More control freakery

Yesterday in the Commons the Opposition parties were able to highlight the government’s policy of collecting and retaining in a central database the DNA of many innocent people.

The government, of course, was impervious to the pleas that for once they might do something to uphold or restore civil liberties. Where have they put the old principle that someone is innocent until proven guilty?

One of the most unpleasant suprises about this governemnt was just how authoritarian they are. Few would have predicted that a newly elected Labour government would want to weaken the idea of jury trial, issue everyone with ID cards, hold personal data in huge quantities on central records, and build up a DNA library of many people in the country by interviewing them in connection with a crime they did not commit and were not prosecuted for committing.

This government’s idea of security has included sending an armoured car to police the M25 near Heathrow, placing a stunning array of new physical barriers around public buildings, putting gates, guards and guns on many entrances and inventing a large array of new crimes including thought crimes. Many of these measures have been neither effective nor proportionate.

It is not easy establishing a perfect balance between the ancient liberties of people in a free society, and at the same time taking sensible steps to prevent terrorism or violent crimes against free people. Of course there need to be some checks and good intelliegence to help keep us safe. This government has just gone too far in acting against the many, instead of successfully targetting the few who are more likely to seek to subvert a free society by violent means.

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27 Comments

  1. Kevin Lohse
    Posted January 19, 2010 at 6:55 am | Permalink

    Dear John “One of the most unpleasant suprises about this governemnt was just how authoritarian they are. ”

    Why? They are Socialists. Authoritarian centrism is a Socialist Core Value. They have done what socialists do best, which is to increase the power of the State to intrude in all aspects of public and private life. You wouldn’t blame a shark for eating a man, its it’s nature. You can’t blame a socialist gov’t for eating the ancient liberties of a free society – its it’s nature. Hopefully, whilst in power, we will be able to construct a suitable safety net to prevent the electorate from suffering further attacks.

    Totally O/T. Some monthe ago, we agreed that the proper way forward was to set Foreign Policy before having a Defence Review. The Shadow Cabinet are publically conducting a Defence Review, but I haven’t seen a Foreign Policy Review. Have I missed something?

  2. Javelin
    Posted January 19, 2010 at 10:08 am | Permalink

    If solving crimes using stored DNA is a good thing it therefore follows storing all DNA to help solve more crimes would be a better thing.

    So what is wrong with this argument? (it feels wrong).

    I think what's wrong with this is that you have the "Right to your own identity data – when there is no risk to others."

    I can see that getting onto an aeroplane with others that they want to know who you are. It is the other people in the plane who have the right to know. It is not the state that has the right to know. It is the job o fthe state to serve the people and implement their rights.

    Rights and Freedoms should be between individuals and the burden should be on the state to implemented them.

    Rights are Freedoms should not belong to the Government and the burden should not be on individuals to implement them.

  3. Ian Jones
    Posted January 19, 2010 at 10:20 am | Permalink

    Just make sure when you get into power that Labour can never again be in charge of England. They can do what they want in Scotland but their communist agenda has brought this country to its knees.

    • Martin
      Posted January 19, 2010 at 8:32 pm | Permalink

      Oh no they can't. Labour got voted out in Scotland in 2007!

  4. mikestallard
    Posted January 19, 2010 at 10:32 am | Permalink

    This is all our fault.We trusted Tony and he is a politician. We gave him three majorities that meant he could override parliament easily. Lord Acton: "Power tends to corrupt etc." Hence the sofa government and Ian sitting on it panicking him into dictatorship.
    Scientific Socialism, too, easily slips into Fascism and Authoritarianism. Why? Because THEY KNOW BEST. And they are MODERN and READY FOR CHANGE.
    We are not going to make this mistake again in living memory. (Which means we will make it again in about 2040).

    PS The EU has noticed that Greece is unrepentantly broke and is threatening to kick it out of the EU! Is this the end of the EUSSR? that really would help our "democratic deficit".

  5. Sally C.
    Posted January 19, 2010 at 10:46 am | Permalink

    Isn't this always the problem with socialist regimes? They all believe that they know better than everyone else what is good for them, and this leads to a desire to control everything. The worst current example that I can of is Hugo Chavez, who is busy nationalising/expropriating everything, but all socialist regimes follow the same path. Interesting to see that inflation is gradually hotting up. In the year to December, the consumer prices index (CPI) rose by 2.9 per cent, up from 1.9 per cent in
    November. Over the same period, the all items RPI excluding
    mortgage interest payments index (RPIX) rose by 3.8 per cent, up from 2.7 per cent in November. Inflation is something that Hugo Chavez and Gordon Brown/Mervyn King may well find that they cannot control.

