Daily Archives: July 18, 2016

The next scheme to knock Corbyn: Stories about the shadow cabinet resignations

Thangam Debbonaire and Jeremy Corbyn [Image from the Bristol Post].

Thangam Debbonaire and Jeremy Corbyn [Image from the Bristol Post].

Thangam Debbonaire put out her story about being undermined by Jeremy Corbyn over the weekend – now Lilian Greenwood has published hers.

I wonder who’s next?

The problem with both stories so far is they rely on events in behind-closed-doors meetings to be acceptable.

Look at the claim below – that Mr Corbyn undermined Ms Greenwood’s campaign against raised rail fares at the beginning of the year. It looks fine until you do a quick search of the national news and find plenty of coverage of Labour’s position, starting on New Year’s Day.

Rail fares are increased annually on January 2 so, two days later, it is most likely that the news media would be cooling off on the subject and looking for something new in any case.

If you want to read Ms Greenwood’s speech in full, you can find it here. Perhaps you can find an element in it that lends her more credibility than I can find.

Thangam Debbonaire provides her story here.

I don’t think Mr Corbyn will ever comment on either story – or any of the others that may or may not appear at regular intervals over the next few days and weeks. I reckon he would prefer not to dignify them with a response.

My own immediate reaction is that it has taken them this long to fabricate decent stories about their decisions.

That may seem a harsh verdict, especially with regard to Ms Debbonaire’s story which relies on her treatment for cancer – but the overarching strategy of the so-called Labour ‘coup’ has been manipulative from the start and I would not be surprised if the intention was to use her illness to play on people’s feelings.

Remember: This is the same group that claimed Mr Corbyn failed to win votes in the EU referendum when he actually brought in more than any other party leader.

This is the same group that organised a series of timed, on-the-hour resignations of shadow cabinet members and then claimed they were spontaneous.

This is the same group that arranged an unconstitutional vote of ‘no confidence’ in Mr Corbyn, in an unreasonably short period of time, in order to ensure that grassroots party members who support Mr Corbyn could have no input in their decisions.

This is the same group that circulated a ‘false flag’ photo of a person wearing a T-shirt saying “Eradicate the Blairite scum” at a pro-Corbyn rally, stoking up outrage that he could allow such a thing – which turned out to be a stunt arranged by the anti-Corbyn, right-wing think tank Progress and a PR agency that has been linked with the plotters.

This is the same group that put out a series of lies to the press, only to have them debunked within hours – sometimes within minutes – of becoming public. Ms Debbonaire’s account of a Bristol Labour meeting being overrun by abusive Corbyn supporters is an example of one. Attendees have come forward to say the meeting was no more abusive than any other at which feelings run high – and that the MP herself had tried to veto a confidence vote in Mr Corbyn no less than seven unacceptable ways.

This is the same group that tried to pervert the Labour Party Rule Book to keep Mr Corbyn’s name off the leadership ballot paper – and failed.

This is the same group that, having failed to keep Mr Corbyn off the ballot paper, tried to ban his supporters from having a vote, while changing the rules to ensure that richer – and therefore more likely to be right-wing – members and supporters could buy votes that may be used to support an opposing candidate.

This is a group that knows the right-wing press will pick up and amplify any anti-Corbyn story its members care to put forward, because bringing down Corbyn will reinforce the neoliberal status quo that has been dismantling the statutory safeguards available to poor and working people for nearly 40 years.

This is a group that doesn’t care about the Labour Party members who helped get them elected, never mind the people of the UK who actually voted for them. It is a group of people who care about nothing more than their own continued wealth, power and comfort.

That’s why this is a group that must be stopped.

On 4 January– a cold dark Monday morning– I was at Kings Cross at 7am doing Radio 5 and BBC TV.

Standing with Jeremy and the Rail Union General Secretaries for the media photocall. It was a crucial day in the Party’s media grid.

And all across the country local party activists were outside railway stations in the cold and the dark, leafleting commuters with the materials we’d prepared. Armed with the briefings and statistics.

Incredibly, Jeremy launched a Shadow Cabinet reshuffle on the same day.

It knocked all the coverage of the rail fare rise and our public ownership policy off every news channel and every front page.

