A Freedom or Great Repeal Bill: A deal with the devil worth making

I doubt many of the readers of this site will be that happy with Cameron in power. I know I'm not.

But, I contend that 5 years of Cameron is worth it. Even if he looks like his greasy carapace might crack open at any moment to release a David Icke Lizard Man.

Because the protection of civil liberties that this new parliament will provide is more important in the long term than the damage he may do to our public services.

I was too young during Thatchers years to really appreciate what she did to the country. It was only during Major that I started to (crudely) understand the pain and inequality they brought to my (strangely tory voting) parents.

Blair's new labour were the only labour party in power I had experienced, so their new nomenclature was more or less irrelevant. And whilst many people had hope for this new way, by the time I could vote the reality of Blair's government had made itself apparent to me.

As such for many of us this election has been extremely difficult. The continual, systematic, piece by piece dismantling of civil liberties by Labour since the Twin Towers attacks has been such a tremendous long term threat to our freedoms that the idea of allowing them to continue unabated with another term was unthinkable.

As unthinkable as allowing the Tories back in.

And with the corrupt First Past the Post system preventing the Lib Dems from holding a number of seats in anyway representing the 7 million votes they would eventually receive it seemed we were doomed.

But the hung parliament and the Conservative/Lib Dem coalition has produced a unique chance to undo so much of this mess.

The overlap in the venn diagram of Lib Dem/Con policies is such that any areas on which they do they agree are areas they need to push with all their strength in order to convince the public (and themselves) that they are a strong and stable government.

This is the best situation we could have possibly hoped for — as if their is one area where these parties do agree it is Civil Liberties.

I now quote from the full text of the coalition agreement document produced by the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats. §10 is a doozy.

10. Civil liberties

The parties agree to implement a full programme of measures to reverse the substantial erosion of civil liberties under the Labour Government and roll back state intrusion.

This will include:

  • A Freedom or Great Repeal Bill.
  • The scrapping of ID card scheme, the National Identity register, the next generation of biometric passports and the Contact Point Database.
  • Outlawing the finger-printing of children at school without parental permission.
  • The extension of the scope of the Freedom of Information Act to provide greater transparency.
  • Adopting the protections of the Scottish model for the DNA database.
  • The protection of historic freedoms through the defence of trial by jury.
  • The restoration of rights to non-violent protest.
  • The review of libel laws to protect freedom of speech.
  • Safeguards against the misuse of anti-terrorism legislation.
  • Further regulation of CCTV.
  • Ending of storage of internet and email records without good reason.
  • A new mechanism to prevent the proliferation of unnecessary new criminal offences.
  • I began to bold the most important parts of that list. But I stopped, because each and every part is so very, very important.

    The end of the system to systematically record every email sent and every url visited. The end of ID Cards. A commitment to libel reform. It's pretty much everything I've talked about on this blog.

    As such I wait with bated breath over the future of the Digital Economy Bill (and, of course, voting reform).

    With Clegg we have a liberal deputy prime minister who stated that he would break the law and lead a campaign of civil disobedience over ID cards.

    It is also reassuring that he will admit to being an atheist.

    We've been at a truly fundamental turning point in our history. One which is typically misunderstood or ridiculed but that makes it no less important.

    When it comes to our civil liberties and the disruptive distributed and equalised printing press we call the internet we are lumbered with MPs full of the fear of terrorism whilst being the last generation that can not understand the internet in either purpose or form.

    And for all it's cat pictures that there internet represents our cultural future and public mouthpiece. So, for all the damage to our public services in the next 5 years - if the Tories push the internet off the knife edge and back towards the openess and liberty we need, then in fifty years we'll still have the internet we need in a world we can not yet begin to understand.

    And that, I believe would be worth it.


    43 comments:

    teekblog said...

    too right - now to hold those promising these, err, promising promises to account...!

    Robert Dunn said...

    You say that you think this is misunderstood. I assume you mean by the press and media. I contend that actually they are pretending to misunderstand it as it deeply threatens the entrenched FPTP duopoly that has done the corporations bidding for so long now. Real democracy has been very effectively marginalised and its biggest threat was a change to the voting system (to something more proportional). The biggest arguement aginst a fairer voting system The case that the papers / media make anyway) is that it will produce 'hung' parliaments and force parties into coalitions that 'obviously' wont work. They will scare the electorate so badly prior to a referendum on PR (something that will - hopefully -happen after the next election) that they will vote against it. HOWEVER if everyone has seen a working example of a well functioning coalition that represents a majority of views / votes then it will be much harder to frighten folk. This is the LibDems' (and all pro-democracy folk) best bet for bringing in a fairer voting system where all votes are both courted and counted and the electorate wont have to vote tactically but can actually vote for the party / person who represents their views best. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that this coalition works out. Politically I'm far left of both Labour and LibDems but I'm very excited by this and am even thinking of joining the LibDems to support and encourage their pro-democracy / civil rights efforts.

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