Vir Cantium

I'm right, you know …

Tag Archives: Freedom

Internet Surveillance: Yes, It’s Another Round of Big Government Bingo!

OK, so far, I’ve got:

  • “combating terrorism”
  • “need to take action”
  • “serious crime”
  • “potential for saving lives”

I’ve also picked up the ‘ratchet effect’ bonus point for:

  • “There is nothing new about this….updating existing regulations.”

And for triple points the perennial:

  • “paedophile”

Of course, it’s another broken manifesto promise and another desperate attempt to pander to a perceived Daily Mail constituency (the last six years of courting the Guardian having gone so well). Today it’s the proposals to force ISPs to install equipment to monitor everyone’s internet traffic (to conform, it appears, to EU desires). It’s OK, though, they won’t be storing the contents of your emails (yet) and they will need a court order to undertake the interceptions (for now).

Indeed almost every sentence that is spoken or written in defence of the plans can be suffixed with the words ‘yet’ or ‘for now’ without negating what has been said.

I suppose we should congratulate the Home Office for so effectively house-training the Home Secretary and her team.

However, judging by the comment ratings over at the Mail, this isn’t going down too well even there.

So let us, just for the record, run through the usual rebuttals, as they cannot be repeated too often.

“If you’ve done nothing wrong, you’ve nothing to fear.” If I’ve done nothing wrong, why should I have to prove it? Innocent until proven guilty and all that? It’s one thing to be questioned by a police officer if I was at the scene of a crime, or close to a suspect, but to have my everyday movements monitored on the assumption, or just in case I am a criminal? Oh, and don’t patronise me by comforting me that court orders will be required before all this happens; how many such orders ever get refused?

“If you’ve nothing to hide…” another variation on the above. You may not think you’ve anything to hide today, but we live under a law that criminalises free – albeit very distasteful – speech and is open about introducing retrospective legislation.

“It’s for the children.” Yes, they have actually mentioned paedophiles in all this, because they’re on every street corner, you know, and no-one has ever been picked up and prosecuted after surfing or downloading such material. That famous episode of Brass Eye episode wasn’t satire, it was a prediction.

It’s all OK, though, because there will be some vague form of independent oversight, and it’s not going to be a central database (yet). So that’s alright then, we can trust the government’s word on that can’t we?




Clamping Down on Freedom

So the new look One Show had a scoop last night with the news that the new Freedom Bill will include a provision to make illegal the clamping and towing away of cars parked on private property. Cue much rejoicing at all these cowboy clampers and evil landowners getting their just desserts.

It has been followed up widely elsewhere this morning:

Wheel-clamping on private land by “cowboy” clampers is to be banned, ministers will say.

Lynne Featherstone, the Home Office minister, will announce plans to curb the activities of clampers in England and Wales.

Ms Featherstone will say the rules should be brought into line with those in Scotland, where clamping on private land was banned after a judge said it amounted to ‘extortion’ and ‘theft’.

The Daily Telegraph understands she will to speak to the Justice Ministry in Northern Ireland about banning the practice there too.

Ms Featherstone, a Liberal Democrat minister in the Home Office, said a ban on their activities was “very good news”.

She said: “I am delighted that our Government have made the decision to ban it outright. It is a ban and thank goodness.”

Ms Featherstone said that proposals to ban clamping on private land, such as company or supermarket car parks, would be included in a new Freedom Bill to be introduced in November.

The legislation will also include measures to stop companies towing away parked cars on private land without permission.

Now, where do I start?

One problem that we saw frequently under the last administration was the problem of lazy government. Featherstone was saying this morning that governments have tried to tackle the problem of “cowboy clampers” but have failed. Well then they haven’t tried hard enough. Banning clamping and towing-away will not just tackle the cowboys, but also the many reputable companies that operate in a perfectly reasonable way. Regulation (covering, say, signage, maximum fines, etc) would take a little more thought and time, but would be the more common sense approach.

Whatever, it all makes good headlines, eh?

Private landowners (or “greedy landlords” depending on your point of view) can just use barriers or fencing to protect their land, said Featherstone. Fine Lynne, but what if someone outstays their ticket, or happens to “tailgate” their way into a car park or finds some other means of entry? If someone trespasses on my land, surely I have the right to use reasonable means to eject them?

