Poking that sleeping dog with a stick

I SEEM to have caused something of a broohaha with my previous post about George Orwell.

Although I disagree with those who say we’re slipping towards a police state (just about everyone who commented on that post), I’m at least aware of the concerns that lead people to have such fears.

So you might be interested in the response I received to a letter I sent to the Home Office in August. It’s from Tony McNulty, and is dated 10 September. I’ll record it in full:

Dear Tom

Thank you for your letter of 14 August to the Home Secretary in which you ask whether a particular press article you attached about the Government’s public consultation paper on the implementation of the European Data Retention Directive (Directive 2006/24/EC) is accurate. I am replying as Minister responsible for this area.

The Directive is about the retention of communications data by communications service providers (CSPs). Communications data is essentially the who, when and where of communication, such as a telephone call. It does not include the content of a communication. For some years, CSPs have retained communications data on a voluntary basis for 12 months either for their own business purposes or for use by a range of public authorities. The Directive makes the retention of communications data for 12 months mandatory rather, but it will have very little impact on the CSPs because for the most part they retain the data already. The first stage of the transposition of the Directive into UK law, which dealt with fixed line and mobile telephone communications, was agreed by parliament in July 2007 and came into effect on 1 October 2007. The second and final stage is how we deal with Internet communications.

The press article makes a number of incorrect assumptions. These include that the Directive would give local councils the power to access communications data to investigate crime (under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (‘RIPA’) they can do this already in certain circumstances) and that access to this information was originally intended to combat terrorism and serious crime. In fact, what Parliament did when it passed RIPA was to require that public authorities needing to use a variety of covert investigatory techniques only did so when it was necessary and proportionate and that human rights considerations were at the heart of their authorisation. Under RIPA local authorities may use some types of communications data (although not the type of data which identifies the location of a caller) in order to prevent or detect crime or disorder. This is usually used to investigate such areas as housing benefit fraud and in the field of consumer protection. This contrasts with the intelligence and some law enforcement agencies which are able under RIPA to access a wider range of communications data for national security and and serious crime purposes. The Directive will not extend any public authority’s access to communications data, but rather ensure that the communications data continues to be retained in order to be accessed when RIPA permits.

The use of communications data is central to a range of work carried out by public authorities. The consultation paper on the Directive provides a number of examples of how communications data has been used. For example, it was used by the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre to identify child sex offenders leading to the arrest of 96 suspects in March to June 2008 and by Greater Manchester Police to locate and prevent a woman from taking her own life. As another example, the Ambulance Service uses communications data to locate individuals who have called 999 but are unable to say where they are, or to identify hoax callers. These are important, indeed life-saving, functions. Of course, communications data is very useful in combating terrorism and protecting national security, but it is also used, quite properly, for a wide range of other purposes.

You may like to see the consultation paper itself. It gives a full explanation of the Directive and the draft Regulations which we propose to use to implement it. It also provides an analysis of the costs associated with the implementation of the Directive. The consultation paper is at:




Now, I don’t expect that libertarians will look at this letter, or any argument in favour of RIPA, and change their minds. But there has clearly been some exaggeration of what RIPA does. Surely no-one can have any objection to the use of these powers to gather evidence against paedophiles?

The gist of most of the comments on the original post is that the primary reason for Labour’s current unpopularity is the civil liberties agenda and the perception that our rights are being diminished. But if that were the case, then that anger has only emerged in the last 14 months; after all, Labour were 10 points ahead in September last year. If my correspondents are as tuned into public opinion as they claim, then not only will Labour lose the next election, but we will end up with fewer MPs than the Liberals. No poll suggests this will happen, just as no poll has corroborated the claim that this issue is to the fore of most voters’ concerns, ahead of, say, the economy or crime.

And how significant is it, I wonder, that some of the comments posted here had a distinct bullying, even threatening tone and intent? I’m guessing that the arithmetic fact regarding the number of MPs versus the number of British citizens is a popular refrain/T-shirt logo among libertarians.

Also there is the allegation that the “War on Terror” is some kind of cynical manoeuvre by the government which is trying to use it as cover to remove civil liberties. Allow me to offer my perspective.

I do understand people’s cynicism about anti-terrorist legislation. But I don’t accept that that cynicism is as widespread as my critics suggest. Indeed, I have no doubt that a significant majority of ordinary voters would be entirely comfortable with significantly more “draconian” measures (not exactly how I would describe them) than what has already been proposed and enacted. That does not necessarily mean those members of the public are right, of course, but it’s worth re-stating that fact.

I wonder if those who oppose the government’s anti-terrorist agenda would care to put themselves in my shoes? I genuinely believe – rightly or wrongly – that Islamism (as opposed to Islam) represents the greatest and deadliest threat to our society. I believe that the aim of the terrorists is not to bring about a reduction in our civil liberties, but rather to kill as many people as possible – the more the better.

As a Member of Parliament, I feel I should place the safety and security of my constituents and fellow citizens above every other consideration. You may disagree that the threat exists, in which case you will naturally disagree with the measures I have supported. But if you accept that I believe the threat exists, then you must surely understand that I can do no other than to take steps to combat that threat as I perceive it.

I accept that there are a lot of people in our country who fear for our liberties, and who predict an Orwellian distopian future. I have no problem with individuals expressing and explaining those views on this blog (although, in answer to one person who commented earlier today: yes, I did moderate one comment to delete a swear word, and I deleted another because it contained an offensive term. No apologies. My rules). But you know something? You are in a tiny minority. The vast majority of your fellow citizens believe we live in a free country, where we are free to express our views, free to demonstrate against the government, free to read others’ opinions in a free press, protected by a robust framework of rights. And they’re right.

That’s the reality of life in Britain today.

One other point that was raised in the thread to which I feel I should respond: I have always, and always will, put my country and my constituents before my party. But I wouldn’t still be a member of the Labour Party if I didn’t believe that Labour’s programme and policies represented the best options and remedies for our nation.

But if libertarians, or anyone else, are going to send me free books, can I suggest that instead of sending me a book I’ve got two copies of already, you might consider a P.G. Wodehouse?

UPDATE at 7.40 pm: I’m in the process of drafting one final post on this subject, responding to more of the arguments made here today. It will be published at precisely 12 noon tomorrow (Sunday).


Filed under Blogging, Government, Labour, Media, Politics, Society

157 responses to “Poking that sleeping dog with a stick

  1. joe bonanno

    I have zero problem with cctv cameras.

    I have a problem with anti-terrorist legislation-creep when it is used eg by councils to catch parents fibbing about which school catchment area they are in.

    I have a problem with new anti-terrorist legislation where existing laws are perfectly adequate. This government (stuffed with lawyers) always like ‘new’ – far more fun and spin-friendly than just making sure ‘existing’ works properly.

    Building up of national databases at huge expense are a bit ho-hum. I’m dubious that we’ll ever see the benefits not least because the public sector is so cack-handed and it’s a bit like a dog chasing a car – now you’ve caught it, what are you going to do with it? Now you’ve got a record of the 500 million websites Britain visits every day – what are you going to do with it (apart from sell the information)?

    I do have a problem with the spinning of the whole terrorism business. Timing a ‘swoop on terrorists’ in Manchester to coincide with the day Princess Tippytoes backtracked on the European referendum for example. And somehow the Press being aware (and wrongly) that Old Trafford was a target.

    Or the ‘liquid explosives’ airline threat where, as we can see from the court case, the ongoing threat (non-existent as all parties were in custody) was hugely hyped by (haha) Prime Ministerial hopeful John Reid.

    In short I care absolutely not a jot whether we are headed towards a surveillance state but I do get irritated by the politicisation and overhyping of the terrorist threat. Vote Labour – we’ll protect you.

  2. “The vast majority of your fellow citizens believe we live in a free country, where we are free to express our views, free to demonstrate against the government, free to read others’ opinions in a free press, protected by a robust framework of rights. And they’re right.”

    You utter liar.

    Quote your source.

    I am NOT free to demonstrate against my government, as you will witness outside the houses of Parliament on November 5th at 12:15.

    My contempt for you is complete. In fact, you may now know that I intend to make yo eat your words. I will show you to be a liar and corrupt, your party to be liars and corrupt and I will take the Blogosphere with me.

    You haven’t poked a sleeping dog, you have poked a massive hornets nest.

  3. “You may disagree that the threat exists, in which case you will naturally disagree with the measures I have supported. But if you accept that I believe the threat exists, then you must surely understand that I can do no other than to take steps to combat that threat as I perceive it.”

    There is, of course, the third option which you ignore. That is to say people who agree that the threat exists but believe that the illiberal measures imposed and proposed to meet it are disproportionate, wrong-headed and counter productive. In Vietnam there was the mindset of ‘burn the village in order to save it’ and in your party’s cack-handed defence of liberal democracy, you are discarding the very liberties you profess to defend.

    Of course, you will argue, its more serious if you get blown up than imprisoned without trial for 42 days or surveilled continuously and on the face of it that’s hard to argue with. Until you consider the numbers of people involved, the numbers that will be arrested and detained and spied upon and the inevitable creep of so-called anti-terror powers into other areas. What MP thought they were voting in the right of LAs to pull the phone records of dog-owners whose pooch poops on the pavement?

    My point, which I fear will be lost on you, is that if I am less free because of islamic terrorism or because of government legislation matters not. I am less free.

  4. Johnny Norfolk

    Any reply that long should be held with the deepest suspicion. You can tell these people have never had to run a business. how much are governments going to pay firms for keeping this information for them. The whole thing stinks.

  5. Nicholas

    “Surely no-one can have any objection to the use of these powers to gather evidence against paedophiles?”

