The grim RIPA and the Surveillance state

Labour’s polling has at last picked up that many people hate their surveillance society. They tell us today they will look at their much hated Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act to try to stop Councils using snooping powers against us for “minor” offences. Why not repeal it, and the rest of the surveillance society they have introduced, including ID cards and email snooping? Because they are not serious about this.

They just don’t get it. We hate this government’s abuse of state power. We loathe its bullying and harassment of our daily lives. We dislike its thought police. It wants to poke and pry into every facet not just of our lives but of our minds. It forces people to use politically correct language, deals aggressively with anyone who disagrees with it, intercepts emails and conversations, arrests an Opposition Spokesman for doing his job and misrepresents or lies about its opponents. It has placed so many cameras on the streets. It constantly tries to frighten us by talking up the terrorist threat. It wastes our money on intimidating adverts to tell us what latest tax we have to pay or what latest law we have to obey.

Now they think they can spin their way on to the good side of the Surveillance society debate by blaming Councils for over eagerness to do on a local scale what this government does so often on a national scale. It has the advantage for their spin machine of letting them tell people they do understand that we are angry about the absue of power. It brings the added advantage that as Labour is so unpopular many Councils now have a Conservative majority. I have no time for any Conservative Council that uses the powers disproportionately. This government has so over centralised that if local government is now too prying and unpleasant it may be because this government gave the powers and often makes them use them. It has put Councils under its control with their endless regulations,circulars, star system and threats of central intervention if Councils do not comply.

I never recall problems with the rubbish collection service before this government and the EU was let loose on it. Now we have the battle of the bins with Council after Council under the impression they have to go over to fortnightly collection, a policy hated by most of the angry Council taxpayers.

This government decided to wage a war against the motorist. This government went on the attack against employers and small businesses. In their passion to spend more of our money and dictate to us what we should think, they forgot that the public might see through the spin. That is why they have been trying to find a way of “turning” the websites and blogsphere. Infuriatingly to them the world of the web wont agree with the Labour way of looking at and talking about a problem as the BBC so often obligingly does.

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63 Comments

  1. alan jutson
    Posted April 17, 2009 at 6:48 am | Permalink

    Could not agree more with your analysis.
    Let us hope that a Conservative Government (if elected) will clean up this mess, and introduce some real commonsense to solve the Country’s real problems and the peoples concerns.

  2. Ian Jones
    Posted April 17, 2009 at 7:23 am | Permalink

    If there is one thing that comes out of this is the need to change our political system and quickly. A move to proportional representation would prevent a lone (politician-ed) such as Brown getting the control they need to ignore parliament. We also need to make the upper house an elected body on a different cycle to the lower house in order to build in safeguards.

    Brown & Blair bullied their laws through by threats to their own side and by total and utter lies to the public. I dont think many people really understand how much power has been removed from parliament and given to the executive.

    The final option maybe a constitution and a supreme court (a real one, not the sham Labour is setting up).

    We need to bring checks and balances to the executive. Unfortunately politicians seem to like the idea until they get into power and will use whatever laws they have whether local or national Govt.

    Lets see what Cameron is made of, I am not holding my breath!!!

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted April 17, 2009 at 10:56 am | Permalink

      “We also need to make the upper house an elected body on a different cycle to the lower house in order to build in safeguards.”

      I take the point, but just having a different electoral cycle wouldn’t do the job, would it?

      Suppose the rule was that a general election for the second chamber would always take place two years after a general election for the Commons.

      A rule like that would avoid having to move to fixed terms, as in the US, but it would usually mean that the second chamber was elected about mid-term.

      Already by April 1994, two years after the April 1992 general election for the Commons, Labour would have achieved a massive majority in the second chamber.

      That would have worked as intended, counter-balancing the Conservative majority in the Commons and creating a check on the government; but only until May 1997 when Labour got its massive majority in the Commons, so gaining complete control of both houses.

      Then Labour would have retained complete control of the second chamber in May 1999, and again in June 2003, and probably again in May 2007.

      So from May 1997 most probably until May 2010, or less probably just until May 2007, Labour would have had complete control of both chambers, and the second chamber would have provided no safeguard whatsoever.

      There’s really only one way to (almost) guarantee that the party with a majority in the Commons can never rely on a majority in the second chamber, and that’s to supplement “first past the post” to fill the first chamber with “second past the post” to fill the second chamber.

      But as both Labour and the Conservatives want their turn at being the elected dictatorship, and neither party will accept any internal arrangement which would dilute their power once they were in office, neither party will ever support that.

      On the other hand, they’re both perfectly willing to externalise power to the EU and other transnational bodies; which does raise the question why we British keep voting for two leading political parties, both of which are determined to disempower us.