The second problem here is that “Liberal” Democrats and other modern liberals have forgotten what freedom and liberty should be about. It doesn’t mean that you can do what you like (such as parking on some else’s land without, or beyond, their permission). It means you can do what you like as long as it doesn’t restrict someone else’s freedom. Unfortunately, too often the right to own property, and the freedom to enjoy that property is being steadily eroded.

This clouded view of “freedom” is highlighted in that way this measure is to be introduced. The purpose of the Freedom Bill, one might have naively thought, is about reducing the number of laws and rules that the state has imposed on us, not adding new ones; indeed the “Your Freedom” website enthusiastically asks us “which laws and regulations you think we should get rid of”. Yet just as modern Liberals don’t “get” liberty, so the freedom bill has been twisted far beyond its prospectus. Today, the likes of Lynne Featherstone seem to have got their way in ensuring that the freedom to enjoy property has taken yet another knock.

This leads me to a final irony, which is that it will only apply to private land. I find it as odd as the smoking ban applying to private premises but not the street. In this case, there is the obvious question of why it’s OK for local authorities to use clamping and towing away, but not private landowners. Of course, it’s because councils are regulated. That’s right: regulated in, not banned from, using such measures.

In other news, further down the running order, a senior doctor has suggested decriminalising drug use. Manufacturers of barge-poles report a spike in demand.

Ban [insert party, faith or views of choice]!

Teaching unions are still demanding that BNP members be banned from the teaching profession.

Teachers will be allowed to keep their membership of the BNP and the National Front after a Government review ruled that there was no justification for banning them from joining extremist organisations.

Chris Keates, General Secretary of the NASUWT, the largest teaching union, rejected Mr Smith’s claim that it is possible for teachers to join organisations that promote racism without being racist themselves.

It seems that the unions do not think that some of their ranks can be professional enough to leave their political views at the school gates, and will discriminate against ethnic minority pupils. They also seem to think that stopping someone paying a subscription to a particular political party will erase such non-conformist views from their minds. (Yes, I think the ban on police officers joining the BNP, while it may be well intentioned, is pointless.)

So, will they next be demanding that, say, teachers holding hardline socialist views are ejected because they will discriminate against middle class kids?

No, thought not.

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown Talks Rubbish

I appreciate that headline ranks alongside “Pope Is Revealed as Catholic Shock” but sometimes the obvious does need to be stated.

YA-B was at it yesterday in the Evening Standard, talking about how undemocratic it is to allow a democratically elected party to air their views on television. Of course, it’s about the BNP and their appearance next week on Question Time.

Firstly, let me get the obligatory caveat out of the way: I do not support the BNP … abhorrent views … you know how it goes.

Right. Let’s have a look at Yasmin’s pearls of wisdom. I don’t have the time for a full fisking, and I suspect neither have you, so let’s pick out the highlights:

“The excuse used [for allowing them on] is that more than 900,000 people voted for the party during June’s European elections and the bulldoggish Griffin is now an MEP.”

It’s not an excuse Yasmin, it’s a reason. It’s called democracy. The annoying thing about democracy is that sometimes you don’t get the result you’d like. Take 1997 for example (of course, you wouldn’t).

“Yet this week two young BNP officials – who were allowed by the BBC to remain anonymous and unidentified as such – were brought on to Radio 1 to racially insult the footballer Ashley Cole – and they were not challenged once.”

Sometimes the examples of (left-wing) BBC bias are just sloppy journalism, and so it was, I suspect, with the “pro-BNP BBC bias” (it’s laughable just saying it) in that interview.

“Democracy, is it? To open the most respected TV programme in the land to those who would deny millions of us our democratic rights?”

Yes. Whereas you implicitly deny those 900,000 misguided souls who voted for the BNP their democratic right to see and hear from the second-raters they gave their support to.

“Jack Straw, Chris Huhne and Bonnie Greer should not have agreed to appear with any BNP representative on the show.”

Why? Because “no-platforming” them has worked so well up to now?

“For rational and reasonable arguments with bigots are wasted breath.”