    That is a typical New Labour emotive response which subtly implies that anyone opposed to your Draconian legislation is somehow in favour of crime, terrorism, paedophiles, etc. It is intended to stifle dissent by imposing a form of moral blackmail. It typifies the New Labour approach to legislation and is very resonant of totalitarian states where any dissenters are characterised as anti-social, etc., to be bullied into conforming to the party line. In fact your line of reasoning makes me think you do not understand democracy at all.

    Hoon was less subtle on QT when he actually accused a panel member opposed to this type of legislation of being potentially responsible for any future deaths from terrorist attacks.

    “I believe that the aim of the terrorists is not to bring about a reduction in our civil liberties, but rather to kill as many people as possible – the more the better.”

    Firstly, that may not be their aim, but as a consequence of their activities, actual and threatened, it is already a partial victory, since they seek to deprive us of our democratic freedom. New Labour have obliged. The philosophical response to terror and its implications for our democratic institutions have not been properly debated in parliament as they once would have been. But, the outcomes of the 42 days debacle should have made it very clear to you and your colleagues that there is much more to this than the simplistic, knee-jerk reaction of New Labour.

    Secondly, you make a presumption that the measures you have taken will actually decrease the risk of such attacks. That is not proven. In fact many experts have raised their heads above the parapet to suggest they will not. New Labour has ignored these experts.

    “But you know something? You are in a tiny minority. The vast majority of your fellow citizens believe we live in a free country, where we are free to express our views, free to demonstrate against the government, free to read others’ opinions in a free press, protected by a robust framework of rights.”

    What is your evidence for that? How do you know that a “vast majority” believe we live in a free country? In the post below those supporting your viewpoint, one person who articulated rather foolishly, were in a clear minority to those opposing. In fact the current state of affairs has also been the subject of disbelief even from some American and foreign commentators. Look at Britain’s standing in various civil rights rankings as internationally acknowledged. That should be a matter of some concern to the government. A characteristic of New Labour is to claim to know the majority viewpoint without actually bothering to find out (I exclude your vested interest, Labour infested focus groups). And how can you claim that we are free to express our views when a 14 year old boy is arrested by police for displaying a banner with the word “cult” on it during a peaceful demonstration; when you have introduced “hate” crimes which are so blurred in their concept as to result in the most ridiculous arrests by your police? We are not free to demonstrate but required to apply for permission in advance in order to demonstrate or face arrest. If you had bothered to actually visit and study the Magna Carta website I linked to you might have a better level of understanding for the true implication of your New Labour laws and the way they have eroded our freedoms.

    If you are in any doubt you should visit the websites of the many other organisations and individuals that have raised these issues and are concerned about them. The response to David Davis resignation and the hundreds of comments in the press and the statements of support for him from civil liberties organisations should make it clear to you that it is far from being a tiny minority. I think you will learn the extent to which your party is held in contempt in this respect, even by former Labour supporters, in the next General Election.

    Where is the “robust framework of rights” you boast of? Your legislation has attacked Magna Carta, the 1689 Bill of Rights, our Common Law and many other articles and statutes intended to protect individual freedoms and to ensure justice for individuals subject to the rule of law. Even the abandonment of the old Judges Rules has resulted in a situation where protection for those arrested has been eroded. You have presided over procedural and legislative changes which have moved us ever closer to a situation where to be arrested is to be presumed guilty rather than innocent. How can you pretend that the extradition agreement with the USA and the European Arrest Warrant represent a “robust framework of rights”? That is nonsense. New Labour have actually surrendered British rights in a way that puts our citizens in a jeopardy not shared in other countries. Every day the papers and blogs are full of the most outrageous stories where ridiculous laws have been enforced in a puerile manner by your growing legions of uniformed officials. The politicisation of the police, the abandonment of the police constable’s discretion, the invisible and unaccountable workings of the CPS and the imposition of binding central targets have all contributed to an alien feel to the British police, exacerbated by the aggressive para-military uniforms and procedures (smashing down of doors without preliminary enquiries and arrest for trivial offences, retention of fingerprints and DNA for those not charged or found not guilty, etc.) which have been introduced during your watch by the police themselves. Yes, some of these may be exaggerated or even misreported, but there is a still an obvious trend since 1997 for anyone who has eyes to see or to read.

    “And how significant is it, I wonder, that some of the comments posted here had a distinct bullying, even threatening tone and intent?”

    If it is significant at all then I think it may be significant of the extent to which New Labour’s increasingly authoritarian stance frustrates and angers those individuals who are passionate about our traditional freedoms. You should understand that many of us find New Labour legislation and enforcement itself has a “distinct bullying, even threatening tone and intent” which imposes a very different relationship between the public and the state. These changes have done harm to the traditional goodwill normally exchanged between the public and the police and have intensified tensions with ethnic minorities.

    “I wonder if those who oppose the government’s anti-terrorist agenda would care to put themselves in my shoes? I genuinely believe – rightly or wrongly – that Islamism (as opposed to Islam) represents the greatest and deadliest threat to our society.”

    Firstly I think you should try to put yourself in the shoes of those who oppose rather than expecting them to try yours on. You are the MP, charged and entrusted to represent the majority views of your constituents. Secondly, the issue with Islamism, as you define it, has no doubt been exacerbated by the foreign adventures your government committed us to, under false pretences and quite probably illegally. Finally, the response from your party and your government also represents a deadly threat to our society and it is debatable whether your mitigation of the risks is actually worse than the potential dangers from the threat. Some, I am one, would rather take their chances with terrorist threats rather than give up the freedoms our forebears fought and died to protect. It’s not as if we have no experience of this. It was not thought necessary to impose all this freedom-stealing legislation during the Northern Ireland troubles.

    Another aspect of the debate is trust. You might find more willingness on the part of the public to engage with and support the measures you have enacted and/or proposed if your track record for competence in data handling and managing IT projects was not so appallingly poor.

    One thing your response does provide though, is a clear indication of how a New Labour MP conceives an alternative reality in order to remain completely detached from the real depth of public feeling and to be dismissive of the very real concerns of ordinary people.

  6. pagar

    Thanks, Tom for a measured and intelligent response to the issues raised.

    As a Member of Parliament, I feel I should place the safety and security of my constituents and fellow citizens above every other consideration.

    And you are correct that safety and security is what most people want and that libertarians, who cherish individual freedom above security, are in a minority. But the fact that your Government has fomented entirely irrational fear- of crime, of terrorism, of climate change (even fear of illness) as an excuse to enact illiberal legislation is the charge.

    Surely no-one can have any objection to the use of these powers to gather evidence against paedophiles?

    And you are guilty.

  7. Stu

    Since I’ve been largely arguing your side on this debate, there might (and I stress might – I’m not an orgnaised person by nature) be a pristine copy of Joy In The Morning winging its way to you. Or Something Fresh. Either one is exceptional. 🙂

  8. Devil's Kitchen

    “Surely no-one can have any objection to the use of these powers to gather evidence against paedophiles?”

    Is that the sound of a dog-whistle that I hear? And have you not heard of the disastrous travesty that was Operation Ore?

    Actually, yes, I do object to my communications being monitored in this way. And before you trot out the line about “having nothing to fear if you’ve nothing to hide”, I will respond with two points:

    1) Who I talk to is none of your business. It is never any of your business.
    2) Even if this government does not abuse these powers, can you speak for the next one? Or the next? Your government has put in place all of the fenceposts required to turn this country into a police state very, very easily.

    “I believe that the aim of the terrorists is not to bring about a reduction in our civil liberties, but rather to kill as many people as possible – the more the better.”

    But to what end, Tom? Terrorists do generally have an objective — yes, even Islamist terrorists. Don’t they like the colour of our skin? Or is it that they believe our lifestyles to be unacceptably decadent, i.e. too liberal, and they wish to change that?

    Anyway, thank you very much for pointing out that all of this monitoring is, in fact, initiated and controlled by an EU Directive that our elected Parliament can neither amend nor refuse: it merely confirms to us the fact that Westminster is little more than a rubber stamp for laws made outwith our elected Parliament.

    So, remind me again: what do we pay you ludicrous amounts of money for?


  9. Keith

    Can we demonstrate in Whitehall or near the House or shall we witness another head bashing by coppers on demonstrators who had the temerity to stand up for what they believed in…foxhunting?

  10. Nicholas

    And another thing . . .

    I mentioned “organisations” in my previous post. To expand that:









    Do you think these organisations would have proliferated if there were not a genuine threat to liberty from your New Labour government and do you think they represent a “tiny minority”?

  11. Yes, you can demonstrate near Parliament, provided you give advance notice to the police – we’ve had that rule in Glasgow (regarding marches) for longer than I’ve lived here (22 years). And as far as I understand it, the government plans to lift even this restriction.

  12. Norman Bates

    McNulty? You cannot be serious. No one in realworldsville believes a word he says. He’s, if possible, worse than you.

  13. old holborn

    Once again Tom, you twist.

    You can demonstrate near Parliament if the Police allow it.

  14. Norman, I suspect your pseudonym was well-chosen. You need to take some deep breaths and have a lie down.

  15. Ian Shephard

    mmmm..where do I start?

    1) If your party believes we need even more legislation than we already have with specific regard to paedophiles and islamists (which I do not agree with, btw) then in all honesty it should attempt to secure consensus for specific legisation aimed specifically at those two groups…not to pass legislation which may be used against any other group or person for a completely different purpose at some future date as the government sees fit…Like using anti-terror laws against Iceland as a consequence of our own ‘poor judgement and irresponsible investment of taxpayers money.