I respect completely Jeremy’s right to reshuffle his top team. But why then?

It was unnecessary and it was incompetent.

Source: Lilian’s speech to Nottingham South Labour Party members – Lilian Greenwood MP

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Labour pledges national investment bank to mobilise £500bn

John McDonnell said his pledge would lay the foundations of a new economic model for British prosperity under Labour [Image: Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA].

John McDonnell said his pledge would lay the foundations of a new economic model for British prosperity under Labour [Image: Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA].

This Writer trusts John McDonnell far more than Slick Owen Smith.

Mr Smith wants to give the UK another ‘New Deal’ – stealing a page straight out of Tony Blair’s playbook. But he says he isn’t a Blairite and is desperate to persuade people that he’s a leftie.

Somehow, I don’t think that’s going to work – especially not with an idea, and a sum of money, plucked out of the air.

Mr McDonnell’s plan is based on a solid, working scheme that has served Germany very well.

And in politics, the best strategy is always to do what works.

John McDonnell has pledged that Labour will mobilise £500bn of investment and lending from the creation of a new national investment bank to help the UK economy recover post-Brexit – with £350bn coming directly from the public purse.

The shadow chancellor also promised to build a network of regional banks, inspired by Germany’s government-owned development bank, which he said could “rescue Britain’s communities from decay and rebuild Britain’s industries after years of neglect”.

Speaking in Sunderland, the Labour heartland that delivered a resounding vote for Brexit, McDonnell said his pledge would lay the foundations of a new economic model for British prosperity under the party.

“Today I am making a firm pledge: on coming to power, Labour will set up a national investment bank, and a network of regional banks whose aim is to help mobilise £500bn into the economy and transform Britain,” McDonnell, a key ally of Jeremy Corbyn, said.

One of Corbyn’s rivals for the Labour leadership, Owen Smith, launched his campaign over the weekend with his own spending pledge, a £200bn infrastructure investment package which he termed “Britain’s New Deal”.

However, McDonnell said the UK’s infrastructure requirements over the next decade or more come to £500bn of additional spending.

Source: Labour pledges national investment bank to mobilise £500bn | Politics | The Guardian

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Demonstration in Dundee over ‘threatening behaviour’ at work capability assessment

160718 Tony Cox
It may seem to be fantasy but a man is to be sentenced for threatening behaviour after he insisted on accompanying a vulnerable woman to her work capability assessment.
Black Triangle – the campaign for the rights of disabled people – has teamed up with the Scottish Unemployed Workers’ Network to stage a demonstration outside Dundee Sheriff’s Court (6 West Bell Street, DD1 9AD) on Thursday, starting at 10am.
The case involves SUWN activist Tony Cox, who was found guilty of threatening behaviour when trying to insist on accompanying a vulnerable woman to her work capability assessment.
If you can attend and show your support for Mr Cox and social security activists everywhere, please do.
Here’s how SUWN reported the case after the verdict:
Class ‘Justice’

We always said it all depends on the sheriff – and we were right. Today SUWN activist, Tony Cox was found ‘guilty’ of ‘threatening behaviour’ towards the lovely folk at the Maximus Work Capability Assessment Centre in Dundee, who were preventing him from accompanying a vulnerable woman to her assessment. As Sheriff Griffiths explained in his verdict, it was a question of whose evidence he preferred – and he preferred the evidence of the crown witnesses. Prefer was his term. Never mind that their evidence was riddled with (unchallenged) contradictions over what happened when and even if the police came into the building (they didn’t). Never mind that the woman Tony was accompanying insisted, despite persistent leading questions from the Procurator Fiscal, that Tony did not ‘swear’ or ‘shove’ the receptionist at the door.

We have always said that this should never have gone to court. That if the police had only stopped to ask the other side of the story before whisking out the handcuffs, this whole sad spectacle could have been avoided. And now we are facing the consequences of what passes as a justice system but seems as much concerned with searching for truth as the competitors in a debating contest.

