit a Democracy.

    • number 6
      Posted February 17, 2009 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

      Alan,

      We cannot determine who comes into our country due to the open border policy of the EU. The open borders within Europe are a wonderful EU gift to terrorists who may establish cells in one country (where as legal ‘EU residents’) they then have the ‘right’ to move at will, spreading their message of hate and all too real acts of violence wherever they feel fit.

      Another bonus, is that as ‘Eu nationals’ we cannot withold welfare and other social benefits to them once they are here.

      Naturally, this right to travel and speak ones mind does not apply to say Dutch politicians who want to discuss various terrorist issues within the once great House of Lords.

      • alan jutson
        Posted February 17, 2009 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

        Fully aware of the above comments. Which is why I made the point its probably too late due to your very comments.

        Another fine mess the EU has got us all in, I could go on about other Policies of the EU but there seems little point unless there is an open discussion about our continued Membership and its benefits or otherwise.

        • number 6
          Posted February 17, 2009 at 5:07 pm | Permalink

          Alan,

          Agreed. We do need to leave the EU as soon as possible as the longer we stay in the more these problems will develop. Only problem is, none of the three major parties are commited to even discussing this issue.

  7. Bill
    Posted February 17, 2009 at 11:56 am | Permalink

    I agree the state seems to be “Looking in a lot of the wrong places”
    Start by trying to do some achievable things – tightening border controls, should be high on the list to prevent known criminals or undesirables entering the country.
    The immigration controls in the USA seem to be well organised. I am asked my line of business, hotel that I was staying at, why I had to be there over a weekend if I was on business and so on. The system shows up where and when you last entered the USA.
    Now the system is being tightened even further.
    Here I don’t think that there is a central data base updated by immigration

    Just think of the most recent, horrific case where the Lithuanian girl was murdered by a Russian (?) national for the £500-00 “Fortune” she’d amassed from potato picking. The convicted man had served a sentence in Germany for manslaughter – why on Earth was he allowed entry into the UK?
    I think it’s likely that his background wasn’t even picked up when he entered the county, so this is indicative of a bigger problem.
    I would prefer to drop all this identity cared stuff and tighten up on borders – surely this is a starting point. Lets get that right then move on to other priorities.

  8. David Eyles
    Posted February 17, 2009 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

    Perhaps the really unnerving thing about this is that it is a former head of MI5 that is saying this. Bless her, Dame Stella has been absolutely clear and has used the words “police state”. If someone who used to be in the security services is using language like this, then I begin to wonder whether in fact the situation is not even worse than many of us suspect – analogous perhaps to the way in which the true extent of the dire economic situation we are in, is only now being unravelled.

    I would really like to hear the shadow front bench using similar language when cross-examining the government. Eventually, even the BBC might start to report it.

  9. John Lancaster
    Posted February 17, 2009 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

    I too was happy to read Dame Stella’s remarks this morning. Every day when I read of a further erosion of our personal freedoms, or the ridiculous lengths I and my belongings are seached at airports, I ask myself “what are politicians afraid of, from which our existing laws are incapable of protecting us?”
    My conclusion is that it is all to do with “processes”. In recent years managers have been taught that the best way of managing a situation is to adopt a process led approach. This, when taken to its conclusion means that if no process is perceived, even if a broadly similar one exists, a new one must be invented with more and more condtions and details to fit every possible occurence and eliminate exceptions. Health and Safety excesses, Political Correctness are all examples of “processes” taken to ridiculous conclusions. I also suspect the persons who operate them have been brainwashed of all common sense. Their only accountability is in following the process. Are we paying the price of dumbing down to the lowest common process?

  10. Rosie Anderson
    Posted February 17, 2009 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

    I’ve been looking into how fear gets used to persuade us to do all sorts of things: http://rsaconnectedcommunities.wordpress.com/2009/02/17/ms-rimingtons-right-fear-itself-is-a-fearful-thing/

  11. Simon
    Posted February 17, 2009 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

    If someone like Dame Stella is talking openly about a police state she should be taken seriously. I suspect that we will hear not one word from any of the opposition parties to challenge New Labour. As others have said there are comments all over the internet condemning the steady erosion of civil liberties and expressing fear and worry at how the police and authorities are behaving. Everyone I meet is angry and worried by it. Why are all these people denied a voice? The answer is as frightening as the question.

  12. Graham Hamblin
    Posted February 17, 2009 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

    Dame Stella Rimington is spot on.

    The problem today is the rush to create new laws and orders to address a problem when there is adequate law already in place. No one bothers to enforce them.

    Then there is always the Ways and Means Act, used by the inventive Police mind to fit criminal circumstances for which there may be no actual law!

  13. Mike Paterson
    Posted February 17, 2009 at 6:38 pm | Permalink

    Well done, Stella, the penny has dropped a good five after the rest of us, and now that you’re safely in no position to do anything about it. It is the Conservative Party’s job to robustly oppose this constant drip feed seizure of our liberties, yet with a few exceptions (and I don’t mean David Davis’ *highly* selective grandstanding) they are weaker than a new born kitten. Despair!

  14. Puncheon
    Posted February 17, 2009 at 7:25 pm | Permalink

    Governments in a free democracy only have three real tasks: protect the borders from invasion; protect the currency and economy, and provide a system of law and order that is fair, fast and cheap. This Government, (and others before it) has done the exact opposite: they have thrown the borders open to everyone and anyone; destroyed the currency and economy and turned the law against its own law abiding citizens. All this is undeniable, my question is why?

  15. Trevor Wright
    Posted February 18, 2009 at 6:47 pm | Permalink

    I agree with almost everything said.

    But what is the Conservative party going to DO, assuming it is elected when Brown finally condescends to allow the British public a say in who is PM.

    Will you scrap ID cards?

    Will you make it illegal for Local Authorities to carry out covert surveillance on people?

    Will you prevent convicted criminals from the far flung corners of the EU entering the UK to take the opportunity to commit crimes here? – perhaps using the same process as used against a certain Dutchman recently?

    Will you reduce the number of CCTV cameras in use?

    Will you repeal the law which allows a policeman to arrest you for taking a photograph?

    Will you make it illegal for police to retain DNA and fingerprints of people who are not convicted of any offence without their expressed agreement?

    Will you make it illegal for local authorities to use anti-terrorism legislation against their constituents for ANY purpose other than anti-terrorism ?

    I feel from experience and instinct that the Conservative ethos is against all these abuses (and the many others) but I do not see this clear and unequivical opposition coming from the front bench.

    Please, if you do oppose these things, make it crystal clear. I want to see David Cameron shredding the government front bench using these clear infringements of our liberty as the weapon.

    If it is your policy to allow all these abuses to continue when (if) you are elected then please be clear and open about it.

    Reply: I agree with your wishes. The Opposition has said iot will abolish ID cards and strengthen our borders. I also want it to cut surveillance by all levels of government.

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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