    Additionally I felt obliged to take issue with this: “I have always, and always will, put my country and my constituents before my party”

    Neither the country nor, I expect, your constituents would have wanted you to vote in favour of the appalling Lisbon Treaty. That vote was driven through on Party power alone.

    It would seem that the Labour Party are incapable of passing simple law relating to ‘action and consequence’. Your party is drafting baggy, catch-all legislation for whch interpretation is left to local enforcement agencies on a case by case basis…hardly what you’d expect from a party which supposedly values freedom.

    If you beleive we face specific threats then, to my mind, you and your colleagues have a duty to ensure that the scope of your flood of legislation is only as much as is absolutely necessary and is limited to it’s ‘claimed’ intended targets….

  16. Chris' Wills

    Interesting, in the letter you posted a copy of “….that access to this information was originally intended to combat terrorism and serious crime…” and he says this is an incorrect viewpoint. Do you actually agree that RIPA wasn’t sold as an anti-terrorism bill?

    “…..public authorities needing to use a variety of covert investigatory techniques only did so when it was necessary and proportionate and that human rights considerations were at the heart of their authorisation. ….”

    Proportionate and human rights are mentioned. Who decides what is proportionate?
    If the surveillance is secret how do I find out about it to get it stopped?
    There’s one right gone, the right to recourse to law. Can’t sue the buggers to stop them snooping if you have no rights to see the records on what the PAs are doing.

    Also, back to freedom and liberty.
    Why should you know who I talk to, none of your business.
    I was going to write, if I commit a crime then charge me, however given all the new laws and limitations now in place I suspect we break a law everytime we walk to the shops.

    The state even has the power to prevent peaceful protests. I remember when we had Orange marches one week and Sinn Fein the next, a slight annoyance for those driving in town but no big issue; wonder what the police would say now.
    Even worse if you dare voice opposition near the palace of westminster.

    On the terrorism rot, if it is such a big threat now why wasn’t it so when the IRA attacked? More subjects of her majesty murdered by them, yet we weren’t cowed into surrendering the very freedoms and liberties that they attacked.

    It is simply untrue that these laws will, in any serious way, make us safer; they wouldn’t have prevented 7/7. All they do is hand more power to the state.

    Surrendering liberty for security leads to the loss of both.

  17. Ruth

    I’m afraid I must disagee with your opinions Mr Harris. As someone has already pointed out, Poole Council has used RIPA to spy on a family over their choice of school, and, despite being slapped down officially over it – twice – Poole Council is still claiming they were ‘right’. They also apparently use this law to catch dog owners who don’t clear up after their dog – again already mentioned. Their recent trick – which is causing them severe problems- and I hope will cause them many more- is their intention of loading up the private details of all bus pass holders to a DB which will be shared nationwide with every dog & devil to prevent ‘bus pass fraud’ – people having bus passes for more than one area – as bus passes are usable nationwide why would they even bother to try & commit fraud? Does this news make me feel safer from terrorism? You may also be interested in the 2006/2007 report from Privacy International stating that Britain is one of the most highly surveillanced countries in the world, alongside Russia, China, Singapore and Malaysia – now that’s a record to be proud of – NOT! And that’s before ID cards, childrens’ DB (politicians’ kids exempt of course) NHS DB etc. I can only hope that you & your party of Stasi politicians lose your seats in the next General Election. ‘It is better to live one day as a lion than a hundred years as a sheep – Julius Caesar, 100-44 B.C’

  18. Norman Bates

    There is also, of course, the problem with this government’s total inability to hold on to the data they DO have.


    Government’s record year of data loss

    By David Harrison
    Last Updated: 1:11AM GMT 07 Jan 2008

    A record 37 million items of personal data went missing last year, new research reveals.

    Most of the data was lost by government officials but councils, NHS trusts, banks, insurance companies and chain stores also mislaid or published personal information about staff or members of the public.

    Many losses were caused through CDs going missing in the post, laptop thefts, and inadequate security systems that failed to stop hackers reading information stored on computers.

    The details lost included those of names, addresses, passports, bank and mortgage accounts, credit cards, hospital records, dates of birth, national insurance numbers, driving licences and telephone numbers.

    The “shocking” total of 36,989,300 items prompted calls for the Government to kill its plans for national identity cards.

    I will not be taking up the ID card, but were I to, I would need the above addressed.

    Next sneer, Tom?

  19. pr roger j clementine iii cbe

    I’m not going to lie to you Mr Harris (can I call you Tom, or Tam even? I’d prefer Tam, it’s more, you know, nice), but my favourite type of chocolate bar is the humble twix. Does HM’s government have any intention of banning said product, and if so, WHY!?

    Yours in Nobility

    The Prof

  20. Norman Bates

    November 1, 2008 at 2:04 pm

    Thanks, Tom for a measured and intelligent response to the issues raised.

    As a Member of Parliament, I feel I should place the safety and security of my constituents and fellow citizens above every other consideration.

    And you are correct that safety and security is what most people want and that libertarians, who cherish individual freedom above security, are in a minority.

    Sources and references for the above statement, please. How do you know this? What figures can you produce to confirm this?

    Over to you, Pagar

  21. Chris' Wills

    Tom, only 22 years?

    I didn’t realise that you are another newcomer :o)

    On the request to hold a demonstration, wasn’t the approval for that a local authority/police power?
    If the goverment lifts the requirement (which it may not have the right to do if it is a local power) to ask permission to march/protest I’ll be happily suprised.

    Or do you mean that we’ll be allowed to protest only outwith the city?

  22. Lifetime Labour Voter


    Clearly, many of those who have commented here are, as I was, lifetime Labour voters, who are now utterly opposed to New Labour.

    Why do you think that is? What is your perception with regard to this matter? I’m in my late 50s, and had voted Labour since I could first vote until Blair and co. lied us into Iraq.

    Never again.

    I guess I’m just stupid, yes? Or do you think I may have legitimate concerns? And if you don’t, do you feel sneering at the likes of me is appropriate? Remember – I pay your salary. I contribute to your pension (mine is now worth less than 2/3rds of what is was two months ago). You are answerable to me.

  23. Nick Jones

    Mr. Harris – you might think there’s nothing wrong in a country where the police can stop and question 2 British Legion volunteers out selling poppies, complete with all the correct documentation, and order them to desist and go home, but I don’t.
    Police – and MP’s for that matter – are in place to use their judgement and act in the interest of the public, their employers.
    You brush aside the 1984 warning about the general direction of Britain of today, but to do so is to ignore the real, everyday, growing anger and fear about the way we are governed that is very definitely present in the country. Do you propose ever to listen to what people are saying? Or will you continue to know what’s best for us without troubling to find out?

  24. Nick – you seem to equate “listening” with “agreeing”. I am listening very carefully to all these arguments because I think this is an important debate. But, like you, I suspect, nothing I’ve read so far causes me to change my mind.

  25. Lifetime Labour Voter

    New Labour. Looking after you and me.


    Councils use anti-terror laws to spy on ‘bin crimes’

    More than half of councils are using anti-terror laws to spy on families suspected of “bin crimes”, it has emerged.

  26. Tom, you say: Yes, you can demonstrate near Parliament, provided you give advance notice to the police.

    Why, in a free democratic society do I need to involve the police in exercising my constitutional rights. That is blatantly politicising the police force and is not what police are for.

    Your rebuttal in your main post above concentrates on only 1 piece of legislation, RIPA, which as we all know is heavily abused, unfortunately moreso by Tory and LibDem councils than Labour ones.

    However, let me remind your readers that in the past 11 years, your Party have introduced over 26,000 new laws, and that figure is increasing on average by 4000 new regulations per month primarily using Statutory Instruments, further many of these Acts and SI’s have removed the right to civil action by changing the very premise of what is a civil misdemeanour and what is a crime by creating in excess of 3000 new criminal offences.

    This clever ploy then justifies the use of the plethora of databases, such as DNA storage, retention and analyses (which has no legal base, confirmed by Lord West, HoL 9th Oct), fingerprint databases, ANPR vehicle movement database and the National Identity Register to name just a few.

    Arguing the case for 1 law is easy in isolation, but when we add them together we see the building of a state that considers people nothing more than cattle, to be tagged, databased and watched, milked of their money through taxes and fines, and to be herded into carefully managed ‘diverse’ groups so that you can continue to divide and rule.

    Even now, the Counter-terrorism Bill which is wending its way through the Parliamentary system, grants powers under Clause 18, Material not subject to existing statutory restrictions which are not strictly limited to terrorism investigations, but are generally applicable all crime, no matter how petty.

    Please tell me that the State is all benevolent and that this is all for my own good. I am sure the people of the UK will understand.

  27. Lifetime Labour Voter

    WRT the above, and the abuse of the RIPA act, Yvette Cooper pronounced on Question Time, not that the act had been very poorly framed, but that “some councils were misusing it”.

    Your government’s legislation. Oppressive and invasive. Come snooping round my bin and I’ll tip you in it.

  28. Devil’s Kitchen puts my concern very nicely, I am unhappy with what this legislation will grow into, or more importantly, what it will allow coming governments to grow into.

    I work with RIPA everyday, and am well aware of what the safeguards and requirements are. The problem is one of accountability, as more and more agencies use this legislation you need more and more people to audit the work done under it. When someone does something on a whim, (bins, catchment areas, dog crap et al) there is nothing physically stopping them doing it, they may get caught out in the future, but by then the damage is done. Add in to the mix the capacity for human error of judgement by managers and (if my public sector workplace is anything to go by) enormous cuts in the medium, frequency and quality of training for users, then there is only one predictable outcome.