Something we agree on. That’s worrying.

“I tried last Friday to argue passionately on BBC Radio 2 with UKIP’s Godfrey Bloom, who cheerfully calls his Asian contacts “Pakis” ….”

I was listening to that very programme. What struck me, apart from the cringe-worthy Godfrey Bloom, was Yasmin’s story about how she and a friend had got lost in a village in the countryside. After knocking on a few doors for help, unsuccessfully (the occupants were out), she found herself questioned by the police – presumably because someone had noticed strangers acting suspiciously. In Yasmin’s eyes, though, it was because this predominantly white village was naturally stuffed full of racists who had reported them for being non-white (or, to use her words “Pakis and terrorists”). Without a hint of irony, she was using the story as an illustration of racial prejudice (but not hers).

“Who next to debate with the great and good? A Ku Klux Klan leader? Holocaust denier David Irving? It would make a terrifically edgy programme.”

People like Irving need pity or ridicule, not a prison sentence. Far from being an edgy programme, I think it would give most decent people a good laugh.

There Is Hope Yet

So mob rule has, for the time being at least, been thwarted. Geert Wilders, whilst admittedly not everyone’s cup of tea, has successfully overturned the ban on entry to the UK that Jacqui Smith, then Home Secretary, had imposed on him.

Wilders wants to screen his film “Fitna”, which is less than complimentary about the Koran.

The Home Office is disappointed, reports the Telegraph:

“The decision to refuse Wilders admission was taken on the basis that his presence could have inflamed tensions between our communities and have led to inter-faith violence.”

I seem to recall, though, that the veiled threats seemed to come from closer to home. Lord Ahmed, as far as I can see, is still to comment.

Lord Ahmed on Life and Liberty

The former President of Pakistan, Pervez Musharraf, is living under police protection in London at the moment. This has caused some upset, not least among a Labour Muslim peer:

Musharraf’s presence in London stokes unrest, says Labour peer

Police protection for Pervez Musharraf, the former President of Pakistan who is living in London, should be cancelled amid fears that his presence will stoke unrest within the Muslim community, a Labour peer told The Times last night.

Lord Ahmed of Rotherham has written to the Home Secretary urging him to stop spending taxpayers’ money on protection by Scotland Yard for the exiled leader.

So which is Lord Ahmed’s primary concern: the implied waste of taxpayers’ money (which would be a first for a Labour politician), or the unrest that Musharraf’s presence is causing “within the Muslim community”? This might be a silly question, but how would not providing police protection deal with Musharraf’s presence? I am not pretending that the ex-dictator is in the Mother Theresa league of those who have done good for the world, but the truth is there are some people around who would like to despatch Musharraf to meet Allah face to face, somewhat earlier than might be otherwise expected.

As for Lord Ahmed … now, where have we heard that name before? Oh yes. He was the one who accused Salman Rushdie of having blood on his hands. According to Ahmed’s logic, Rushdie wrote stuff that upset some Muslims – so upset were they that they did violence. So, it’s Rushdie’s fault.

He was also the one who threatened to have 10,000 Muslims march on parliament to stop Geert Wilders from speaking. In Ahmed-world, if there’s someone who says things you don’t agree with, it’s OK to threaten them with who-knows-what from a baying fanatical mob. The government, displaying the sort of backbone that didn’t win us Waterloo, gave in.

Now he wants the government to be complicit in the possible murder of Pervez Musharraf because otherwise some members of the “Muslim community” might get grumpy.

I hope Mr Musharraf has kept his will up to date.

Not In My Name

Mob rule advances ever onward:

Married Labour MPs Ann and Alan Keen have come under fire for claiming thousands of pounds on a second home near Parliament, while their designated main home is only 10 miles away.
Now a group of people has taken direct action by squatting in the main home they say has been left unoccupied.

The story was covered today by Jeremy Vine on Radio 2.

Yet again, I was depressed by the number of callers who think that the law is negotiable. The ancient right to own property, which they would be quick to cite if it was their house being seized (say, by the council), is cast aside when it comes to a couple of people who they don’t like.

