In government, I voted against the Labour whip only once. That was on the occasion of the Digital Economy Act being shoved through parliament ‘on the wash-up’ (i.e. without due process and with the agreement of all parties because it was the end of a parliament and the issue ostensibly ‘was not contentious’). Today, I’m voting against the Digital Retention and Investigatory Powers Bill because it’s essentially a repeat, in principle, of that terrible moment at the end of what I believe was a period in government Labour folk should otherwise be proud of.
Everyone should listen to the arguments. Because the political calculation by the main parties is, rather, that it’s best to get it through very quickly (i.e in one mad day) because if parliament makes a meal of it then people will being to pay more attention and the contentiousness of the legislation will become a truly public matter. For now, the parties’ calculation is working out – most people just don’t care that much. They’re lazy and take their liberty as read.
For my own part, I would flag, and this is just my instinct of course, that from now on the police will want access to ‘metadata’ (i.e. who you call or email, your location when you called, their’s and more) for less and less compelling reasons. Terrorism? Paedophillia? Nah. Think being innocently in a location linked to a possible offence, or emailing a person of interest – and therefore being ‘of interest’ yourself and therefore having all of your movements checked over time to see if they conform to certain patterns which may suggest you could be an offender too. If the police can use ‘metadata’ to get speeding convinctions, they will. Mark my words.
And here’s one other thing – although there’s plenty more – watch how during today’s proceedings, each party is explicitly and implicitly ‘dissing’ European human rights legislation and a recent ruling of the ECJ. Yet the simple fact is that in spite of daily hoo-hah at Westminster about ‘human rights madness’ in the EU (actually a slightly insane notion, if you think about it) and the additional detail that aspects of the EU and commissioners are indeed often risible, in truth over 98% of UK appeals to the ECHR fail – in other words, the UK is superbly compliant with very important and decent human rights legislation and the effect of the occasional successful appeal is usually to actually strengthen and improve UK citizens’ human rights protection.
You might take a very different view – but surely you agree that we should at least give handing the state the right to know pretty much wherever you are and who you’re speaking to normal parliamentary scrutiny?
Here’s an analogue thought I’ve put to a few folk not interested in the technicalities of the legislation How would you feel if, by law, everytime you took a letter from the postie you had to open it in their presence and provide them with the name and address of the sender; and each time you posted a letter you had to provide your details to an official stationed at the postbox? That, of course, is chickenfeed compared to what’s included in this legislation.
It’s worth a thought about the principles at stake, surely to god?
But, nah. For now, people just don’t care enough. Until they’re done for a minor offence, or wrongly suspected by a local PC of an offence on the basis of nothing more than metadata. Or until they discover they have, actually, in the end, oo-er, a personal interest in human rights legislation. But by then, of course, it’ll be way too late.