The Fiscal’s portrayal of Tony as just there to cause trouble could not have been further from the truth. While we have emphasised the wider significance of this case, his reason for being at the Maximus Assessment Centre was simply to accompany a vulnerable woman who had specifically requested that he be there with her at her assessment, as he had done for other people before. On one previous occasion the assessor had asserted he could not take notes – and when he insisted on his right to do this and proved that it was permitted in the regulations, the assessor had called the police on him. On that occasion nothing went further, but that assessor had nursed her grudge against him, and it was her who insisted this time that he leave. This time she asserted – again without evidence – that he had been banned from the building. Tony had insisted on taking this up with a manager and on his client’s right to be accompanied by a person of her choice. What the Sheriff chose to see as the Maximus receptionist being solicitous for the understandably distressed client, was actually her trying to persuade this vulnerable woman to go into the assessment alone, without the person she was relying on to help her; and – not incidentally – trying to persuade her that Tony was not her friend. Three Maximus employees were trying to prevent Tony from a simple bit of advocacy, while attempting to demolish his character in front of his client. And Tony tried to argue his case. He has a strong voice (after decades of public speaking) and he used it. But speaking loudly, and even raising your voice, is not a crime – yet. There was absolutely nothing on the CCTV footage to suggest behaviour that could be conceived as ‘threatening’: indeed he was mostly seated and generally leaning back in his seat too. He was there to represent and help someone and he was being careful not to compromise her situation or his ability to help others in the future. When he realised that they were getting nowhere and his client was anyway too distressed for an assessment, he left the waiting room, but he then found himself having to put his foot in the door to prevent the Maximus employees from keeping his client inside and continuing their pressure on her to go to the assessment without him. Far from him ‘shoving’ the receptionist, she was trying to kick his foot out of the way. And that charge of ‘shoving’ only got added to the original charge of ‘threatening behaviour’ in the course of the first part of the trial, which meant that there was not time to for us to challenge the lack of CCTV footage for that critical moment.

That this can have developed into a criminal case with a guilty verdict is simply a travesty. Tony was giving his time to help someone through the thicket of a punitive government bureaucracy – and even when he was arrested the SUWN made sure that she got the help she needed to get her ESA – but now another part of that bureaucracy has determined to punish and criminalise him.

This is part of a pattern. Arbroath Jobcentre had earlier tried to accuse Tony on a similar charge, but their evidence fell apart in court and the charge had to be withdrawn. And we have heard from people going into Dundee Jobcentre how the staff there do their best to tar the reputation of Tony and of the SUWN more generally. In Edinburgh, High Riggs Jobcentre has several times called the police on advocates from Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty.

Anyone who had any illusions in our ‘justice’ system would have had them knocked out by observing this case; but the verdict was just the beginning. As the Sheriff and the lawyer parleyed over issues that might affect the sentencing, Tony felt compelled to protest that the sheriff had misquoted him, and when asked if he was ‘fit for unpaid work’, he replied that he already did community work. For the sheriff this was tantamount to insurrection. Sentencing has been postponed for four weeks so that they can get a Criminal Justice Social Work Report. And Tony has been told that if he doesn’t grovel and accept his ‘guilt’ and if he doesn’t demonstrate his ‘empathy’ with the Maximus employees who shafted him, he can expect a harsh sentence. Because, in the sheriff’s words, his ‘antipathy to authority was clear’. We certainly didn’t see anything today to persuade us that the authority of our legal system deserves anything other than antipathy.

Just as people on the receiving end of the new punitive ‘welfare’ regime are expected to take responsibility for not being ‘positive’, so the criminal justice system is determined to punish people for not being sufficiently servile – and the sheriff made it clear that he was not happy with Tony’s body language or facial expression. In our Brave New World you mustn’t raise your voice and you must take your punishment with a smile.

Well that’s their world – and in the real world where the rest of us live there is more work to do than ever, and Tony and the SUWN have no intention of taking a step backwards in our advocacy and in our campaigning. As if to remind us, within five minutes of sitting down for a drink after we left the court we had two phone calls from people asking for our advice. The DWP and their friends don’t like what we do because we are getting results. We are helping individuals to navigate through their traps, and we are drawing attention to what is wrong with the system. (In fact we heard another example of the cruelty of the system as we were protesting outside before the trial began. A man going past told us that he worked in a Universal Credit call centre and that people would ask him how he can sleep at night doing such a job. He told us that he often can’t and that he is desperate to find other work.)

