"Law abiding citizens have nothing to fear" - to me this is the most frightening citizen in the world. If I hear a Politician say these words, I know they are a disreputable scoundrel. If I hear a senior policeman or army officer say it, I know that we are in trouble. These were the words I awoke to when my alarm went off at 7am. Not sure who was saying it, but it was in relation to the latest proposls to give the police and security forces the power to snoop on us. But I hear you say "I am a law abiding citizen, I have nothing to fear". The question is "are you really", I am sure you are a truly fine citizen and a fine upstanding human being, but are you a law abiding citizen? Perhaps even more pertinent, even if you are a law abiding citizen today, will you be one tomorrow. Here's a little list, see if you can work out the pattern.
Being a Roman Catholic
Being a Jew
Being a Homosexual
Drinking beer in a pub after 1pm on a Sunday
Driving at 31 mph in my street
Driving a Taxi without a bale of hay in the boot
Going on Strike without being ballotted
Owning a pit bull terrier
Looking at a website which contains bomb making instructions
Promoting homosexuality in schools
Marrying the aire to the Throne if you are a Roman Catholic
Drinking beer on the terraces at a football match
Having a crafty cigarette in the pub
All of these activities are or have been illegal at some point in the UK. Some of them were punishable by death. You may say that times have changed. Of course they have, but remember that the tide comes in and the tide goes out. What is the norm and acceptable today can become illegal tomorrow. Prior to the Nazi takeover in Germany, it was the European country which was most tolerant of Jewish people. Public mood changes and anyone who thinks that we are immune to such repressive laws is a fool.
Whilst the changes in the law are being deemed vital to protect the state against terrorism, the scope of the laws and how they will be used is something none of us can even imagine. We saw local councils using the RIPA legislation to spy on citizens who put the wrong sort of rubbish in their bins. We've seen bloggers prosecuted for saying nasty things about their council. I have been threatened on several occasions by the Council with legal action, when I have published supposedly secret information on my blog. What was this secret information? Supposedly confidential information about a commercial contract with a private company. There was no private or personal details contained and everything published was clearly information which had no implications for the negotiation of the commercial details. It was the sort of thing that in the USA the council would have to publish in a public tender document.
Has the Council, State and security services spied on me and my blogging activities? I have no idea, but I'd be amazed if they hadn't. I have had some truly odd things happen over the years that the Barnet Eye has been running. Am I a threat to the state or even the council? I'd suggest that if they'd actually bothered to listen, they'd be a better run and more efficient organisation. This blog actually exposed serious wrongdoing in the council in regards to Metpro, a security company used by Barnet Council. Due to investigations by myself and other bloggers, a scandal was exposed where the council was paying a company with no proper licenses far above the going rate for services it did't need. Did we get a civic award for the hundreds of thousands of pounds we saved? Nope, we get dismissively criticised by the people who run the council. If you hear a Barnet Tory councillor use the word "blogger" you can be assurred that it is not being used in a complimentary manner. I suspect that given the chance several Barnet Tory councillors (and ex councillors) would simply make blogging illegal. They see bloggers as something which gets in the way of their plans. They never acknowledge the fact that on numerous occasions we've tried to save them from themselves.
In 2008, when I started writing the Barnet Eye, I was quite naive and believed that most politicians were basically decent people who simply wanted to do a good job. I still believe that a fair number are. However time and time again, I've seen the most appalling people doing the most appalling things. When you see a man who gets a £25,000 allowance for being a councillor and chairing a committee, telling parents of severely disabled children that respite care is a waste of money, you realise the true depths of the cesspit into which our local politicians exist. There are many things in this country which are illegal which are trivial. Sadly there are also many things which should be illegal which never will be. For a wealthy society to strip parents of disabled children of their respite care is a prime example. Personally I'd make closing libraries another thing. What is more socially damaging, dropping a sweet wrapper in the street or shutting a library? Don't get me wrong, I don't condone littering, in fact I think its disgusting, but it is nowhere near as disgusting as shutting libraries.
In short, I am against this legislation as I don't trust the politicians who want the final say on who will be monitored. I don't trust politicians to pass fair laws. I fear for the future. This isn't a party political thing. The politician I admire most in terms of protecting our liberty is Tory David Davis. He eloquently sums up the risks. I have no issue with the police and security services having the right to snoop when there is clear evidence that people are planning to carry out atrocities. I also understand that as technology develop, laws need updating. But we need cast iron checks and controls. This should be under the control of judges and there should be cross party oversight of such activities. Sweeping laws, with little control is a recipe for a totalitarian state.