    ‘To detect crime and disorder’ the phrase goes. Well, in many places, letting your dog do what comes naturally and leaving it there is punishable by a fine, which is errrm, fine. But then would it not qualify as crime or disorder? Yes. Is the use of RIPA in these circumstances proportionate? You and I would both argue not, but to the man or woman working in the parks or anti-dog crap unit in Megatropolis City Council, who has an annual report full of targets and key performance indicators, and who feels their job is very important indeed, then yes, use of RIPA is absolutely proportionate. Senior managers will not stop them, because all they ever see are the end results, they have no comprehension of the machinery, and they demand results, so the pressure for the mis-use of these powers is increased.

    And it is true, because I have seen it, in my workplace, and have had stand up rows with VERY high level officials who demand something be done and refuse to accept that to do so would be illegal at worst and ethically very questionable at best.

    Now, if you are on £20k per annum and struggling to make ends meet, what is going to be your primary concern? Your continued employment if you do not comply with your ignorant manager’s demands, or the rights and privacy of the guy leaving his bin lid open?

    It isn’t the big stuff that is important, it’s these little things. A few peices of loose gravel will result in a huge avalanche 300 metres further down the mountain.

    Over the last 6 years especially I have noticed in my area that policy and legislation changes have been frequent, ill thought out and always as a reaction to some dire incident, even if it has been a one-off rather than an emerging trend. It is poor governance and will end very badly, for all concerned.

  29. Nicholas – you demolished Tom’s argument.

    Tom – “I genuinely believe – rightly or wrongly – that Islamism (as opposed to Islam) represents the greatest and deadliest threat to our society.”

    This is very interesting.

    1) Where do you draw the line between Islamism and Islam? Isn’t the Muslim’s call to win the world for Allah? Convert or destroy the ‘infidels’? It is normal in many Muslim countries to deal harshly with converts to other religions. This is Islam itself, or its interpretation by tyrannical leaders, not what you call Islamism but Islam in action!

    2) Government has actively encouraged immigration (remember the Romanian embassy visa scandal?), in my view as part of its social engineering programme.

    As the results from the 2001 Census reveal – “In England, 3.1 per cent of the population state their religion as Muslim (0.7 per cent in Wales), making this the most common religion after Christianity.”

    Is it any wonder that Christianity gets denigrated under New Labour as society gets re-engineered to be a one-size-fits-all, i.e. a police state where speech is monitored to catch thought criminals?

    Does anyone remember “Operation Napkin“? Undercover cops going to Indian and Chinese restaurants in pairs to listen for any remarks that could be taken as racist.

    They hardly caught anyone, but had a nice time, I’m sure.

    The problem is, that it is not the Muslim way to be wallflowers! As we have a couple of million in the UK, there will be a clash of cultures; it’s the same the world over.

    Imagine if two million Britons lived in Iraq and Iraq brutally attacked the UK without a good reason.

    You get the picture?

    And the guilty ones are those who have knowingly allowed all this to happen in order t0 destroy our sense of nationhood to ripen us for inclusion into a United States of Europe – with as little resistance as possible.

    Not quite working as planned, is it? But as HMG has given away so much of our sovereignty, the EU has numerous options of silencing our dissent.

  30. OK, you get a fisking on this one:

    – Firstly – you pick a relatively lame (easy?) target to defend: RIPA. What about subsequent legislation?

    “But there has clearly been some exaggeration of what RIPA does.”

    – Because of course there has been NO exaggeration of what terrorists do either has there?

    (Dimwit note: I – and many others who are objecting – are aware that RIPA isn’t “anti-terrorist” legislation; the previous point is a comparison to highlight relative hypocrisy).

    “Surely no-one can have any objection to the use of these powers to gather evidence against paedophiles?”

    – Lame beyond belief. If in a desparate corner, bring up paedophiles, or “extremists”.

    “The gist of most of the comments on the original post is that the primary reason for Labour’s current unpopularity is the civil liberties agenda and the perception that our rights are being diminished.”

    – Disingenuous Tom. Your blog post is about 1984 and Orwellian themes. Quelle surprise – people bring up this issue in response. Civil Liberties is simply one issue amongst many, many more that people are deeply unhappy (and afraid).

    “But if that were the case, then that anger has only emerged in the last 14 months; after all, Labour were 10 points ahead in September last year.”

    – Outside the political – media bubble; these measures are about as meaningful as foxheads on sticks.

    “And how significant is it, I wonder, that some of the comments posted here had a distinct bullying, even threatening tone and intent?”

    – You put yourselves into a position where you purport to know better than everyone else and think you are equipped to dictate to us for “our own good”. You deserve everything that comes your way.

    “Also there is the allegation that the “War on Terror” is some kind of cynical manoeuvre by the government which is trying to use it as cover to remove civil liberties”

    That is precisely what is happening. The government even helps a few events along nicely – such as Nuclear proliferation. If you doubt this, then you should consult the – secret – Customs report of 2005 on British national Peter Griffin and then get back to me. What little progress Iran has actually made with constructing nuclear weapons was done with the blessings of Anglo-American intelligence and high level officials. Their programme could have been scotched many years ago, but unfortunately another bogey-man is required.

    I wrote the original proposal to build a stock exchange on Kish Island in 2001, which was to deal with the emerging Caspian sea commodities. Prior to September 11th that year, the realpolitik of the region was markedly different and would surprise many people if they knew. Iran was not only keeping the Taliban in check (n.b. the Taliban – the Frankenstein created by Western intelligence and the Pakistani ISI) – in fact they were regularly shelling them. Iran at the time also had first dibs on the Caspian region’s resources. They had successfully managed to snub U.S. interests in the region, as Iran was going to be the conduit through which the Capsian commodities would have been transported. This was scotched post September 11 when the Caspian states were recruited by the Anglo-American axis for the perpetual war for perpetual peace.

    “I do understand people’s cynicism about anti-terrorist legislation. But I don’t accept that that cynicism is as widespread as my critics suggest. Indeed, I have no doubt that a significant majority of ordinary voters would be entirely comfortable with significantly more “draconian” measures”

    – You “suspect”. In other words – you have zero evidence for this.

    “I wonder if those who oppose the government’s anti-terrorist agenda would care to put themselves in my shoes?”

    – Perhaps you could try something as breathtakingly rational as putting yourself in OUR shoes? Perhaps you could try mine for size: I have worked in a profession that deals with many violent thugs and criminals on a regular basis. I have done this for over 10 years. I have observed in that time the transformation of the police into a statistics and revenue gathering force for Her Majesty’s government. The very last thing they seem interested in doing is tackling violent criminals (god forbid, actual terrorists).

    I have witnessed, first hand, dozens of cases of police negligence and cowardice in the face of their responsibility to protect citizens. In fact – on one occasion last year, myself and a friend were protecting two police officers from an angry mob. If I have a serious problem these days the last people I call are the revenue and statistics branch, oops sorry, police, – I get much better and effective help from my friends. A lot of people don’t have that luxury though.

    “I genuinely believe – rightly or wrongly – that Islamism (as opposed to Islam) represents the greatest and deadliest threat to our society. I believe that the aim of the terrorists is not to bring about a reduction in our civil liberties, but rather to kill as many people as possible – the more the better.”

    – Well that would be WRONGLY then wouldn’t it. Not to defend islamofascist types (they’re part of the same club as you lot), however, the basis of many such groups are in nationalist causes. There’s this thing called history you can check to confirm this. (n.b. cf my notes above about Iran and the realpolitik situation in the region). P.S. more British people have been killed by veterans suffering with PTSD than by terrorists. P.P.S. where was this huge raft of anti-terrorist legislation when the IRA directly targeted Thatch and the cabinet – almost succeeding in getting the lot of them?

    “As a Member of Parliament, I feel I should place the safety and security of my constituents and fellow citizens above every other consideration. You may disagree that the threat exists, in which case you will naturally disagree with the measures I have supported. But if you accept that I believe the threat exists, then you must surely understand that I can do no other than to take steps to combat that threat as I perceive it.”

    – The fact remains that I am in FAR more danger – by a factor of 100 – from very real, organised criminals who live in my city. But unless they have political goals, or are paedophiles, they get a free pass from you lot. I’ve done more to stop these scum single handedly than you. Get over yourself.

    “But you know something? You are in a tiny minority. The vast majority of your fellow citizens believe we live in a free country”

    – Evidence please. (Feel free to continue ignoring the overall tenor of comments on your blog too….nice work).

    “where we are free to express our views, free to demonstrate against the government, free to read others’ opinions in a free press, protected by a robust framework of rights”

    – All of which are being comprehensively reduced. Others have provided you with numerous examples. Continue ignoring them. I know you will.

    “That’s the reality of life in Britain today.”

    – You know NOTHING of the reality of life in Britain today.

  31. Jay

    “Nick – you seem to equate “listening” with “agreeing”. I am listening very carefully to all these arguments because I think this is an important debate. But, like you, I suspect, nothing I’ve read so far causes me to change my mind.” (Tom Harris)

    Doesn’t this remark rather sum up the point that many comments make: that, even if the Government does listen (and I believe that its listening is highly selective), if what it hears runs contrary to its agenda, it disregards? Shouldn’t a democratically elected government act to address the concerns of the electorate even if it disagrees that the issues should be of concern?