Yet again we can take heart from the solidarity shown by our comrades – by our friends in Dundee and our friends in Glasgow Anarchist Collective and Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty who traveled across Scotland to be with us, and by all those who have contacted us from across the UK to show their support for Tony and for the wider fight for real justice. Together we will win!

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Information Commissioner acts to shut down illegal #HackingLabour data harvesting

internet-surveillance
“There should be a moratorium on any access to membership list by any office holder or elected representative save for normal membership procedures related directly to their office for the duration of this election. Any member using Labour Party membership data in an unauthorised way will be referred to the Office of the Information Commissioner and may be subject to disciplinary action.”

That is the line from the Labour Party today, after the Information Commissioner stepped in to stop activists – for the right-wing think tank Progress, Labour First and anti-Corbyn website Saving Labour – from contacting members who may have lapsed due to Jeremy Corbyn having become leader, and sending them unsolicited material asking them to pay the £25 affiliation fee in order to help oust him.

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) acted after reports appeared in the social media, including This Site, showing that the activity taking place was illegal.

Labour Party members contacted the ICO, which in turn contacted Labour.

A statement has been issued as follows:

Leadership Election 2016 – Data Protection

The Labour Party has recently received direction from the Information Commissioner’s Office in respect of complaints received from affiliated supporters and registered supporters about communications from candidates in the last Leadership election.

In particular we have had to supply written assurances that measures will be put in place to obtain individual consent to send unsolicited direct marketing, including in internal elections, and that this consent will be obtained for each contact method we wish to use.

Further we have been advised that:

If the Labour Party or its elected members intend to send marketing material to individuals (regardless of their membership status) it should ensure that consent is gained. A facility should be provided to allow the individual to consent to each method the Labour Party or its elected members wish to contact them by.

The implication of this direction is that candidates in internal Labour Party elections MUST NOT be given access to lists of existing registered and affiliated supporters which allow for unsolicited marketing messages to be sent by email or telephone. Indeed, there must be explicit consent given by each supporter to receiving marketing messages by each and every channel of communication.

We currently rely on the rules governing internal elections to offer some protection from this direction from the ICO in respect of Labour Party members, but we are urgently considering whether this directive has further implications in respect of direct communication by candidates in any internal ballot with Labour Party members.

As far as the Leadership election is concerned we will have to:

1. Make more explicit any data sharing arrangements with affiliated organisations so that there is greater clarity about communications which may be received by individual affiliated supporters.

2. Make more explicit the data protection statement for registered supporters so that there is greater clarity about communications which may be received.

3. Re-confirm with existing affiliated supporters that they wish to receive any communications in respect of the current Leadership election.

4. Set out clearly in an early communication to all members and registered and affiliated supporters the likely communications programme with procedures for opting in/out of various communication channels.

5. There should be a moratorium on any access to membership list by any office holder or elected representative save for normal membership procedures related directly to their office for the duration of this election. Any member using Labour Party membership data in an unauthorised way will be referred to the Office of the Information Commissioner and may be subject to disciplinary action.

To everybody involved in the detection and prevention of this crime: Well done!

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Was it bad taste for a Channel 4 reporter to wear a hijab while covering the Nice atrocity?

Kelvin MacKenzie, stoking up a controversy [Image: Paul Hackett/Reuters].

Kelvin MacKenzie, stoking up a controversy [Image: Paul Hackett/Reuters].

Clearly Kelvin MacKenzie’s Sun column on this subject was at the very least misguided, and at worst intended to stir up Islamophobia.

People are perfectly entitled to wear whatever they like, within the generally-accepted bounds of decency – and as hijab isn’t generally considered indecent.

But in the circumstances… what do you think?

Kelvin MacKenzie’s controversial column in the Sun about Fatima Manji wearing a hijab while presenting Channel 4 News has, unsurprisingly, come in for criticism.Her colleagues and bosses were less than impressed with the attack and, at the time of writing, are preparing to issue a statement to that effect.

Although the Sun deleted a tweet that promoted the column it did so on the grounds that it failed to make it clear that it was MacKenzie’s viewpoint and not that of the newspaper.