    • andrew harrison
      Posted April 17, 2009 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

      True to form with The Labour Parties Marxist / Utopian view that human nature can be redirected by the state. The current regime seems to want to make all activity fall into one of two categories, illegal, or compulsory. Their end game is full Socialism, confiscation of all wealth, and totalitarian state control; don’t hold your breath for the spontaneous emergence of communism which is supposed to follow.

      However I don’t see how changing the incumbent political party can alter this outcome by much. If The Conservative party comes to power our political system will probably lurch further toward a Corporatist model. The banks seemed to have ‘Captured the Government’.

      Both systems seek to maintain the vested interested of the current elites, or to express it another way ‘The bureaucracy is expanding to meet the needs of the expanding bureaucracy’.

      I expect the state, along with it’s public debts, crowding out private investment in productive enterprise, shall expand until the economy becomes so wasteful and unproductive that Bread and Circuses cannot no longer be produced, civil society begins become unstable and the resulting backlash from the state will exacerbate the problems of control and may then hasten us into a full collapse.

      Either way our Political Economy seems to have reached the stage where everyone tries to live of everyone else, corruption is rife, self reliance banned, and standards in public life engender disgust in the electorate.

      If voting changed anything it would probably be banned too.

      John is there any way to move to a system of a liberal free market (not the corrupt rigged system which caused this crash), respect for contracts and private property, justice and the rule of law, and freedom form the tyranny of an over mighty state without some complete breakdown in the current system of government in the West?

      Please tell me there is for I fear for the future of our Nation’s people and would like to be able to take a more optimistic view.

      Reply: They are running out of money which should force them to curb the state’s range of activiites.

      • Robert
        Posted April 18, 2009 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

        Yes John, they are running out of money but that won’t force them to curb the state’s actitivies. Their solution is simple: print some more, tax some more, and regulate some more. Inflation, stagnation and totalitarianism is the logical conclusion of socialism.
        But the problem for the UK is not just the chaos caused by a dozen years of Brownian erosion of economic liberty. It’s is also the fact that the Conservative party, which should be best positioned to argue the case for free markets, is frozen in Blairite dogma. They seem terrified of speaking uncomfortable truths about the need for radical cuts to public spending and taxes and to allow free markets to expunge the gross misallocations of capital that have characterised this downturn.
        The mainstream media have swallowed whole the state’s spin that the economic collapse is the fault of free markets gone mad. Where is the political leadership that can explain that it was state intervention and government complicity with big business that led us into crisis and that free market capitalism is the route that will take us out? Why can’t the Conservatives articulate the moral case for capitalism set against the immorality of socialism (see Simon Heffer on Cameron’s moral capitalism)? Indeed, why are the Conservatives so shy of the opinions that feature regularly on this blog?
        The state is now so huge as to defy being cut back to size by anthing other than a political party with iron will and genuine faith in free markets. Little I have seen from the Conservative leadership convinces me that a Cameron government would have that vision and willpower.
        Which is why, in hope, I read and contribute to this blog…

    • adam
      Posted April 17, 2009 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

      PR is not the answer.
      Reducing the behind the scenes influence of the totalitarian EU would be a start.
      Labour will just ignore any written constitution. Plus it will be them who draft it in the first place.
      All the things you suggest are steps toward federalism and will only make unaccountability worse.

      • mikestallard
        Posted April 17, 2009 at 5:45 pm | Permalink

        One other little point. If you take a sincere MEP like, say, Richard Howitt, he in no sense represents me as a voter, although he is based nearby. He is actually told that he does not represent me as a voter. His job is to nod through Committee initiatives in the European parliaments when the Labour Party tells him to.
        He is chosen and given the job by the Labour Party. He is perfectly secure as long as Labour gets enough votes.
        If, say, he were to do or say something really stupid (and he won’t), it would be the Labour Party which would discipline him, not me at the ballot box.
        And you think this is democracy?

    • Jen Cook
      Posted April 18, 2009 at 12:12 am | Permalink

      The same has happened in the US. It appears that there is some global (G20?) consensus/collusion on this issue.

      I hope that the Tories will blow this away.

    • Adrian Peirson
      Posted April 18, 2009 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

      And as part of the checks an balances we need at least ten percent of the Law abiding populace to be armed, I’d start with, on the say of their Commanding officers all serving soldiers, all police officers ( though I do not want Armed Police regularly patrolling our streets ) and anyone over 30yrs of age with a 10 yr clean criminal record.

  3. Lola
    Posted April 17, 2009 at 8:11 am | Permalink

    You sound like you’re getting cross again – good.

  4. Brian Tomkinson
    Posted April 17, 2009 at 8:17 am | Permalink

    Whatever Smith may spin, BIG BROTHER WILL STILL BE WATCHING US!