  32. Nick Jones

    So, it was okay for the police to stop those poppy sellers collecting those charity contributions, right?
    Just what would it take to make you change your mind?
    How many innocents banged-up without trial for weeks?
    How many businesses stifled by red-tape enforced by unthinking jobsworths?
    How many brave service peoples’ lives lost because the money that could have been spent on decent armoured vehicles has been squandered on spin merchants?
    How many redundancies and enterprise failures brought about by years of economic mismanagement?
    How many more restrictions on rights of assembly and protest?
    How many fewer than 14 people per CCTV camera?
    Perhaps this national sense of foreboding about the slide towards authoritarian or totalitarian government hasn’t reached Westminster or Glasgow South. I’ve not normally been all that bothered about political issues, and neither have most of my friends, colleagues, or blokes down the pub. Let me tell you – that’s all changed now.

  33. Devil's Kitchen

    “But, like you, I suspect, nothing I’ve read so far causes me to change my mind.”

    Sure, but most of them won’t affect you, will they?

    What do you care about having to ask the permission of police to protest outside Parliament? You are hardly going to protest against your own party.

    What do you care if alcohol prices are forced up by the government? Your bars are subsidised by taxpayers.

    What do you care if children are fingerprinted and put on a database? Yours are exempt.

    What do you care that petrol prices are high — and that for every £1 spent, about 70p goes to the Treasury? You claim travel expenses, paid for by taxpayers.

    What do you care that taxes are higher, that money is worth less? You and your cronies simply vote yourselves higher salaries and higher expenses limits (that you don’t stick to anyway).

    What do you care that pensions have been destroyed (both by the current prices and Labour’s ACT)? Your pension is final salary and cast-iron guaranteed by the taxpayer.

    What do you care about the soldiers — often for want of decent equipment — dying in your illegal foreign adventures? You aren’t on the frontline, and you need only mouth a few weasel words in Parliament when it’s one of your constituents that has died.

    What do you care about any of this? If life gets more expensive, you and the rest of your Westminster buddies simply ensure that you are financially insulated.

    What do you care for civil liberties? If you vote in more draconian and illiberal measures, you and your mates simply ensure that you are exempt.

    So what do we care for you and your Parliamentary, Mr Harris? Not a lot, frankly.

    What we see is a bunch of people, blithely acceding to the laws of an unelected EU Commission, and meanwhile shoving their snouts so firmly into the trough that they’ll soon be chewing through the bottom of it.

    This is not a party issue, Tom, because the Conservatives will be little better (with all the EU laws on the statute books, they could not be if they wanted to): many of us loathe the lot of you.

    There have been many surveys over the last few years, showing in just what little regard you and your corrupt chums are held. I repeat, this is not a party issue: the British public have little but total contempt for the lot of you.


  34. Jim Baxter

    I’ve yet to see anybody point out how much the rules of evidence in this ‘police state’ have changed over the past 30 years towards guarding against miscarriages of justice, much to the frustration of some police officers. In the 70s you could just give your suspects a good kicking until they gave in, or threaten their families. Ask the Birmingham Six. Ask Chris Mullin. It’s quite a bit harder for police officers to get away with that these days, and by no means all would want to. Changes like that just don’t convince me that our right to be considered innocent until tried and found guilty is being eroded across the board.

  35. pagar


    I don’t need any figures to know that the vast majority of British citizens are more interested in the X Factor than they are in freedom. If that were not so, this oppressive government would have been overthrown by a popular uprising long ago.

    But when they threaten us with street crime, terrorism and cancer most people are afraid. Make the choice stark between liberty and safety and the majority will vote for safety every time. All polls have shown public support for CCTV cameras, 42 days and the ban on smoking.

    As libertarians, we assert that fundamental individual rights take precedence over all state edicts whether homologated by democractic decision or not.

  36. Ian Shephard

    DK, thats a fine post….

    Tom, any chance of you making a proper attempt at rebuttal?

    You look like you’ve taken a proper pasting so far….simply saying that you disagree, or posting a pithy one liner, fails to do posts of this quality justice.


  37. I will post my final comments on this tomorrow (Sunday) at 12 noon.

  38. Over 30 comments in, where are all your supporters Mr. Harris?

  39. I expect they’re having a life, even as we speak.

  40. Jay

    “I expect they’re having a life, even as we speak.” (Our host)

    Is that the life to which we misguided fools posting on here can only aspire: a life of watching wall to wall reality programmes on the telly while we flick through Celebrity Heat Now magazine and wolf down some White Lightning and a Big Whopper?

  41. Wow, that was, an unexpected response.

    I suppose my previous comment is rather simple, therefore suggesting a simple, non-politically educated mind had made it, providing you a nice easy target for ridicule, and patronising sarcasm.

    By the way, I’m a voter too!

  42. GP

    Jim Baxter,

    Tying the police up in red tape and reporting just means they are less visible and perhaps more likely to take on some softer ‘challenges’ to hit targets.

    More of a concern to many in their everyday lives is the creep of fixed penalty notices that assume guilt by issuance and can it seems be issued by all and sundry after minimal, if any, training and for minimal, if any, ‘crimes’.

    This is an area that seems to have recently been opened up to exponential growth – as much for the easy tax take as for the authoritarianism it helps to foster.

    Focus on apparently bigger headline grabbing matters if you wish – all the better if they have the likelihood of being perpetual and unresolvable – but it’s the little everyday things that finally get to people because they are threats that are real, local and here and now, not some fanciful far away risk with low potential for personal involvement.

    Many are also costly indulgences that seem likely to be unaffordable soon. That is not a good situation to contemplate.


  43. Whilst you are formulating your comments on this for tomorrow, Tom, do you think you could list the criteria by which YOU define a police state?

  44. SaltedSlug – You don’t have to wait for tomorrow: no free press, no free elections, no right to demonstrate against authority, no freedom of expression, no habeous corpus.

    Just like the UK, eh?

  45. GP

    “I expect they’re having a life, even as we speak.”

    Football terraces or luxury yacht?

    Local pub or 5 star hotel suite?

    Or maybe a combination weekend involving all of them?


  46. Jay

    By the way, Tom, I hail from Glasgow South. Instead of listening only to your consituents in Castlemilk and Croftfoot, try asking voters in Muirend, Giffnock and Newlands if they believe that civil liberties are being eroded.

  47. Jay – You have reason to believe I listen only to my constituents in parts of the constituency? Do you have any evidence of that?

  48. defender

    “I expect they’re having a life, even as we speak.”
    I expect they’re having to replan their lives, might be more accurate. I mean the future looks completely different now as compared to 10 years ago. What with the recession, fighting wars we can never win in spite of the blood of our young men and women, a very insecure energy infastructure, an unfit for purpose education system and all the rest.
    It is beginning to seem obvious that you and your chums have a “clue” this was coming and made sure to have the “security” side covered.
    All the people I talk to are of the opinion that its us you want to watch. We must live in different countries.

  49. Joe

    I was going to post about the footie, just got back form a very miserable 4-1 thrashing, I suppose I was “having the life” that so many posters on your site so clearly need. But this thread clearly requires some balance.

    Luckily none of the loons who obsess about notional liberties which apparently have existed for hundreds of years will ever be in a position to genuinely affect government policy. Magna Carta my arse – tell that to the working class for the intervening centuries.

    In the “real world” life in Britain is much freer than pretty much anywhere else on the planet. The most important of these freedoms is that if you don’t like what the Government does you can kick them out, or if not enough of your fellow citizens agree then you can always leave the country…..

    ….and no doubt join the legions of ex-pats who post on the Telegraph website about how dreadful the UK is compared with Dubai or Thailand or some other country where it is fantastic to be wealthy & beyond shite to be anything else.

  50. Tom Harris
    November 1, 2008 at 5:11 pm

    “SaltedSlug – You don’t have to wait for tomorrow: no free press, no free elections, no right to demonstrate against authority, no freedom of expression, no habeous corpus.

    Just like the UK, eh?”

    Lets Fisk this.

    1. no free press

    And yet Labour and the EU are desperate to regulate blog content as free is just, well, too free.

    2.no free elections

    Free is usually HALF the requirement. ‘Free and fair’ is the whole phrase and yet the widespread fraud introduced to our electoral system under the guise of postal voting, particularly in certain religious, patriarchal communities, clear jeopardises at least the latter half.

    3. no right to demonstrate against authority,

    Just like in China for the olympics; you can protest, if the Police say you can. Nice.

    4.no freedom of expression

    So the police stopping and harrasing people in Anti-Bush/Blair T-Shirts at your last Brighton Conference was in no way a block or chiller to free expression? Really?

    oh and the last one makes me chuckle..

    5.no habeous corpus.

    Well you fellas tried to make this ‘no habeus corpus for the first 6 weeks in certain circumstances’ but have had to make do with a paltry 4. So its safe to say that the blanket right to Habeus Corpus has been eroded, but not as completely as you, our Orwellian ‘masters’ would like.

  51. old holborn

    Tom, this blog is your private property and I admire you for allowing this level of fisking.

    Meanwhile, please go out and read what is happening on the Internet. Others have. Which is why Jacqui Smith is advocating remote searches of hard drives by the State. Which is why the EU wants to licence bloggers (free press, eh?). Which is why my walk to Parliament is a walk and not a protest or gathering (for which I would have to ask the Police if I may be allowed), which is why Labour now has a serial number on all voting slips.

    9 million voted for your party. 51 million didn’t. You may call that a mandate. I don’t. I call it minority government, where the majority don’t want you.

    Again, I state, there are but 646 of you. Don’t you EVER forget it, because it wasn’t that long ago that we really did hang politicians. And Ceauşescu moments will always happen.

    And last but not least, people should not be afraid of their governments (and they are), governments should be afraid of their people (and you will be).

    Just as you know where we live, we know where you live.

