Principled stand or ego trip?
Many people have asked me why my colleague and friend David Davis is apparently throwing away his political career as Shadow Home Secretary over the issue of 42 day detention. His battle is not about that, it is about the much wider erosion of our basic civil liberties that has been sneaking up on us for years.
We are already living in a surveillance society: 600 public bodies (including Torbay Council) have authority to bug your phones and intercept your emails and post - they can also carry out surveillance operations and do so- 1000 a month at the last count.
Officials in Poole spied for weeks on a family taking their children to school to check that they lived inside the catchment area, for instance. The State is treating everyone as a suspect, changing the fundimental principle that they are there to serve us into something much more sinister.If you buy something, or withdraw or deposit more than about £5000 in cash your bank or the seller of the goods has to report you to the aurthorities for 'suspicious behaviour.' As solicitors and accountants know all too well the law has changed to oblige them to spy on their clients as never before, if they fail to report you, they can be prosecuted.our child may already have had his or her DNA sampled and held on the largest database in the world, without your permission or knowledge.Thousands of teenagers having been given an 'informal caution' for which they have had no right of a hearing are now finding they have a police record; in fact millions of people are now routinely 'CRB' checked without realising that you can have a record without ever having been convicted of anything - disclosures show not just convictions, but cautions, reprimands and warnings - even completely unfounded suspicions can be recorded and later reported without your having any right of redress. The Government are planning a national ID card system that will be the most intrusive in the world; and which will allow the authorities to gather even more information about you, again without your knowledge and beyond your control. And to cap it all, our government has granted itself powers to lock it's citizens up for six weeks without even knowing why, let alone being charged with anything. As David Davis himself says "None of this has made us any safer. Violent crime has doubled in 10 years, and the Government continually briefs blood-curdling assessments of the terrorist threat. It is a myth to believe that we can defend our security by sacrificing our fundamental freedoms."
Even as I am writing this I am realising just how far the road of 1984 we have gone under this paranoid Government. I thought I lived in a country where the state institutions exist to serve me and not the other way round. I thought I lived in a country where I would be considered innocent until proven guilty; David Davis' stand has made me realise I don't, which is why I will be strongly supporting him at the by election and I urge all of you to do the same.