Tag Archives: civil society

Another Tory falls casualty to his own swollen pride (if that’s the right word)

Healthy lifestyle: What a shame Mr Newmark had his back turned to the words that could have helped him.

Healthy lifestyle: What a shame Mr Newmark had his back turned to the words that could have helped him.

Isn’t it disappointing that the Minister for Civil Society has resigned after admitting he indulged in some spectacularly un-civil – in fact downright explicit – behaviour towards a young lady (who turned out to be an undercover newspaper reporter – and a man)?

Brooks Newmark, whose ministerial responsibilities include overseeing charities such as the Girl Guides movement, apparently started a dialogue with a reporter he believed to be a young female activist, in the course of which he transmitted an image of himself that revealed more than propriety permits.

We’re told he co-founded an organisation called Women2Win and has been an outspoken campaigner for women in politics – which seems like a lot of effort in order to indulge in this kind of behaviour.

But Mr Newmark is also on record as saying, “We really want to try and keep charities and voluntary groups out of the realms of politics… The important thing charities should be doing is sticking to their knitting.” He seems to be quite confused and it is probably just as well that he will now be able to spend more time pulling himself together.

Back in the 1980s and 90s, it seemed as though the Conservative Party had a major legover crisis every five minutes. Who can forget Cecil Parkinson’s resignation? Or how about David Mellor and his possibly-imaginary Chelsea strip (look it up if you don’t remember it)?

This is a pale imitation – an attempt at a legover crisis, and a poor attempt, at that.

Still, it has provoked a certain amount of hilarity. Tom Pride, in inimitable style, seized on the moment with the following satirical words: “A spokesperson for Number 10 said Mr Newmark’s boo-boo was clearly much too inconsequential to be of major concern:

“’The Prime Minister has seen the pictures and is assured that Mr Newmark’s folly is tiny. In fact his howler is so miniscule, negligible and trifling, it’s hardly worth mentioning at all.’

“Not long after the story broke, Mr Newmark took to Twitter to defend his bungle against accusations it is small:

“’I completely deny accusations that my howler is tiny. In fact my pickle’s actually quite a big one – certainly just as big as all the other Tory MP’s gaffes we’ve seen over the years.’

If only that were true.

It should be stressed that the use of a reporter in disguise who seems to have encouraged Mr Newmark to reveal his… indiscretion… is morally reprehensible in itself. Would he have desported himself in such a way without inducement?

Nevertheless, this piece of tattle has heaped more embarrassment on David Cameron, right on the eve of the Conservative Party conference.

This was going to be the conference where the Tories were going to state the case for their re-election, claiming they are perfectly fit to steer the ship of state on their own, without the Liberal Democrats and their pitiful attempts to behave like the political equivalent of bicycle stabilisers (if you’ll forgive the mixed metaphor).

Instead, with two Conservative MPs having defected to UKIP and more likely to follow, with a ministerial resignation due to improper behaviour, with outrage from the Queen at his own indiscretion about a telephone conversation with her, with much of Scotland on the verge of open rebellion in the belief that he lied about giving that country’s Parliament new powers, and with the rest of the UK incredulous at his claims the the economy is recovering fast when their wages are plummeting…

It suddenly seems entirely possible that Mr Cameron will be the only person there.

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See if YOUR objection is mentioned in the Surveillance Bill debate!

internet-surveillance

It seems Parliament’s discussion of the Data Retention and Investigatory Bill, also known as the Surveillance Bill, will now take place tomorrow (Tuesday) rather than today (Monday).

This works better for Yr Obdt Srvt, who has carer-related business today and would not have been able to watch the debate.

Hopefully, many Vox Political readers – if not all – have emailed or tweeted MPs, calling on them to speak and vote against the Bill which, while only reinstating powers the government has already been using, is a totally unacceptable infringement of our freedom that is being imposed in a totally unacceptable timeframe.

As has been discussed here previously, the Bill enshrines in law Theresa May’s ‘Snooper’s Charter’, requiring telecommunications companies to keep a complete record of all your telephone and Internet communications for examination by politicians.

The information to be kept includes the location of people you call, the date and time of the call, and the telephone number called.

It seems the Bill is intended to be a response to a European ruling in April, making the valid point that the government’s current behaviour is an invasion of citizens’ privacy. Clearly, therefore, the Coalition government is determined to continue invading your privacy.

The judgement of the European Court of Justice is being overridden and the Conservative-led Coalition is making no attempt to find a reasonable compromise between the need for security and the right of privacy.

The fact that David Cameron has waited more than three months before putting this on the Parliamentary timetable, during a time when MPs have had very little to discuss, indicates that he wanted to offer no opportunity for civil society to be consulted on the proposed law or consider it in any way.

Cameron wanted to restrict our freedom to question this restriction of our freedoms.

Another reason given for the haste is that foreign-based Internet and phone companies were about to stop handing over the content of communications requested by British warrants – but service providers have confirmed that this was a lie. No companies had indicated they would delete data or reject a UK interception warrant.