  5. cuffleyburgers
    Posted April 17, 2009 at 8:57 am | Permalink

    Excellent post.

    On the subject of rubbish collection; I live in a tiny village in Tuscany – we have recently been switched to separated rubbish collections ie separate bins for compostable, paper, metal/plastic etc, but even out here collections for the compostable is twice per week, and something is collected every day.

    The change was brought about in response to EU norms.

    Therefore whilst I yield to no man in my loathing and distrust of the EU, in this case the problem resides not in Brussels but in town halls and presumably also Westminster.

    If they can manage it in Massa Macinaia, they should be able to manage it in Milton Keynes.

    Incompetent management is to blame.

    How about sacking outreach officers and diversity counsellors and employing some dustmen instead?

    • SJB
      Posted April 17, 2009 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

      After moving property, we left our surplus cardboard packaging out for recycling – but it was not collected. When I telephoned the relevant department the first thing the woman said: “It is not about cardboard, is it?” Apparently the machines have trouble coping beyond a certain thickness of material. She instructed me to put the cardboard in a black bag.

    • Emil
      Posted April 17, 2009 at 5:10 pm | Permalink

      We have a holiday home in Spain (yes Ms Lucas I bite the heads off hamsters as well) with the rubbish collected 6 evenings out of 7 from large communal bins (mostly unsorted although other communal glass and plastics collection points now appearing) – cost for service has just gone up to 66 euros a year. (on top of the extortionate 130 euros a year council tax)

      Like all good European nations Spain just ignore most of these EU diktats, laughing at us as our jobsworths implement everything to the last letter, to the ultimate cost of our own citizens.

  6. Blank Xavier
    Posted April 17, 2009 at 9:08 am | Permalink

    You missed a bit.

    > Labour’s polling has at last picked up that many people hate
    > their surveillance society.

    Add : “And with an election coming…”

    > They tell us today they will look at their much hated Regulation
    > of Investigatory Powers Act to try to stop Councils using
    > snooping powers against us for “minor” offences.

    • oldrightie
      Posted April 17, 2009 at 9:34 am | Permalink

      “Look at” is Labour spinspeak for try and get a good soundbite. Most of their soud bites these days just bite them in the bum!
      Spinspeak, may I claim ownership of a new word?

  7. Downsized Pete
    Posted April 17, 2009 at 9:21 am | Permalink

    Spot on, Mr Redwood. You summarise my feelings with such eloquence.
    Are we going to see some promises about putting this mess right in the next Consarvative manifesto? I think this taps into a major area of popular concern

  8. pipesmoker
    Posted April 17, 2009 at 9:25 am | Permalink

    JR you are absolutely right and in my time in the Police force, 1959 to 1988 the laws of this country were enforced with discretion but the police have been making excuses for not patrolling the streets since the mid 1960’s and local councils and their employees have filled the gap enthusiastically and are now poking their noses into everything, it’s a disaster.

    I still have my ID card from the 1940’s OWLA 246 maybe I will be permitted to use that instead of registering for one of these new fanglements 😉

  9. Stuart Fairney
    Posted April 17, 2009 at 9:29 am | Permalink

    Once again you are ‘right on the money’ this review will be nothing but cosmetic designed to assuage opinion and allow ministers to claim that the worst excesses have been stamped out.

    Incidentally, OT but Marina Hyde claimed in today’s Guardian

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/lostinshowbiz/2009/apr/17/marina-hyde-kate-garraway-derek-draper

    that Gordon Brown offered to ennoble Fiona Phillips (yes of GMTV fame) to allow her to become a GOAT (government of all talents). Is this just her being satirical or is this possibly true? If so, it is no longer possible to satirise the government.

  10. Shakassoc
    Posted April 17, 2009 at 9:35 am | Permalink

    Will an incoming Conservative government promise to repeal Labour’s snooping laws?

  11. Denis Cooper
    Posted April 17, 2009 at 10:08 am | Permalink

    But apparently people want to be put under surveillance.

    I’ve read again and again and again about the residents of this or that village or neighbourhood pleading for the installation of CCTV, complaining that the CCTV hasn’t been maintained in working order or it isn’t good enough, saying that the CCTV coverage should be extended to include this or that area.

    If crime is allowed to get out of hand, as it has, and so many people are living with a constant niggling fear of being a victim of crime, as they are, then they turn to the state for protection, and as the technology is available they now beg on their knees to be put under constant surveillance.

    It’s still too much of a step for the man on the Clapham omnibus to think that maybe the state has deliberately allowed crime to get out of hand so that it has an excuse to fit cameras, and eventually microphones, on the omnibus and everywhere else, so that it can keep a constant eye on what he is doing and saying.

    When he was Home Secretary, Jack Straw even mooted the possibility of installing state cameras in private residences, but said that it would be going too far to do that – but of course, once the concept has been raised and dismissed, it can be raised again later, and eventually it will not be dismissed.

