Sunday 13 July 2014

Dear Feeble Fifty: an epistle anent 'emergency' legislation on communications data

As the Feeble Fifty go, Russell Brown is actually a fairly decent man; he takes an interest in mental health and in rural poverty, and is a 'good constituency MP', which is to say a hard working advocate for individual constituents who have problems with the state. As a legislator, though, he's a total waste of space. He has never once voted independently of his party. We seriously would be as well sending a clockwork monkey to Westminster.

Dear Russell Brown,

I know that you have never voted against a Labour Party whip, and I think it's highly unlikely that you will now change the habits of a lifetime and vote to for the interests of the people against the interests of the state. However, I feel that, given that this is 'an emergency', it is my duty to try at least to persuade you.

Angela Merkel, now Chancellor of Germany, grew up under the Stasi, a regime which viewed the state's right to snoop on its citizen's private data as sacrosanct. Needless to say, she still considers it offensive that her phone should be monitored, that who she talks to should be recorded; and so the post of intelligence chief in the United States' Berlin embassy is now vacant.

The Deutsche Demokratische Republik is not often held up as a model of how to run a liberal democracy, yet the Stasi would have given their eye teeth (or possibly the eye teeth of their 'guests') for the powers that your party proposes to nod through parliament in support of your Conservative and 'Liberal Democratic' allies.

To a degree, of course, we know that this is all theatre; that GCHQ will continue - with the complaisance of Westminster - to bug our communications anyway, just as the British security state co-operated with the establishment and operation of the US torture centre on Diego Garcia whilst Tony Blair, Jack Straw and David Milliband blandly denied its existence in Parliament, because Westminster is either not able, or else not willing, to hold the security apparatus to account.

However, Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights guarantees each of us the right to a private life, a right which cannot be squared with the pervasive snooping proposed by the current 'emergency' bill. Like its predecessor, it will undoubtedly fall foul of that convention and consequently of the European Court of Human Rights. More importantly, though, it will enhance the European view of the UK as an increasingly undemocratic, uncommunitaire, pariah state, which will in turn influence the negotiations as David Cameron prepares for his referendum on the UK's continued membership of the EC.

Which brings us on to your own narrow self-interest, because before that referendum we have another, closer to home, which is likely, it seems, either to be narrowly won, or else narrowly lost. If won, of course, your comfortable Westminster job will evaporate. But if lost, do you think the Left in Scotland will easily forgive a Labour party which sided with the Tories against their own people? If ever there was a time for the Feeble Fifty to demonstrate that you are not merely drones entirely controlled by your party apparatus, it is now. You need to demonstrate to us, your electors, that you have spine, cojones and independence of mind, and that you will defend the public interest even in defiance of the whips; that, or seek a new career.

Yours sincerely,

Simon Brooke

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