These squatters are not cuddly guardians of our interests as taxpayers. They are not standing up for the rights of the ordinary citizen. They are criminals, using a tenuous pseudo-legal argument to justify their latest spate of anarchistic left-wing vandalism. When one of the wasters was interviewed it didn’t take long for them to descend into a tired rant about the Keens’ voting for the Iraq War.

The Keens have not been convicted of anything. As far as I’m aware, they’ve not even been charged. Sure, you can protest against the rules that allow them to claim for a second home when their constituency is only 10 miles from Westminster, even stand outside the house with your banners, but you should have no right to unilaterally confiscate someone’s property.

It’s not “direct action”, it’s breaking the law.

Anyway, if these squatters are “reclaiming my taxes”, when can I expect my cheque?

First They Came for the Racists

It seems that Jacqui Smith has today made an attempt to get herself some positive publicity for a change take the heat off Gordon justify her government’s authoritarian fetishes by publishing a not-so-little list of those who have been banned from the UK for “preaching hate” or somesuch.

Sadly, judging by the callers on Jeremy Vine’s programme on Radio 2 today, many were quite happy to be banning people from our land based on them having the temerity to practise the right of free speech.

Now, just because “I will defend to the death their right to say” whatever nutty, wacky or plain offensive things they might say doesn’t mean I don’t support the caveat that incitement to violence should not be punishable. Such a distinction served us well for many years before Labour decided to criminalise the expression of certain views they didn’t agree with.

Depressingly, from the general public, came comments like “we are a nation of tolerance, so it’s right to ban people with these sorts of views” without, it seems, a hint of irony. Or “people died for our freedoms, so we should allow those preaching hate to come here an threaten those freedoms”.

Oh dear. Yes, many did die for our freedoms, and will continue to do so, but if anyone thinks that we should be embarking further down that slippery slope to frogmarching off those whose views, while distasteful though not advocating violence, we don’t agree with, cherry picking those who think the right way, then I think it is they who are in the wrong country.

Today, “preaching hate”, tomorrow, “denigrating vulnerable groups”? Just don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Fraser Nelson's Banking Experience

Fraser Nelson over at the Speccie has had an interesting experience with RBS:

Some tip-offs are so awful that you almost hope they are untrue. When I was told by Geoff Robbins, a computer consultant, that he had been asked about his political connections before opening an account with the state-controlled Royal Bank of Scotland it sounded fantastical.

Sadly, it seems, it was not fantastical. Fraser’s investigations revealed that indeed RBS are/were asking about political affiliations. The staff were blaming the Money Laundering Regulations. To be fair, the Money Laundering regs do require organisations, from banks to accountants and beyond, to ask some damn silly and pointless questions, but such is the nature of state regulation that the real targets of such measures often carry on as before, while the majority of the law-abiding are inconvenienced.

However, for a bank – a state owned bank in particular – to be asking about political sympathies is way out of order.

RBS’s response ran thus:

“As part of our implementation of FSA guidelines around Anti-Money Laundering activities, we introduced questions on Politically Exposed Persons as part of our account opening procedures. This has meant that staff in some instances have been asked to enquire about whether someone is a Politically Exposed Person. Unfortunately, they have asked the question of political affiliation instead. We have taken all necessary steps to ensure that our customers teams are aware of the difference and will change practices with immediate effect. This issue will also be highlighted in our ongoing staff training programmes on this important topic.”

Now in accountancy we also have to abide by the regulations. Many firms are regulated by their respective professional bodies, others by HM Revenue & Customs directly. For some enlightenment as to what a “politically exposed person” actually is, we can turn to HMRC’s guidance (pdf, 677kb, page 22), which would be near-identical to the FSA rules cited above:

Read more of this post

Who OK’d The Green Arrest?

Damian Green, Shadow Immigration Secretary, was arrested last night in connection with a leak enquiry. It would be easy to point out the Mugabe-esque nature of arresting opposition politicians for being awkward to the government. Nor that it is not out of character for Labour who, after all, created the national security legislation that was abused in order to silence critics at their party conference.

An interesting question, though, is surely such an arrest must have required clearance from the highest level in the Met? One Sir Ian Blair, who coincidentally has had his own run in with a senior Conservative recently and is now leaving, grumbling, and under a cloud?