    There was also the idea that parents may corrupt their children with old-fashioned social and religious and political views, so there should be microphones to catch them making inappropriate comments in the home.

    In, I think, Gloucestershire, the police even mounted an operation to bug tables in pubs and restaurants, and sent plain clothes officers to sit and eavesdrop on the conversations, specifically to detect and punish those making “racist” remarks.

    I have no confidence that this movement towards a totalitarian state would be reversed under a Conservative government.

    Perhaps there would be a period of consolidation, during which the process would be slowed down; but it would not be reversed, and then it would pick up speed again with the succeeding Labour government.

    • Stuart Fairney
      Posted April 17, 2009 at 10:55 am | Permalink

      Your point about what was once absurd can very soon become the mainstream is well illustrated by the (I think) 1990 film “Basic Instinct”

      The main character is in the police interview room and is told there is no smoking. She asks mockingly “What are you going to do, arrest me for smoking?”

      Then it was a joke, today it is the law and the answer would be “Yes”

    • adam
      Posted April 17, 2009 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

      They are planning to to that.
      One of the ways the have developed are called ‘safe rooms’ which they install where there has been domestic violence.
      They have developed other methods too. At the moment though they seem to be concerned with sorting out cameras in public and school toilets and showers which has met a little resistance as the best reason those thickos managed to invent is ‘bullying’.

      At the same time they are making it illegal to photograph or film law enforcement. I look forward to the day Nick Robinson gets arrested anyway. Perhaps embedded journalists will be exempt though. sigh.

      • Stuart Fairney
        Posted April 17, 2009 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

        That is THE most chilling legislation yet is making it illegal to film the police.

        What happened to “nothing to hide, nothing to fear” ? If you can’t prove by video evidence that some police may have acted in a manner other than which they claim, can you hope for justice in a magistrates court? Who are teh magistartes going to believe? (I should say in fairness that I still regard the very vast majority of police as honest, but it beggars belief that 100% of them are and always will be).

        Yet the police can and do film the proles and so now there are two separate and distinct laws diametrically opposite to each other. Literally one law for us one for them.

        This is the worst yet from a nasty authoritarian bunch of former teachers (home secretary) and college lecturers (PM) masquerading as leaders.

        At least when they stick to claiming expenses for the ‘exotic’ onanistic film choices it only costs us a tenner.

        • Cliff.
          Posted April 17, 2009 at 6:25 pm | Permalink

          Perhaps someone can answer a simple but related question on this non filming of police officers law;
          If charges were brought against a police officer and the main evidence was a photograph taken by a member of the public, would that photograph be admissable as evidence given it would have been obtained illegally?

          Any thoughts John?

        • chris southern
          Posted April 17, 2009 at 10:52 pm | Permalink

          The officers that are usualy found abusing powers, or misinterpretating legislation (statutes) are PCSO’s. Regular bobbies (of which i know quite a few) need to know and understand legislation far better than PCSO’s to perform their job better.
          I’m not saying it’s all PCSO’s, it’s just that the majority of the time it is them that are misusing their powers, usualy due to lack of training and knowledge.

        • Stuart Fairney
          Posted April 19, 2009 at 8:23 am | Permalink

          If this is accepted (i.e. the principal that one cannot video and thus obtain evidence about state employees like police) why not extend it to doctors, local council officials, anyone at all employed by the state. Thus the state becomes wholly unaccountable and its PR statements canot be seriously challenged because of the illegality of obtaining evidence, and this a ‘new reality’ is created.

  12. Johnny Norfolk
    Posted April 17, 2009 at 10:41 am | Permalink

    John.

    It does me good to read your Blog. At times I think am I alone in hating this Labour government. Then I read your blog and of course it does not talk of hate but you express so well how I feel and best of all I know I am not alone.

    I went through all this with labour when I was in my 20s. and I thought they had gone forever with their control freakery, but bit by bit we are back were we were pre Thatcher.In some cases worse so. They have also proved again beyond doubt they cannot run an economy.

    I just hope the current Tory leadership is not too wet to deal with it when the are in power,

    • James
      Posted April 17, 2009 at 4:58 pm | Permalink

      You are not alone Johnny Norfolk. Well done for your consistancy of comments on TH’s blog.

  13. Mark Wadsworth
    Posted April 17, 2009 at 10:42 am | Permalink

    Exactly! I’d agree with just about every word of that.

  14. Philip Parkin
    Posted April 17, 2009 at 11:48 am | Permalink

    Well said, John. I just hope we’ve got the courage to reverse all this once we get into power – starting with Contact Point, the ‘national children’s database’ which will record the details of every child in the UK. Once again we are being told that it’s completely safe – but not, however, safe enough for MPs and celebrities who will be allowed to ‘shield’ their children’s details.

