Tories talk of freedom, but authoritarianism is their hallmark

Islamic symbol 'Crescent Moon' decorating top of building in Kota Kinabalu. Sabah, Malaysia by Dcubillas,  licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0, file at http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Golden_Crescent_Moon.jpgThis last week something little-noticed happened which could have very worrying consequences for the future. All local authorities, NHS trusts, schools, universities, further education colleges, and prisons had a new statutory duty imposed on themto prevent extremist radicalisation taking place within their ambit. These new duties will be vastly intrusive. Local authorities will have to make checks on the use of its public buildings, its internet filters, and on any unregulated settings such as school clubs and groups and tuition centres. In case there is any backsliding, government inspectors will check to make sure all necessary actions are taken. And most sinister of all, the target for all this isn’t just extremist behaviour (whatever exactly that means), but ‘non-violent extremism’. Continue reading

The secret state is out of control: our privacy and freedom is threatened

big-brother-1984In recent days a whistle blower has revealed that I was under surveillance by Special Branch in the nineteen eighties and nineties. I cannot say it comes as a complete surprise. Ever since the beginnings of the Labour movement, the state has made use of spies and informers. The recent revelations have been specifically about ten Members of Parliament. But I imagine that many readers of Left Futures have a Special Branch file somewhere as a result of their activities on the left or in their trade union.

When the issue was debated in parliament, there was stress on the fact that for the Special Branch to continue keep left activists under surveillance once they were members of parliament was a clear breach of parliamentary privilege. As the Guardian newspaper put it: 

this is both a grotesque breach of police power and a grave intrusion on the privilege of elected MPs, a privilege that exists to allow them to be guardians of their constituents’ freedoms”.

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How far did blacklisting extend outside construction?

BlacklistingIt was originally assumed that blacklisting was a secret tool used by construction companies – Balfour Beatty, Costain, McAlpine, Skanska, Carillion, Kier and over 30 others – to keep out people they didn’t want. To achieve this the euphemistically named Consulting Association over 16 years (1993-2009) complied a database on thousands of construction workers who were denied a job if it was reported that they were trade union activists or had expressed concern about health and safety standards or had simply been the victims of derogatory gossip, thus destroying their livelihood for sometimes 30 or more years for reasons kept secret for the worker himself. This scandal may finally be exposed in the High Court this year, though nearly half of the 3,213 persons with Consulting Association files on them have still not yet been traced. But the latest evidence now emerging indicates two other sinister trends: the extensive involvement of the police and security services and the inclusion on the blacklists of several persons in public life who have had no connection whatever with the construction industry. Continue reading

Despite Snowden May won’t take no for any answer over mass surveillance

The security services are getting desperate. Over the last 4 years they, and their political figurehead May, have tried time and time again to push mass surveillance through Parliament. Whenever a security scare arises or a trial of alleged terrorists or belated arrests over a drugs scandal, the cry is always foisted on the public that what we need is a comprehensive snoopers’ charter which will record all the communications of all the citizens in the UK.

No mention of the fact that they have already been doing this for over a decade through GCHQ’s Tempora and Bullrun programmes as Snowden revealed, and what they desperately want now is to legitimize their illegal activities. No mention that they already infiltrating our smartphones via the Dreamy Smurf programme which can turn them on even when we’ve switched them off. No mention that Nosey Smurf can turn on the microphone in a mobile remotely to listen in to our conversations, nor of Tracker Smurf which can track our location in real time. Continue reading

The roll of honour: opposed to the Indiscriminate Mass Surveillance Bill

commons bench by UK Parliament, file at http://www.flickr.com/photos/uk_parliament/2700549765/sizes/s/in/photostream/Sunny Hundal makes the crucial point about  this morning on Labour List: “an emergency was concocted. There’s little point in complaining about the rush because that was the whole point.” Ed Miliband’s Labour Party went along with it and Sunny rightly says “Ed Miliband’s civil liberties credentials are now in tatters.” Presumably, the calculation  was that the vital Lib Dem to Labour switchers will stick with us because the Lib Dems are even worse.

Twenty-two members of the Labour Party opposed the bill at second reading accompanied by only four Lib Dems and ten Tories. Many more abstained. But all the minority parties (with the exception of Respect) were there.

Tom Watson deserves particular praise for his stand, and I’m afraid Yvette Cooper particular blame, in spite of her competent delivery. Yvette has provided good reason why Ed should look elsewhere for a Labour Home Secretary. As Sunny explains: Continue reading