But I very much doubt that MacKenzie was alone in his views. A woman friend (Irish, lapsed Catholic, now atheist) told me yesterday she strongly objected to Manji wearing the hijab on the grounds that she was representing the subjugation of women.

The only possible reason for a woman to cover her hair, she argued, was to conform to a male interpretation of Islam, a dress code without a specific basis in the Qur’an.

I protested that she had a right to wear what she liked. Among several, and possibly overlapping reasons, she might have done so out of dedication to her faith, or as a political statement, or even to express feminist empowerment (yes, see Nadiya Takolia’s argument). It might simply be a favoured fashion accessory.

Whatever the reason for her mode of dress, it is intolerant to demand that she dress as others would wish. That said, I know Muslim women are far from united on the virtues of the wearing of the hijab, as Yasmin Alibhai- Brown explored in an excellent piece last year.

Source: Kelvin MacKenzie was wrong to attack a hijab-wearing news presenter | Media | The Guardian

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Trident debate reveals faults of UK’s ‘independent’ nuclear deterrent

160718 trident rising cost

It runs on an obsolete version of Windows and creates work for the USA rather than the UK, but the Tories – and Slick Owen Smith – want to keep it, just in case they feel the need to commit genocide.

That’s what This Writer found out in advance of the Commons vote on Trident, called by Theresa May, today (Monday, July 18).

The motion, couched in overcomplicated language, comes down to this: “The Commons support the Conservative Government’s assessment that it is essential to keep Trident ‘for as long as the global security situation demands’ [an interesting and arbitrary choice of words!] to deter the most extreme threats to the UK’s national security and way of life and that of the UK’s allies; supports the decision to maintain this situation by replacing the current extremely expensive submarines with four new, extremely expensive submarines; recognises the importance of this programme to the UK’s defence industry, and in supporting thousands of engineering jobs [all but 520 of which are based in America]; notes that the government will provide annual reports to Parliament; recognises that the UK is committed to reducing its nuclear weapons stockpile by the mid-2020s; and supports the government’s commitment to continue work towards a safer and more stable world [seriously, this is in the motion], pressing for… multilateral disarmament.”

The motion could seriously harm the Labour leadership election prospects of Slick Owen Smith, who quite clearly told Andrew Marr yesterday (Sunday) not only that he believed in nuclear disarmament but that the UK needed its nuclear weapons to achieve this, but also that – if he was asked to do it – he would certainly press the nuclear button an “annihilate millions of people”.

What a nice guy!

The best that can be said about Slick Owen’s view is this:

160718 trident mass suicide

If you want to know the effects of a Trident detonation near your home, visit this site, drag the red marker to your town, set it for a Trident detonation and see how many of your immediate family would survive (quick answer: none).

Let’s move on to jobs.

In fact, Trident supports just 520 jobs in Faslane, Scotland. Here’s an infographic about it:

160718 trident did you know

If you still don’t believe that Trident doesn’t employ thousands of people here, but does so in the USA, see this:

160718 trident UK jobs

Finally, you’ll be interested to know that Trident runs on an obsolete version of Microsoft Windows – Windows XP (or, amusingly, Windows for Submarines).

160718 trident windows xp

By now, you may be feeling distinctly less secure about Trident than you were at the start of this article. It isn’t just about the cost; it’s about the whole package.

And if you’re still undecided, let’s end on a handy little list of Trident problems (created before George Osborne was sacked):

160718 trident defies logic

So, what do you think? Is Trident worth it? Or is it just an extremely expensive ego-boost for politicians like Slick Owen Smith, who think being able to kill millions makes them special?

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#HackingLabour: The new wheeze by the campaign against Corbyn is a CRIMINAL OFFENCE

It seems members of Saving Labour are being asked to trawl through the party's data to contact lapse members - illegally.

It seems members of Saving Labour are being asked to trawl through the party’s data to contact lapse members – illegally.

Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. It seems the campaign to rid the Labour Party of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership – replacing him with either Owen Smith or Angela Eagle – may have crossed the line into crime.

The illegality appears to involve online Corbyn-removal campaign Saving Labour, along with the Blairite think tank Progress, and Labour First, which is currently trying to get six right-wing candidates onto Labour’s National Executive Committee to block Mr Corbyn’s policies there.