  15. Mr Grymme Harbinger
    Posted April 17, 2009 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

    The Conservatives lack the courage to let their libertarian instincts off the leash – though wounded, NuLab is still a powerful beast and has pretty successfully dressed up it’s authoritarianism and politics of fear as a kind of “we know it’s tough but it’s for your own good/we face terrible dangers” communitarianism that taps into the worst instincts of the British (we aren’t nearly as stoical as we like to think – especially these days). Someone (sadly I’m not optimistic about the Conservatives) needs to show a bit of courage and tap the growing sense of anger about what’s happening to our society. Whoever that is needs to be brave enough to face down the usual liberal left/Guardianista ad hominem cobblers that will inevitably ensue, and trust that there is in fact a massive constituency who would rise to the challenge at the ballot box with the right leadership and vision before them. Any takers?

  16. StevenL
    Posted April 17, 2009 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

    Repealing RIPA would not necessarily stop LA officers ‘snooping’, it would merely open up a Human Rights Act challenge against any LA that did.

    Interestingly many commentators want to repeal both RIPA and the Human Rights Act, which would allow LA’s to snoop as much as they wanted.

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted April 17, 2009 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

      Maybe.

      But as (the Crown in) Parliament is the supreme legal authority for the United Kingdom, and as the House of Commons is the dominant chamber of Parliament, it depends on exactly what MPs vote for.

      If a majority of MPs vote that councils can or must snoop on their residents, then councils can do that, and if it’s “must” then they’ll be pulled up if they don’t.

      On the other hand, if MPs vote that councils can’t snoop, or that they can only snoop in certain limited ways in certain limited circumstances, then councils can be pulled up if they go beyond the set limits – even in the absence of the HRA.

      It always comes back to the same problem – the kind of people we are forced to elect to the Commons.

      • Jen Cook
        Posted April 18, 2009 at 12:35 am | Permalink

        To make that work, we’d need the power of “recall” – the ability to call time on MPS in whom we have no faith, and to elect another.

        We should implement the power of recall.

        • Denis Cooper
          Posted April 18, 2009 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

          Jen Cook, a recall mechanism – a legal mechanism whereby constituents could force the resignation of their previously elected representative, leading to a fresh election – would be an important step forward in improving representative democracy.

          It would mean, for example, that a discredited and unpopular government, like the present government, could be brought down by the people within months, rather than having to wait for the Prime Minister to exercise the Royal Prerogative and call a general election.

          It would only need a succession of forced by-elections in marginal constituencies, and the government’s Commons majority would evaporate.

          But it’s difficult for imagine a set of circumstances under which a majority of MPs would vote to give their constituents that power, and even if they did they could later vote to remove it.

          The reality is that the cabals controlling the main parties have a strangehold on the political system, and they won’t accept any reform which would return power to the people.

      • StevenL
        Posted April 18, 2009 at 11:30 am | Permalink

        I don’t dispute the sovergeinty of Parliament, I was merely pointing out the misinformation regarding RIPA. It was JR that suggested simply repealing it.

        RIPA was passed because of HRA. Prior to RIPA council officials used section 29 of the Data Protection Act to request personal data from communications companies and carried out covert surveillance anyway.

        RIPA does state the councils can “only snoop in certain limited ways in certain limited circumstances” already. It is arguable that some councils have been going beyond what is ‘necessary’ and ‘proportional’ whch are the relevant legal tests.

        It just strikes me that a lot of the people who go off on one about RIPA are the same people who also go off on one about benefit fraud or the ‘criminal rights act’.

  17. David Burch
    Posted April 17, 2009 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

    Having MI5, MI6 and a whole load of cameras did not stop the 2005 bombing in London. It did identify the bombers, however by that time they had blown themselves up.

    I think that we have to strike a balance between what is worthwhie cost effective protection and what is not. Life is a risk and the idea is practical minimisation but not at any price. It is so obvious in the last decade that governments have chosen to strenghten security not realising that they were starting to infringe the rights (and responsibilities) of those they are trying to protect.

    • Hawkeye
      Posted April 17, 2009 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

      David Burch said: “It [CCTV] did identify the bombers, however by that time they had blown themselves up.”

      CCTV is so effective at stopping crime that TV stations run whole shows of crimes committed on CCTV. Wait a minute….. errr…..

      • Cliff.
        Posted April 17, 2009 at 6:32 pm | Permalink

        CCTV can never prevent crime, it can ONLY record crime. In my opinion, CCTV is little more than lazy policing, they don’t even need to get into their cars now, let alone walk the beat.

        Local and national Nanny always state that people like CCTV and it makes them feel safe….I suspect much of this is a direct result of the way the question is asked and what that question is.