  52. Old Holborn – I don’t usually go in for verbal abuse, but I’m sorely tempted with you.

    “Again, I state, there are but 646 of you. Don’t you EVER forget it, because it wasn’t that long ago that we really did hang politicians. And Ceauşescu moments will always happen.”

    How pompous can any individual actually get? So, are you threatening democratically-elected politicians with murder just because we don’t do what you and your small band of fanatics in the Libertarian Party want us to do? Have your little demo on Wednesday – I’m sure you’ll be as badly treated by the authorities as you hope for your own publicity purposes.

    But please, please don’t imagine that your silly little threats of violence are treated seriously by me or any other sensible human being.

  53. Jay

    Tom, you understand perfectly what I’m saying. Your remark that the majority of people have no problem with erosion of liberty in this country is true but only insofar as the majority of people live in the Castlemilks and not the Giffnocks of the UK. As MP of a Party that goes to great lengths to accommodate minorities, you can hardly dismiss the concerns of those posting here on the grounds of their minority status . In point of fact, if the smoking ban is an example of erosion of civil liberties (and I think that it is) then your consituents in Castlemilk might very well be concerned about the issue of liberties, although they might not express it in those terms.

  54. Of course, they wouldn’t – after all, working class people are only interested in fags aren’t they? And it’s the middle classes of Giffnock who are clever and educated enough to know all about clever stuff like civil liberties, is that it?

    But I’ll bet people in Castlemilk wouldn’t have any problem spelling “patronising”.

  55. Mr Harris, what a deeply unpleasant, arrogant and patronising person you are.

  56. Jay

    Touche. Some might be able to spell “presumptuous” as well! With respect, Tom, you have no information on which to base your presumptions about me. I’d bet, though, that you’ve never stood on a doorstep in Castlemilk and had the occupant frame their anger about the smoking ban in civil liberties terms and, no, I don’t believe that “working class people are only interested in fags” but you and I both know that the majority of smokers fall into that demographic as do the residents of Castlemilk. Those are facts and have nothing do with being patronising, talking of which how patronising is it to offer beauty vouchers to pregnant smokers to encourage them to give up; how patronising is it to decide that people can’t be trusted to resolve the issue of public smoking without government legislation?

  57. Jim Baxter


    ‘Tying the police up in red tape and reporting just means they are less visible and perhaps more likely to take on some softer ‘challenges’ to hit targets’.

    I agree with the last bit. The trouble is the red tape is there to guard against the police misusing their powers and to guard them against false complaints. If there is no paper trail then there is no record of how anyone who has dealings with the police has been treated. In the past it has been all too easy for certain police officers to close ranks around a particular version of events so that they are believed and some poor sod who has fallen into their hands is disregarded. I’d say that kind of thing is less likely now. Of course, we still hear appalling stories about what is clearly the abuse of various new laws. How prevalent is the problem though, and how much worse, if it all, is it than other abuses which now happen a lot less frequently? Time was, if you were ‘working class’ or a member of a minority the police could, and often did, treat you pretty much as they pleased. They’re not exactly perfect but they’re getting better.

  58. just because we don’t do what you and your small band of fanatics in the Libertarian Party want us to do?

    How very dare you to refer to the membership of a legitimate political party as fanatics. It will be incumbent upon me to taking legal advice as to whether there is any recourse in law for that statement.

    However, IMHO to resort to such language merely shows that you have no genuine political argument to justify the very real concerns of all who have posted comments on this and the former thread.

  59. Ian – “It will be incumbent upon me to taking legal advice as to whether there is any recourse in law for that statement.”

    Seriously? A member of the Libertarian Party considering legal action against someone for criticising a political party and its members?

    Oh, the irony! I love it! Well done, sir, well done!

    PS: “How very dare you…”? Er, you do know that that’s a Catherine Tate catchphrase, don’t you?

  60. Tom Stickland

    “I expect they’re having a life, even as we speak.”

    I find that comment rather odd. It appears to be an attempt to denigrate anyone who bothers to hold an opinion and post on here. To the best of my knowledge I have a life. I also care about where our country is heading and it concerns me.

    Maybe this is just an example of the arrogance of our government. I saw Geof Hoon on Question Time too.

  61. Death to the New World Order.

    Freedom shall prevail.

  62. Ramon Calderon

    Actually, I’d say it is New Labour who are the fanatics. Fanatics might be classified as those who know what is best for you. Me? I’d burn them at the stake. whatever the colour of their fanaticism.

  63. Liam

    Being a member of a party with it’s political roots in the work of such thinkers as Jefferson, Madison, Kant, de Tocqueville, Paine and Hayek makes me a fanatic ? Hilarious your party arises from a belief system that spawned Uncle Joe Stalin. I think the kulaks might have thought he was a fanatic And if that is a little unfair go and check out those lovely Webbs (remember clause 4) they did love their eugenics didn’t they?

    You have perhaps created an angry response by dismissing peoples’ genuine concerns in such an offhand manner. Maybe you are not worried that all sorts of people are now allowed to issue fixed penalty notices or that our streets are littered with CCTV cameras. But to say that legitimate concerns about the nature of the realtionship between the state and the people are the preserve of strange fanatics is silly. And before you point to the odd rant on your blog I would just say that I do not know if these people are members of the Libertarian Party and also before you tar us all with the same brush remember the Labour Party accepted a donation of a million pounds from a man who was at the time carrying out a massive fraud ( Carl Cushnie) he also introduced Tony Blair at the 98 conference and appeared in a party political broadcast. So don’t be to quick to judge all of our members as we should not judge you by reference to some of your partys’.

  64. John Morris

    Sorry Thomas, we don’t agree with what your government is doing to this country.

  65. Sub Prime Brown


    I can see why you’re holding off from responding until tomorrow to all these comments as it will obviously take quite a while to rebut them.

    I’m looking forward to your legitimate (as opposed to point scoring) response explaining why the above concerns are clearly representative of a minority rather than the majority.

    Its interesting that the majority of the above responses deal in factual concerns whereas you can only respond in partisan terms.

    Btw I’m a member of the great unwashed rather than a libertarian although I can see the distinction becoming more and more difficult to spot.

  66. C Jones

    I have read the above comments, and I can’t really add anything that has hasn’t already been (very well) said re: our loss of democratic freedoms.
    All I know is, New Labour is a party to be feared. I suggest you, Tom Harris, read some history. The totalitarian state advances, bit by bit, in the name of ‘protecting the people’. Who will protect us from overweening government? You are burying your head in the sand if you think this is only a matter of concern to a very few people.

  67. Liam

    To all you Libertarians why rise to the baitng just compare and contrast your political heritage with that of the Rt. Hon. Mr Harris:-

    “He that would make his own liberty secure must guard even his enemy from oppression; for if he violates this duty he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself.” Tom Paine

    “They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety”. Ben Franklin

    “The evils of tyranny are rarely seen but by him who resists it.” John Hay

    Compare with:

    “With regard to certain sections of the population [“unemployables”], this unemployment is not a mark of social disease, but actually of social health… Of all ways of dealing with these unfortunate parasites…the most ruinous to the community is to allow them unrestrainedly to compete as wage earners.” Sidney Webb founder of the Fabians, author of the much loved Clause 4 of the Labour Party.

    “‘Is Stalin a dictator? No. He is the duly elected representative of one of the Moscow constituencies to the Supreme Soviet of the USSR.’, and ‘Is the USSR a political democracy? It is clear that, tested by the Constitution of the Soviet Union … the USSR is the most inclusive and equalized democracy in the world.” – Sidney Webb

    Malcolm Muggeridge:-

    “My wife’s aunt was Beatrice Webb. And so one saw close at hand the degree to which they all knew about the regime, knew all about the Cheka (the secret police) and everything, but they liked it. I remember Mrs. Webb, who after all was a very cultivated upper-class liberal-minded person, an early member of the Fabian Society and so on, saying to me, ‘Yes, it’s true, people disappear in Russia.’ She said it with such great satisfaction that I couldn’t help thinking that there were a lot of people in England whose disappearance she would have liked to organize.”

    “Galton’s eccentric, sceptical, observing, flashing, cavalry-leader type of mind led him eventually to become the founder of the most important, significant and, I would add, genuine branch of sociology which exists, namely eugenics” – J M Keynes.

  68. Liam

    Last one from me. Jobs that you can get at your local council these days (my comments in [ ]):

    Job Title: Smoke Free Enforcement Officer
    Job Ref: 351358
    Duration: Ongoing
    Salary: £25.50 ph LTD

    Experienced Smoke Free Enforcement Officer required….

    You will work with this Trading Standards & Environmental Health department, based in North East London and will undertake Smoke Free compliance inspections and promote smoking cessation within local businesses.

    Your duties and responsibilities will include:

    · Compliance visits and inspections
    · Encouraging and implementing anti-smoking campaigns
    · Working with the local NHS and delivering a Smoke Free Business Award
    · Preparing, writing and presenting reports

    You must have the following to be considered:

    · Recent experience of working as an enforcement officer or regulator within Local Government
    · Experience of acting as a regulator in the field of Environmental Health or other regulatory area.
    · An awareness of the issues surrounding Tobacco Control.
    · Knowledge and awareness of the issues involved when working within a multi-racial community [good luck with the hookah pipes – in some parts of the world that cultural tradition is left alone for people to make their own choices]
    · Experience in relevant legal issues, including the preparation of statements and court appearances

    You should also have the following abilities:

    · Self-motivated and able to work to tight deadlines
    · Ability to communicate effectively with colleagues and service users, especially the local community and businesses
    · Skills, knowledge and competencies to enforce Smoke Free legislation and persuade stakeholders on the benefits of giving up Tobacco use.