  6. A.Sedgwick
    Posted January 19, 2010 at 11:00 am | Permalink

    I listened to Today in Parliament and this government has now gone beyond the amusing "you couldn't make it up" to the distinctly sinister. In typical New Labour form there is another totally unqualified and unsuitable for the job senior minister parroting the Party line. Even the Scottish system, supported by the DCCs is too invasive of civil liberties. Then we had the near unintelligle to me past Scottish minister/party official pontificating on English law – talk about insult to injury.

  7. Robert Eve
    Posted January 19, 2010 at 11:02 am | Permalink

    Absolutely right John!

  8. Y Rhyfelwr Dewr
    Posted January 19, 2010 at 11:22 am | Permalink

    It is not easy establishing a perfect balance between the ancient liberties of people in a free society, and at the same time taking sensible steps to prevent terrorism or violent crimes against free people.

    Certainly not. But I'd have appreciated this government making some sort of effort at establishing the balance. From what I can see, their attitude has been "civil liberties be damned."

    These muslim extremists really aren't terribly competent or enthusiastic. Once a year, some moron thinks nobody will pay any attention if he starts trying to set light to his shoes in the middle of an aeroplane, or he imagines he can strike a great blow for Allah by driving a car through an airport window, legging it and hoping for the best.

    By contrast, the Irish terrorists of the 70's and 80's were far more dangerous and professional — even by-passing months of high security to blow up Margaret Thatcher's hotel, killing several high-profile Conservative admistrators, severely injuring Norman Tebbit and his wife, and coming within a whisker of harming the great lady herself.

    Despite this level of threat, successive governments of both left and right never felt the need to introduce thought crimes, terminate freedom of speech and withdraw habeas corpus.

  9. Captain Baines
    Posted January 19, 2010 at 11:40 am | Permalink

    Written for the US but just as true here. – "Given the low level of competence among politicians, every American should become a libertarian. The government that governs least is certainly the best choice when fools, opportunists and grafters run it. When power is for sale, then the government power should be severely limited. When power is abused, then the less power the better." — Charley Reese

  10. Neil Craig
    Posted January 19, 2010 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

    We are solving a far higher proportion of those crimes the police put their minds to than ever before. Catching them is thus not the problem. There are 2 problems. Fisrt that many punishemnts do not deter – from kids who go through hundreds of relatively minor crimes without any involuntary punishment (community service being voluntary unless those in charge insist on it being done) through to not hanging the worst murderers. The second, much more difficult to solve, is family breakdown – the correlation between fatherlessness (not motherlessness) & subsequent adult crime, drug dependency, homelesness & most other signs of social failure is to close to be ignored by anybody but social workers.

    A DNA register, like most forms of regulation, is simply controlling everybody because the government prefers that to zeroing in on the guilty.

  11. Robert K, Oxford
    Posted January 19, 2010 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

    The latest nonsense was the man arrested for sending a joke message on Twittter about blowing up Doncaster Airport. He was interrogated for seven hours, his PC and other personal tech gear have been seized and he has been handed a lifetime ban from the airport.
    On a related point, and I honestly don't know the answer to this, but has any terrorist ever been stopped by the physical security measures in place in UK airports? http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/twitter/701

  12. JohnRS
    Posted January 19, 2010 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

    But where are the conservative manifesto committments to remove some of these iniquitous changes?

    I continue to despair at the lack of conservative policies being launched by this Conservative party.

  13. Dave
    Posted January 19, 2010 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

    Good post John. Are we witnessing the changeover to the Napoleonic system that is prevalent in Europe, i.e. that one is presumed guilty until proven innocent?

    Is this the price we have to pay for absorbtion into Europe?

    Other areas of law are being eroded, such as the change from "Caveat emptor" (buyer beware) to full disclosure when buying and selling houses.

    Very sad.