      • David Burch
        Posted April 18, 2009 at 8:38 am | Permalink

        That makes the accusation that reality TV has reached a new level. Thankfully we do not have the televised car chases that happen in America.

        Other than for car crime how much crime is actually prevented or deterred rather than the criminal being apprehended after the event.

        This was the nightmare vision of Orwell’s 1984 (which is only slowly starting to happen a quarter of a century latter). Those who say enough are accused of having something to hide!

    • Jen Cook
      Posted April 18, 2009 at 12:51 am | Permalink

      “in the last decade that governments have chosen to strenghten security not realising that they were starting to infringe the rights (and responsibilities) of those they are trying to protect.”

      The powers that be knew full well that they were infringing on the rights of people – they were counting on people giving up their liberties for so-called security.

      If you rely on your government for security, you are doomed to lose your liberty. History is littered with examples …

  18. adam
    Posted April 17, 2009 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

    Funny how we need all this extra security when Labour (and the BBC)a e so convinced crime is under control and decreasing

  19. John Broughton
    Posted April 17, 2009 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

    John, can we be assured that the roll back of the surveillance state will be a manifesto committment?

    Reply: I hope so. That’s one of the things I’m pressing for.

  20. Mike Wilson
    Posted April 17, 2009 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

    Whilst appreciating that one must keep one’s counsel until after the next election – I find myself daydreaming sometimes … David Cameron is in Downing Street, it is 3 days after the election … he makes a historic announcement … the BBC License fee is to be halved.

    The news, henceforth, is to be read by one person, not two. Instead of a national weather report followed by a local weather report delivered by separate people (presumably one for every region plus one for the national weather presenter) the weather forecast is to be delivered, within the news, with no presenters but by simply displaying a map and captions.

    And, the big one … instead of a business editor, an economics editor, a finance editor, a business spokesman, a city editor, a banking expert … all of whom seem to be brainwashed into defending New Labour’s appalling handling of the economy … the lot to be sacked and replaced with one person.

  21. Mike Wilson
    Posted April 17, 2009 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

    I must say I find this sentiment echoed amongst a lot of people – I have been surprised by the number of people I have spoken to over the last few years who, unprompted, have launched into a tirade against a government that seems determined to spy on us all the time.

  22. Robin
    Posted April 17, 2009 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

    When you have a Bill of Human Rights that includes social behaviour you pull social behaviour into the law. When you do this you end up getting case law on what was previously good behaviour and bad behaviour.

    Ironically the slighter the bad behaiour the more draconian the case law to deal with it. For example the couple who kissed in the car, or arrested for filming low standards in hospitals, or children taken away for smacking them.

    Eventually all behaviour becomes either banned or compulsory.

    When local councils and police are given responsiblity to enforce this behaviour they end up acting as draconian big brothers.

    From what started as the best intention to protect human rights a Big Brother surveillance society emerges that is claustrophobic and imposes fear on the public and loathing in private. Society turns from one that relies on indivdual judgement to one where the state controls humans like machines. It drives out their individualism. It leads them to question many decisions they make during the day. Fear of the state pervades their lives and they live for a decade in fear and worry. Life ceases becoming one that is lived, fullfilled and expressed to one that it controlled, contained and muted.

    Whilst this happens the political and business elite fill their bellies with taxes taken off the supressed population.

    As good as the Human Right Bill sounds it is wrong.

    • SJB
      Posted April 17, 2009 at 8:02 pm | Permalink

      Robin wrote: “Ironically the slighter the bad behaiour the more draconian the case law to deal with it. For example … arrested for filming low standards in hospitals …”

      I think you are referring to the whistleblower nurse (Margaret Haywood) who has recently been struck off. Fortunately, the decision of the Nursing and Midwifery Council is amenable to judicial review.

      The panel’s chairman’s opinion was that “[a]lthough the conditions on the ward were dreadful, it was not necessary to breach confidentiality to seek to improve them by the method chosen [i.e. filming]. In any event, this method was unlikely to benefit the patients that were on the Ward at the time of filming and under her care.”
      http://www.nmc-uk.org/aDisplayDocument.aspx?DocumentID=5753

    • Jen Cook
      Posted April 18, 2009 at 1:08 am | Permalink

      Excellent analysis.

  23. D.W
    Posted April 17, 2009 at 5:15 pm | Permalink

    Big state , big brother is obviously unacceptable the the British electorate.After all we are the oldest democracy in the world (I am led to believe) nothing is more guaranteed to provoke passionate indignation than this governments desire for the state to impose on all areas of our life.They want us all tagged , tracked and D.N.A tested. Enough is enough !We are not property of the state.