    If you have the proven ability to deal with difficult situations [you mean smoking is now a difficult situation? Or that people react badly when being told what to do?] with tact and diplomacy together with all of the above then please apply online now to avoid disappointment.


    Job Title: Town Centre Warden
    Job Ref: 348881
    Duration: 6 Months
    Salary: TBC

    Are you an experienced Local Government Enforcement Officer / Warden?
    Do you have the ability to deal with volatile situations whilst remaining calm and professional [maybe not but a police officer might, one who also understands the concept of policing by consent]

    A Town Centre Warden is required to provide a uniformed presence [Cub scout ? Something kinky? Or some sort of police looking uniform?]in this South East London community.

    Working closely with other agencies ensuring a safer community, you will:

    · Create a safer community
    · Assist with environmental improvements
    · Contribute to community development
    · Improve the quality of life for members of the public
    · Tackle anti-social behavior and reduce the fear of crime [that’s what those persky and expensive police officers do]

    A successful candidate will:

    · Have an enhanced CRB check
    · Possess a full and clean UK driving license
    · Have recent and vast experience of providing a uniformed presence in the community [Salvation Army , Group 4 Security, British Airways cabin crew?]
    · Have recent experience of issuing FPNs for littering, dog fouling, graffiti etc [Fines again]
    · Be confident and assertive but have the ability to remain open minded, non judgmental [why say that….? Isn’t that fundamental and unspoken….magistrates and judges do that but…if you have to mention this maybe there’s a problem.. and calm at all times
    · Posses excellent literacy and note taking skills, ensuring accurate reports are made
    · Have the ability to relate on all levels with people of all ages and profiles

    If you are an experienced, confident and professional Warden please apply online now for immediate consideration.

  69. Revolution Harry

    Wonderful response Liam. The dead hand of the Fabians (of which Tom Harris appears to be a member) can be seen with so much of what New Labour do.

  70. Martin Cullip

    “I expect they’re having a life, even as we speak.”

    As a regular reader and poster here Tom, I find that quite offensive.

    I had a life today, I went shopping (got the idea that I am a threat to society rammed down my throat by CRUK), I went in a lot of shops (each of which was required to tell me, with a sign on the door, that my sort were presumed to be ready to spark up a fag & told in no uncertain terms that it is illegal … funny that, I have never felt the urge to puff on a roll-up in a carpet shop ever, but …).

    I then listened on the radio to my team being shafted 3-2, saw my bets go down (one of the vices NOT frowned on by Labour for some strange reason … probably the pressure group hasn’t been funded by HMG enough yet), before coming here and reading that you still think I am somehow free and that my life hasn’t become more fraught since 1997.

    It has Tom. As someone who smokes, your Party has declared war on me, and there is a ‘coalition’ on your side, with no-one allowed to argue on my behalf (the EU are already banning any representation by anyone involved in manufacturing tobacco). Not happy with that, I am now hearing that Labour want me to pay a minimum price for beer and stand in a queue to be ridiculed, this isn’t a by-product of the proposal, it is the VERY REASONING for its introduction!

    I have a life, I still have, but it is being squeezed at every turn and on a daily basis, by your party, who think that I should live my life the way that YOU decree.

    And to expand, there is now the CRB allegation rule that could actually destroy my entire life on the whim of someone who has an unrelated grudge. My business relies on CRB clearance, quite simply, without it, we have no business.

    Labour have advocated that if an allegation is made, even if shown to be completely false and without basis, it will remain on a person’s record for LIFE. I get one of these & I could kiss goodbye to my entire business as my operator’s licence will be revoked. All because someone might not like the shape of my nose!

    How is that a free country? How is that rewarding hard work and enterprise? It’s a complete nonsense Tom.

    I HAVE a life. One in which I have never broken a law prior to this Labour Gov (but who on Earth can avoid breaking laws now?), I have never claimed a penny in benefits. I have contributed to, rather than taken from society, but my life is one which Labour are trying their level best to destroy … every single bit of it.

  71. Lifetime Labour Voter


    A counterpoint …


    in which a government minister claims to know more about front line conditions than an SAS commander.

    Enough to make you weep. New Labour knows best. God help us.

  72. Martin Cullip

    Re: Liam’s Smokfree Enforcement Officer:

    “Salary: £25.50 ph”

    How much????

    This is a job CREATED by Labour legislation, without a democratic mandate, to spy on the public, and it pays HOW MUCH???

    “An awareness of the issues surrounding Tobacco Control”

    See that ‘control’ word again? I am to be ‘controlled’ apparently. What am I? Some diseased leper or something?

    “Skills, knowledge and competencies to enforce Smoke Free legislation and persuade stakeholders on the benefits of giving up Tobacco use.”

    Persuade stakeholders on the benefits of giving up Tobacco use? Labour don’t consider smokers as ‘stakeholders’ when they are preparing legislation but all of a sudden we are such when you want to tell us what to do?

    Why the term stakeholders anyway? What is this nonsense? Where, in the name of whatever God one chooses, was THIS rubbish detailed in Labour’s manifesto before I came to cast my vote in 2005?

    I don’t want to give up, I don’t want to be persuaded to give up, I don’t want my taxes paying someone £25+ per hour doing a job that is completely unnecessary.

    How much will an Alcohol Free Enforcement Officer cost when Labour have moved to the next step? The crusade against fast food has already started with Ed Balls’ comments this week. You’re gonna need some Fast Food Enforcement Officers too then … being paid HOW much?

    When will Labour stop enforcement against legal products?

    How much of the above will stop terrorists or paedophiles? In fact, the ban on Shisha Bars can, in my humble opinion, only serve to INCREASE Islamist hatred, can it not?

    These couple of threads have really opened my eyes to how very bad this situation has got. Where are the details of this little walk? 😦

  73. Dan

    New Labour have taken away our civil liberties at an astonishing rate. Their arrogance and attitude make me so angry. Give us an election now so we can kick them out.

  74. Liam

    Oh not my last one. The lightbulb went off. Maybe it shows how far down the rabbit hole labour is (and doubtless most of the political class to be fair) that anyone who expresses concern about excessive government intrusion on everyday life is labelled: “a fanatic.”

    And I Tom share your worries about the rise of Islamism.

    I suggest you compare and contrast you approach to Libertarians with your approach to Islam.

    I suggest you are prone to hubris and hypocrisy. You trot out the usual line that Islam is not the problem but Islamists. Yet you choose to ignore, or are perhaps unaware of what mainstream Islamic texts proclaim should happen to the Kuffr and the Jew and the homosexual. Your party has ignored these pretty unremarkably plainspoken opinions for reasons only it can explain. I dare you to Google “Wafa Sultan”.

    By contrast when you are faced with comments that rely on the rich tradition of liberty and freedom espoused by some of the greatest thinkers you laugh them off as fanatical. I would say shame on you, but having grown up in a New Labour world I am paralysed by moral equivalence.

  75. Liam

    And deffo my last one (breathe a sigh of relief). I wonder if the the Town Centre Warden might be better off not wondering about town doing warden type things ( ) but might be better off deployed looking into the 100s of young girls who disappear from school each year…

    From the Indy (last time I checked not neocon):

    “They are the missing women of Bradford – the more than 200 teenage girls per year who disappear from their schools and fail to return from trips overseas. Where they go and whether they come back is not known, but is is feared that many are forced to marry abroad – and hundreds more like them across the country are vanishing every year”

    See the thing is solving this problem might involve some effort, some difficult choices and come controversy. So bugger that, you pick on an easier target; at least you look like you’re doing something.

  76. My resolve to publish even the most critical comments is being sorely tested this evening. Please refer to “Comments policy” and reflect what I mean when I say I won’t publish abusive comments.

  77. Paul

    Rest assured that there are still some Labour readers of your blog, Tom! Would this be a good time to mention that your x factor predicton has, however, turned out to be wrong?!

  78. For god’s Sake Generals, Kick the Door in on these Commie Despots Please.

  79. Martin Cullip

    “My resolve to publish even the most critical comments is being sorely tested this evening. Please refer to “Comments policy” and reflect what I mean when I say I won’t publish abusive comments.”

    You darn rotter Tom! (did I get in?) 😉

  80. Tom.

    It seems fairly obvious that most of us think you are wrong, and you think most of us are wrong.

    Can you spare half an hour after PMQ’s on Wed? Why not meet up with us for a swift half? I’ll certainly fancy quenching my thirst after our little walk. This isn’t a threat, but a genuine invitation. You have my email address attached to this. Perhaps we can persuade you we’re not loons, but normal people with genuine concerns, and perhaps you can persuade us that you aren’t a crazed control-freak hell bent on running our lives?

  81. Liam


    Your patience is being tested. Well I say to people who want to “troll” and attack you personally or perhaps peddle hate, stop it. A belief in liberty often goes hand in hand with a belief in reason and debate.


    People are annoyed. People feel put upon. People are angry.

    As a politician you are expected to solve problems and people expect you too; yet when you try people flip out and ramble on about stuff like liberty and freedom. What is that all about?

    What is freedom though? Is it when an old lady can’t go out of her house for fear of crime? Or when a family cannot go out for a meal because someone is smoking next to them? So what a smoking ban and a few CCTV cameras?

    Perhaps in a desire to be elected Labour merged two terrible forces:

    – a permissive moral equivalence that sees class/poverty/ racism as the root of all evil and believes in welfare and rehabilitation

    – a hard right/left wing control tendency that sees punishment as a means of enforcement

    So the end result is:

    1. Terrorist sympathisers cannot be extradited and get benefits (it’s all about Palestine, these people have rights and deserve equal treatment before the law)

    2. Smokers, dog shitters, bin over-fillers are criminalised (grave social ills we must clamp down on them)

    Perhaps a consistent approach is called for?