It occurs to This Writer that anybody who may gain an electoral advantage from the criminal activity detailed below should be barred from the elections currently taking place within the Labour Party.

Read this, from Tim Turner’s information law blog:

Saving Labour is a new organisation dedicated to replacing Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party. It may quickly need to be saved from itself. An extract from a document that appears to be from Saving Labour is being circulated on Twitter by Corbyn supporters, annoyed about what it contains. The documents contains advice on how to obtain personal data of lapsed members who are likely to be anti-Corbyn because they left the party when around the time he became leader. The document then advocates contacting them for support.

If Saving Labour (or rogue individuals) are attempting to recruit Labour members back into Labour, then the processing of data is likely to be a breach of Data Protection’s fairness requirements. If Saving Labour are trying to recruit members to Saving Labour’s mailing list or retaining data for its purposes, it’s potentially a lot worse. The most important thing here is that Saving Labour is not a faction of Labour; it is a separate Data Controller with its own Data Protection notification. If Saving Labour are obtaining data or getting others to obtain it on their behalf and for their purposes without Labour’s knowledge, it’s at least a civil breach of Data Protection.

Even if a senior Labour Party official gave explicit approval for someone to harvest personal data and use it, the likelihood of a Data Protection breach is still high. Unless the Labour Party told members that that their data would be shared with another organisation or processed after their membership had lapsed for marketing purposes, then the disclosure / processing would be a breach of the First Data Protection principle, which requires all processing of personal data to be fair. The chief element of fairness is that the person is told about how their data will be processed.

It doesn’t end there. The document encourages MPs and councillors to “call” lapsed members to encourage them to join. As I blogged only yesterday, every part of the Data Protection system has made clear that calls made for the purposes of political campaigning are marketing – so if the callers do not screen any telephone numbers against the Telephone Preference Service, it would be a breach of the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations. If they send emails or texts without explicit consent from the person, it would be a breach of PECR. It’s extremely hard to imagine that any consent given to the Labour Party could survive a lapsed membership, and Saving Labour would not have that consent in the first place.

Source: Labour pains – 2040 information law blog

If this is what Saving Labour is doing, then somebody should call the police. And it seems Saving Labour is doing this – with help. Here’s HarryH:

“I got emails from both and telling me to get member details illegitimately and canvas against JC

So, according to this tweet, it was not just Saving Labour, but Progress (responsible for the T-shirt smear against Jeremy Corbyn last month) and Labour First as well.

The T-shirt smear against Jeremy Corbyn: On the left, Lewis Parker, "creative strategist and media guru"; on the right, Anna Phillips of Blairite pressure group Progress - at the rally in support of Jeremy Corbyn on Monday, June 27. The media were in uproar about that T-shirt - at the wrong man.

The T-shirt smear against Jeremy Corbyn: On the left, Lewis Parker, “creative strategist and media guru”; on the right, Anna Phillips of Blairite pressure group Progress – at the rally in support of Jeremy Corbyn on Monday, June 27. The media were in uproar about that T-shirt – at the wrong man.

Confirmation that Progress is behind this illegal stunt came very quickly, and you can read it for yourself here.

So it really is happening – and is entirely illegal.

One wonders what the people most likely to benefit from this crime – Angela Eagle and Owen Smith – have to say about it.

Owen Smith and Angela Eagle would receive a boost in votes if anti-Corbyn voters returned to Labour via an illegal data harvesting method proposed by Progress and apparently supported by Labour First and Saving Labour[Composite: Rex, PA].

Owen Smith and Angela Eagle would receive a boost in votes if anti-Corbyn voters returned to Labour via an illegal data harvesting method proposed by Progress and apparently supported by Labour First and Saving Labour[Composite: Rex, PA].

This Writer understands that Labour’s general secretary, Iain McNicol, has been informed. That’s lovely but he hasn’t been fantastically effective in curbing the excesses of the anti-Corbyn brigade so far.

The greatest irony is that, in encouraging this illegal activity, the Blairites are breaking the Data Protection Act 1998, a law passed by a Labour government – under their idol Tony Blair.

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