    Also I believe that a large proportion of the public are not fully aware of the many laws passed that restrict their freedom(thanks to the MSM left wing bias)This I feel needs addressing in the Conservatives Party campaign.I believe that a balance can be reached between public proptection and civil liberties by a more effective government.After all how many British citizens have been guilty of terrorist activity?Not enough to warrant all this surveillance and the restricting of civil liberties I’ll bet.All these restrictions on our freedoms mean that the terrorists have actually won , our freedoms are restricted and many people live under threat of more terror attacks.I think the whole thing as been blown out of proportion ,I believe yes we must be vigilant but not at the cost of liberty.

    Roll on the election and hopefully a return to sanity and sensible effective policies should the Conservatives win the next election.God I hope so.P.S I was watching Newsnight recently and you was been interviewed on the show and I have to say it was an effective interview.The presenter(can’t remember his name)questioned the Conservative stance on spending cuts to which you replied you’d ring fence health education etc and cut all the needless databases , I.D cards and bureaucratic waste etc .You were so effective in your reply the presenter didn’t pursue that line of questioning any further.I just wish other members of The Conservative Party were so composed and succinct in press and T.V interviews.As we all know the MSM tends to be left wing biased so it is extra important to get your point made effectively.Maybe you could teach George Osborne and even David Cameron a thing or two as both tend to skirt around the issues and their point gets lost , which leaves many people with a wishy washy impression.Not a feeling that is good to promote.Labour lie outright with no shame at all and will say anything to mar the Tory image with such tags as “we are the party of the many,not the few” “its the millionaires manifesto” “do nothing Torys” “Torys will cut pensioners benefits and child benefit etc” “toffs”these outright lies are very damaging and need to be addressed with effective retorts.I hope I will be received as offering only constructive useful critisism .Well wishes .

  24. mikestallard
    Posted April 17, 2009 at 5:59 pm | Permalink

    Yesterday I was walking innocently in our Horsefair Shopping centre. It is not enclosed and it is formed by ordinary open air streets.
    Suddenly, from above my head a loudspeaker blared an announcement. I tried to listen, but the words were so loud that I couldn’t.
    It was just like a Fascist/Communist State where the tractor production figures are announced in public or someone is upbraided for smoking in a non smoking area. North Korea sort of thing. 1984 sort of thing.
    I should not have lifted my right arm and saluted. I should not have taken my deaf aid out and shaken it. I was playing to an audience, you see – irresistable! – because the entire shopping area had gone quiet and every shopper was listening intently to this Fascist screaming.
    I got really angry actually.
    After boring three ladies in the gym, I decided to do something, so I went to the Horsefair Manager in his little Office and knocked hard on the door as if I expected him to open it.
    A little man in specs and suit appeared looking shamefaced. I think he thought I was an apparatchik.
    I told him how angry I was about being shouted at in public and he explained that someone had parked their car in the (distant) High Street and blocked the exit.
    It was, of course, the sacred Police who had asked him to do the announcement.
    I realised that he was contrite and also that he thought I was just a silly old man. I was assured that it would not happen again.
    I shook his hand and left.
    I do not want to live in North Korea, thank you.

    It isn’t the huge things, like the arrest of Damien Green, which shock me, you know, it is the little things.

    • David Burch
      Posted April 18, 2009 at 5:21 pm | Permalink

      More power to you and example of what we can do to let of steam in this society of ours until New Labour decide to stop this right to point out the ridiculous.

      Thought I could add an observation of my own.

      Since 2005 if you wait for a train on London Bridge station you are constantly reminded of the need for vigilance at high volume. Platform 5/6 the announcer is male, on platform 3/4 the announcer is female. This can sound bizarre if you stand in the middle ie Platform 5 or 4. I wish I had you confidence to find the tape machine and throw that recording under the 18.10 to Tunbridge Wells. The one who dares would get a round of applause from the middle aged contingent!

  25. Ray
    Posted April 17, 2009 at 8:58 pm | Permalink

    I am a retired factory worker and have voted conservative all my life….Maggy was my heroin ..and the stick I took off fellow workers was not always jovial.
    So you can imagine my feelings about this lot…I look with envy across the channel at other EU country’s blatentley ingnoring EU mandates while we have to submit to every crossed T and dotted i
    The point I am making is that an incoming Tory government is simply not going to be radical enough.
    Ban Fox hunting …come on please what was all that about.

    So I am probably going to waste my vote by voting for something much stronger and I don’t mean UKIP. who’s to know how far we are from civil disorder…OK while welfare dole out’s buy’s something but that money has to come from somewhere and they are destroying the means of creating it.