Ignoring the fact that this does nothing to support your privacy, at least it does completely undermine Mr Cameron’s case for rushing through the legislation.

He is offering concessions – but they are not convincing and nobody should be fooled into thinking that they make this Bill acceptable. However:

A possibility of restrictions on retention notices is not clarified in the text of the Bill, and is therefore meaningless; and

The ‘sunset clause’ for the Bill’s provisions does not come into effect for two and a half years, by which time (we can assume) the government is hoping everybody will have forgotten about it and it can be renewed with a minimum of fuss. This is how your freedoms are taken away – behind your back.

If you have not yet contacted your MP, you are advised to do so.

If you lose your right to privacy – especially to this government – you won’t get it back.

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The security services are already snooping on us – why aren’t we out in the streets about it?

A Snooper: This woman has been allowing police and security services to monitor your phone and Internet communications - illegally. Now her government wants to rush through a law to make it legal, without proper scrutiny.

A Snooper: This woman has been allowing police and security services to monitor your phone and Internet communications – illegally. Now her government wants to rush through a law to make it legal, without proper scrutiny.

No matter what Nick Clegg might say, the Coalition government will be reintroducing – and rushing into effect – Theresa May’s long-cherished Snooper’s Charter on Monday.

This is her plan to ride roughshod over your right to privacy by requiring telecommunications companies to keep a complete record of all of your telephone and Internet communications. While the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Bill does not include the content of the calls or messages, it does include the location of the people called, the date and time of the call and the telephone number called.

Theresa May’s Snooper’s Charter would have called on telecoms firms to record the time, duration, originator and recipient of every communication and the location of the device from which it was made.

Anybody who cannot see the similarities between these two would have to be blind and stupid.

Apparently the move has been necessitated by a European Court of Justice ruling in April saying current laws invaded individual privacy.

This means that the government has been doing, already, what it proposes to enshrine in law now.

But hang on a moment – this court ruling was made in April. In April? And they’re just getting round to dealing with it now?

Perhaps they were busy. But no! This is the Zombie Parliament, that has been criticised for muddling along with nothing to do, so it can’t be that.

It seems far more likely that this Bill has been timed to be pushed through without any consideration by, or consultation with, civil society – in order to restrict our ability to question what is nothing less than an attack on our freedom.

Cameron is desperate to justify his government monitoring everything you do: “The ability to access information about communications and intercept the communications of dangerous individuals is essential to fight the threat from criminals and terrorists targeting the UK.”

It isn’t about fighting any threat from criminals or terrorists, though, is it? It’s about threatening you.

Has anybody here forgotten the disabled lady who received a midnight visit from the police, at her home, in relation to comments she had posted on Facebook about the Department for Work and Pensions’ cuts?

She told Pride’s Purge: “They told me they had come to investigate criminal activity that I was involved in on Facebook… They said complaints had been made about posts I’d made on Facebook.”

Facebook is an internet communication, not a telephone communication – so you know that the security services have already been overstepping their mark. This was in 2012.

There’s always the good old postal service, embodied in the recently-privatised Royal Mail – which has been examining your correspondence for decades. You will, of course, have heard that all your correspondence with HM Revenue and Customs about taxes, and all your correspondence with the DWP about benefits, is opened and read by employees of a private company before it gets anywhere near a government employee who may (or may not) have signed the Official Secrets Act. No? Apparently some secrets are better-kept then others.

If you want proof about the monitoring of letters, I’ll repeat my story about a young man who was enjoying a play-by-mail game with other like-minded people. A war game, as it happens. They all had codenames, and made their moves by writing letters and putting them in the post (this was, clearly, before the internet).

One day, this young fellow arrived home from work (or wherever) to find his street cordoned off and a ring of armed police around it.

“What’s going on?” he asked a burly uniformed man who was armed to the teeth.

“Oh you can’t come through,” he was told. “We’ve identified a terrorist group in one of these houses and we have to get them out.”

“But I live on this street,” said our hero, innocently. “Which house is it?”

The constable told him.

“But that’s my house!” he said.

And suddenly all the guns were pointing at him.

They had reacted to a message he had sent, innocently, as part of the game. They’d had no reason to open the letter, but had done it anyway and, despite the fact that it was perfectly clear that it was part of a game, over-reacted.

What was the message?

“Ajax to Achilles: Bomb Liverpool!”

Neither of these two incidents should have taken place but many more are inevitable if this legislation goes the distance and allows the government to legitimise its current – illegal – actions.

One last point: It should be remembered that this is a government composed mainly of a political party with one member, still active, who managed to lose (or should that be ‘lose’) no less than 114 files on child abuse – files that could have put hugely dangerous people behind bars 30 years ago. Instead, with the files lost, it seems these individuals were permitted to continue perpetrating these heinous crimes.

Now, this government is launching an inquiry into historic child abuse by high-profile people, headed by a woman who is herself tainted by association with some of the accused, and by some of the attitudes she has expressed.

It is a government that should put its own House in order before it asks us to give up our privacy and let it look inside ours.

Or, as Frankie Boyle tweeted:

140711surveillance

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