  14. Liz
    Posted January 19, 2010 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

    As I have maintained before we now need a written constitution as the only defence against any Government destroying our civil liberties and even democracy itself. The Conservatives, if they are elected, can restore these liberties, but how will they prevent any future Government taking them away again – now that Labour has done what was once thought of as unthinkable in this country? How will the Conservative policy of "localisation" work when so many local authorites have been enthusiastic misusers of supposedly anti terrorist legislation and not at all keen on civil liberties.

  15. jeff todd
    Posted January 19, 2010 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

    It has always struck me as a fact of life that those preaching liberty and tolerance are in fact the most illiberal and intolerant people that you will ever meet.

  16. Brian Tomkinson
    Posted January 19, 2010 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

    Under Labour we are all suspects and woe betide a victim of real crime if they try and defend themselves, as they will find themselves branded criminals by the police looking for an easy way of ticking the boxes that make them look good. The politics of fear has been used time and again to allow the government to take more control over the people of this country. If elected I hope your party will correct this but I still have reservations about their libertarian values.

  17. Adrian Peirson
    Posted January 19, 2010 at 5:59 pm | Permalink

    People become confused about what is really going on, about labels like socialism, communism, Fascism etc, at the end of the day it is about Life and death control of the masses and is better and more simply described as Totalitarianism.
    I have to wonder what on earth went on in the Childhoods of these people to make them want Absolute control over the lives of others.

  18. Albert Hall
    Posted January 19, 2010 at 6:34 pm | Permalink

    But John, will Dave do anything about this drip drip erosion of our civil liberties?

  19. BillyB
    Posted January 19, 2010 at 6:41 pm | Permalink

    Have to agree. What will you do about it if you are in government in May?

  20. alan jutson
    Posted January 19, 2010 at 7:44 pm | Permalink

    Agreed its a very worrying development when people are assumed guilty and have to prove innocence, which is sometimes very difficult and time consuming.

    The Government have used this tactic as a weapon for many form filling duties (Construction Industry Inland Revenue CIS Monthly Returns) and fixed fines for motoring offences.

    If you do not comply you are fined, no matter that forms may be held up in the Post ,or worst of all, held up in a pile in their own office awaiting attention.

    A number of times in the last two years I have been fined for late returns.

    In all cases I have contested such fines (they call it an Appeal Proceedure) with proof of postage from the Post Office.

    In all cases I have had the fines cancelled.

    What a complete waste of everyones time.

    Intersting that a recent answer to a freedom of information question, found that the Inland Revenue failed to answer more than 40% of its calls during the course of last year.

    The Public Service Industry should realise that all of their jobs are paid for by Taxes. The Goverment has no money.

    Freedom in this Country is being slowley but surely being curtailed.

    David Davis was right to make a stand last year, but was pilloried for doing so.

  21. Martin
    Posted January 19, 2010 at 8:37 pm | Permalink

    If President Reagan said "Lets nuke *****" today in he would be arrested by South Yorkshire Police.

  22. Mrs Rigby
    Posted January 19, 2010 at 9:10 pm | Permalink
  23. Steve Tierney
    Posted January 19, 2010 at 9:35 pm | Permalink

    I agree with everything you say John. Trouble is, we Conservatives aren't immune to the odd authoritarian streak ourselves. I wish we were.

  24. Mark
    Posted January 20, 2010 at 11:24 am | Permalink

    I was pleased to see that Chris Grayling pushed to implement the law on DNA retention as it is in Scotland, and suggested that is what an incoming Tory government would do. However, he seemed content to let the police play ever more fast and loose with RIPA powers, which used to require the direct case by case authorisation of the Home Secretary on each occasion they were used not so long ago. His egg belongs to a curate, rather than being good right the way through.

  25. Derek W. Buxton
    Posted January 20, 2010 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

    Dave, yes we are being taken into the Napoleonic Code of Law, most of it is already in place.
    The disaster that it threatens for us all is nigh but I do not expect the Cameron party do do a single thing to correct this situation. They are part of the problem, a very large part.

    Derek

  26. Adrian Peirson
    Posted January 24, 2010 at 7:04 pm | Permalink

    Most of the crimes are underreoprted as they are politically too sensitive.
    The idea that you can invite millions in, give them a British passport and expect their past traditions and cultures etc to just disappear is ludicrous.

    Reply: We have plenty of home grown criminals.

  • 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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