    Read your blog every day…a light in the darkness..But Davy boy just ain’t got it….not for me me any way

  26. Ray
    Posted April 17, 2009 at 9:05 pm | Permalink

    What does awaiting moderation mean…so even on here I can’t say what I like Roll on the revolution

    • alan jutson
      Posted April 18, 2009 at 10:55 am | Permalink

      Ray
      Not attempting to back up JR in any way, he is more than capable.
      But do not forget it is his Web/Blog site, and whilst you can write what you like, he very sensibly has probably a better understanding of what Liable, or Slander is, than you or me.
      Thus he is protecting the contributers interests as well as his own by deleting comments which may find you in Court.
      I am grateful for such screening and do not feel that it restricts my thoughts, as there is no limit as to the number of times you can comment to clarify.
      So thank you John for giving us the opportunity to make comment to a senior politician.
      The fact that you reerve the right to modify or make comment guarantees at least that you read all blogs.
      more than I can say for some MP’s

  27. Mike Cunningham
    Posted April 17, 2009 at 10:30 pm | Permalink

    I wrote to my own Durham City M.P. in April last year complaining about the misuse of the R.I.P.A., asking that the scope of the applicants be severely restricted in the belief that Democracy would best be served by returning to the Status Quo?

    I received an anodyne reply to the effect that I shouldn’t worry, as all was well in the best of all possible worlds, or some other *****hit!

    It used to be that a surveillance was only undertaken after authorisation by the Home Secretary; perhaps the act can be modified to include either a chief constable or a senior judge, which would certainly root out some of the sillier acts, such as videoing school pupils, bin placements or dog refuse!

    We are left however, with the problem of when the requesting authority approaches the required signatory; who do they get?

    Jacqui Smith!!!

  28. backofanenvelope
    Posted April 18, 2009 at 8:13 am | Permalink

    Here is a quote from the ASI blog. Should be quite easy for the Tories to announce now.

    The first step is to deny surveillance powers to any authority except police and security services. It is all right for private firms to use CCTV to guard against burglary, but it is not OK for non-police officials to use them to ensure compliance with their regulations.

  29. Neil Craig
    Posted April 18, 2009 at 8:14 am | Permalink

    “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.”Henry Louis Mencken….

    Or see Michael Crichton’s State of Fear. I suspect bin Laden is dead – certainly they have not been a major threat for some time & the terrorists since 9/11 seem to have been more inspired by us going into their beehive (ie Iraq) than by bin L personally. As a hobgoblin they were never 1,000th the size of the USSR.

    That was a wonderful pun John.

    • adam
      Posted April 19, 2009 at 12:21 am | Permalink

      Its this desire to have a reason to exist. Saving the world from… is much more exiting and important than just being first lord of the treasury and ensuring the books are managed safely.

      Perhaps there is an inverse relationship where the more ineffectual a public sector employee is, the more convinced he is of his own utmost importance.
      Everything else extends from the delusion.

  30. Guy Herbert
    Posted April 18, 2009 at 6:45 pm | Permalink

    As I pointed out in NO2ID’s response to this announcement, local authorities account for less than 1 in 400 of the half-million and rising RIPA surveillance requests each year. The rest are from central government, its quangos, and the police – all of whom are like local authorities, self-authorising.

    And all the Home Office’s spin amounts to is a proposal to change the boxes councils must tick for authority – at the same time as it is working on making surveillance technically massively easier for all branches of government, by pre-collating the data.

  31. Ray
    Posted April 18, 2009 at 8:50 pm | Permalink

    Alan Jutson
    Thanks for your reply…It gives me an insight into how this thing works as it is the first time I’ve sat and typed out my feelings on this sort of stuff….trouble is i feel so strongly about it and sat here clicking away does not do justice to what I think should happen.
    It’s just that I can’t see the Tory’s hacking it ….there is no Maggy
    on the horizon unfortunately so where do we look!!! Ray

    • alan jutson
      Posted April 19, 2009 at 9:57 am | Permalink

      Ray
      You can only send in your views and hope it makes a difference, other people including the media sometimes read the blogs on this site as its known to be the best blog site by a Politician.
      If enough people start making a similar point then it may be picked up by the media and form a wider story.
      I am also sure that JR picks up the mood from those who make comment.
      Also good to hear other peoples perspective on a subject which you may have or not have already formed a view.
      We live in hope that things may change It needs to !!!!!!

      Reply: Yes, blogging here is a way to get the media noticing. The more the merrier, as it promotes stories more rapidly.

    • Citizen Responsible
      Posted April 19, 2009 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

      In terms of forming the next government, I think the Conservative party is our only hope. When we see the economy going down the pan, society disintegrating, and our democracy, sovereignty and freedoms being threatened, it can sometimes feel like we are all doomed.

      However, this is the best political blog I have found and I would like to raise a glass to John Redwood who puts so much time and effort into it.
      I also agree it is good to hear other people’s perspective on a subject and those opinions are often well informed, and their “tongue-in-cheek” humour makes me smile.

  • 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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