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Trying to pinpoint the exact time I got involved with politics is something I occasionally indulge in. It was only three years ago but I have only one solid memory of why I bothered. It was the Snooper’s Charter. Designed to allow the government to spy on all its citizens, to store their browsing history and keep a record of everything they do online.
And it just passed.
I had largely forgotten it was happening, it was spearheaded by Theresa May when she was Home Secretary but the Lib Dems consistently blocked it throughout the coalition. It’s no surprise that it has shown its face again now she is Prime Minister. Still, surely such an affront to our right to privacy would face some proper opposition, surely someone in parliament would stop it – surely Labour would vote against it? They didn’t. The Liberal Democrats led the opposition against it again – but with only 8 MPs there was only so much they could do. Labour decided to abstain rather than oppose in a cowardly move that has now all but removed our right to privacy.
The new bill forces internet service providers, like BT or Virgin, to store your browsing history for 12 months and gives several public bodies access to it. It also gives the government the legal right to hack into computers, phones, and basically anything connected to the internet. This is regarded as one of the most extreme examples of a government spying on their people in the western world. Nick Clegg noted that “No other country in the world feels the need to do this, apart from Russia”.
The problem with the Bill is that it is blanket surveillance of all, guilty or innocent. Checking the internet history of terrorist suspects is one thing but collecting everyone’s is hugely misguided. The security services should have the power to spy on suspected terrorists, but only once they are suspected of something. There are a huge amount of data leaks and breaches from government. The reason we know about the extent of government surveillance at all is because of the Edward Snowden leaks back in 2013. The government cannot be trusted with this amount of, very personal, data on its citizens.
Although the government are only technically allowed to access this data if you are suspected of terrorism or as part of a police investigation it is still unacceptable for the government to collect this amount of their citizen’s information. The Bill only requires royal assent before it is passed into law so now it is a matter of waiting. “If you’ve got nothing to hide, you’ve got nothing to fear” is not how the legal system should function. People should have a right to privacy and under this government, and under Blair, that has been increasingly eroded in the name of counter-terrorism.
The fact that this has been passed into law, and the fact that our human rights continue to be eroded, shows the need for a strong Liberal Democrat presence in parliament and government. Labour have consistently shown that they cannot be trusted with our human rights and civil liberties, whatever you think of the party’s economic policies or whatever you think of Corbyn, you must see that Labour is seriously deficient if they can’t even bring themselves to oppose the biggest infringement on our right to privacy ever.