  82. Mark

    Tom, the BNP is the drinking man’s version of the libertarian party.
    The drinking man won’t bother explaining politely on your blog how misguided you are, he will elect the completely totalitarian party that will use the powers that the libertarians are so afraid of.

  83. Liam

    You do not need to publish this, but you can, of course. Perhaps you should see this reaction: no matter how course as an exercise in or validation of democracy. Coarse and brutal opinions may be distasteful, impolite, unjustified, hurtful and wrong but of you can meet them and beat them….why not.

  84. swindon_alan

    [quote] Tom Harris
    November 1, 2008 at 11:20 pm

    My resolve to publish even the most critical comments is being sorely tested this evening. Please refer to “Comments policy” and reflect what I mean when I say I won’t publish abusive comments.[/quote]
    I guess you aren’t very good at taking hints, are you, Tom?

  85. “I expect they’re having a life, even as we speak.”

    Of course, Tom, and they are preparing to vote Labour in the tooth of opposition.

    I would like to think that you are being tested after this post, but I doubt it.

    Tell you what, Tom; I lived in Scotland for ten years: why don’t you go to Maryhill and tell then that you are going to double the price of alcohol.

    Actually, Tom: I will bring a video camera, and buy a ticket up to Scotland (‘cos I love it) and film you going around Maryhill and Toryglen, telling people that you are intending to double the price of their alcohol.

    Are you willing to take this challenge?


  86. Dear Tom,

    I think it’s deeply unfortunate that such encroachment on civil liberty is being undertaken in the name of ‘anti-terrorism’ – in other words ‘anti MUSLIM terrorism’.

    In view of this slide towards an Orwellian state due to an imported threat do you still think that mass immigration was a good idea ?

    Do you think, given hindsight, that the British public would have put up more resistance against the European Common Market (as was) or indeed immigration too ?

    Is New Labour deliberately scapegoating Muslims for its own devious purposes ?

  87. R. A. Morris

    Sorry Tom, we don’t agree with what your government is doing to this country.

  88. Dear Tom

    I admire your openness in allowing most of these poor, uneducated proles to vent at your fine posture of the New Labour Edict – “trust us, we have your interests in mind”.

    But for a Government that is supposedly listening, you’re missing the critical part.

    Listen, and change your point of view.

    For every poster on this site, imagine how many people they know. And each of us are slowly asking our friends whether New Labour has their interests at heart. For every poster, imagine twenty people that have given up on your lot. And then their friends…

    I can speak only for myself, but none of my friends will vote Labour again, not just for the civil liberties you have stolen from us, but for many, many other reasons.

    It is almost as if Labour made a list of core voters and then targetted a method by which to lose their vote.

    So carry on with your Great Plan (if you have one beyond staying in power); come the next election the people will speak and for once you will not be able to spin their words into something that is comforting to you.

    Take the next 18 months swansong of your Government slowly; it has been a while since riots marred our streets.

    I don’t want to see that, but you seem unable to grasp how utterly, utterly angry we are with the misgovernance of our nations we have trusted you with.

  89. Ian B (1)

    Regarding the creeping power of the state (striding might be a better word), I wonder if Tom could comment on this-


    Apparently the government are gearing up to nationalising the internet’s domain name system, the UK part at least. Apparently the DNS is supposed to fulfill “public policy objectives”. Really? What we’re heading for here, and this is not exaggeration, is that people won’t be able to get a domain name without approval from a government department, and thus the government will have a very easy power to kick websites off the net; indeed websites will only exist by government fiat. And just imagine what costs, bureaucracy and form filling could, and would, be introduced to raise the entry barrier safely above the heads of the lumpenproleteriat.

    I wonder if you think that is reasonable Tom.

    I can make a prediction what will happen next; the government will inform the masses, via a compliant media, that it is “shockingly simple” for terrorists and p43dophiles to set up websites, that the system is “unregulated”, that Something Must Be Done. And then Nominet will either be nationalised, or forced into total compliance by threat of regulation. This is how things go these days. This is what we’re against. We just wish you’d blooming well leave things alone, for once. Go away. It’s like living in a country run by that “you didn’t want to do that” interfering idiot off Harry Enfield.

  90. Dear Mr Harris,

    Having read your posts, and attempted to give them a fair hearing; I’m afraid you merely confirm to me precisely why we no longer have any faith in you or your Party.

    There is – and trust me, its being regularly raised in everyday conversation by quite civilised hard working decent folk who are not your typical politcal affectionados – a real fear of where we’re headed in this country. Contary to your evident beliefs and I assume earnest work in Parliament, we don’t feel safe and secure these days. In fact, many of these people and myself included are starting to fear you and your ilk. Seriously.

    Frankly sir, we don’t understand why there has to be so many rules for this, that and the other? Why the Government so frequently, and often with poorly disguised delight, reminds us of the threat from Paedophiles and Terrorists etc, but who then seem so hell-bent on passing miriad laws against the majority who are almost certainly neither?

    I won’t bore you with a list of my concerns… to be honest I’m not sure you’re even that interested in hearing what ‘the people’ think and I certainly wouldn’t want to be a recipient of one of your poisoned sarcastic replies (and you can count yourself lucky you’re not my MP sir).

    However, calmly, and with the most heart-felt passion I can raise in a written comment; believe me when I say, that from a very young age until quite recently, I’ve always been intensely proud my (our?) country. But not now! If I could (and I am trying on my very modest means to do so) I would leave these islands tomorrow and never return.

    Sir, I’m never likely to be a political bedmate of your’s but I would like to believe you, your Party and the current Government would have all our best interests at heart? Clearly though, this isn’t the case at all. I’m no threat to anyone, I pay my way (in excess) and yet your Government have reduced my freedoms and personal liberties – and you have a worrying knack of charging us for it too.

    If there’s any decency in you Mr Harris, you’ll listen and listen carefully. We’re not all internet crazies with no lives; some of us just want to go about our business and not have to account for ourselves to the Government (and their agents) at frighteningly regular (and ever increasing) intervals. Is that too much to ask?

  91. Jim

    “I expect they’re having a life, even as we speak.”

    As a regular reader and poster here Tom, I found that very funny.

  92. Shaun

    Fair play to you for at least having the discussion.

    Your wrong though. The sad thing is I dont think you will ever see it.

    My comments may be threatening; but my point is that any government *should* be scared of its people.

    In this country we have the direct opposite…

  93. It’s easy for you to pretend that you’re living in a democracy, you’re voting to have your own address kept secret, you’ve voted to allow smoking to remain in your own workplace and you will doubtlessly all be exempted from RIPA and any other draconian legislation that you enforce on the rest of us. Your pensions are not the victim of your own incompetence, like ours are.

    Your hypocrisy in pretending to be the party representing the common man while encouraging an army of snooping lickspittles; a blanket of spying cameras; a sea of databases recording our every interaction, whilst excluding yourselves from all of these, is staggering.

    Does the length of this comment thread and the strength of feeling from the people commenting here not give you some idea that maybe you have misjudged the real situation? Or are you going to keep those tribal blinkers on and keep taking the taxpayers’ money while you and the rest of the disconnected Westminster elite carry on along your merry way doing what you know is best for us little people?

    The biggest irony is that Labour keeps portraying Cameron and Osborne as out of touch because of their wealth. Labour’s “oiks” might have come from poorer backgrounds, but judging by your glossy whitewash of how bad life in the UK is for the average citizen, you are just as far out of touch with reality.

    You shame yourself with your blithe lies.

  94. Andy Dwelly

    Tom, I can assure you that although I’ve joined the Libertarian party, I am far from fanatical. I am, however, very concerned at the impact of over ten years years of Labour and EU legislation on this country.
    In Robert Bolt’s play “A Man for all seasons”, there’s the following very relevant exchange:

    Roper: So now you’d give the Devil benefit of law.
    More: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?
    Roper: I’d cut down every law in England to do that.
    More: Oh? And when the law was down — and the Devil turned round on you — where would you hide? Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake.

    The real problem is that that the changes of the last ten years have not just cut a road through our freedoms, they’ve driven a coach and horses through them as well. And now we are all less safe.
    There’s no power on earth to bind your successors in parliament to play nice with these laws, and there’s plenty of evidence (e.g. council activity, Icelandic banks etc.) that various officials are already using them to do things that were not originally forseen.
    Given the broad consensus between Labour and Tory on these matters, there’s very little scope for putting forward another point of view and that’s why I joined a political party for the first time in my life.
    That said, I think its admirable that you should be prepared to host this discussion on your private blog, and I hope you will be prepared to consider a legitimate argument.

  95. I agree wholeheartedly with John Pickworth – and the manner in which he’s said it.

    People really are wondering what on Earth is going on.

    Thank you, Tom for allowing such an open debate here on your blog.

    Kevin Peat.

  96. My God What Did We Do To Deserve This

    Not fit for purpose …


    Do you think these clowns are even half ways competent?

  97. Alan

    I’m an ‘ordinary’ voter. Not some ultra-libertarian or ultra-conservative, just an ordinary Joe with a normal life and normal stuff happening in it.
    Having watched the debate and legislation unfold over the past seven years, I’m not convinced by the Govt. in its assessment of the need for some new laws, or indeed heartened by recent applications of laws originally designed for different purposes. The Icelandic bank whose assets were frozen under anti-terror legislation was an absolute scandal, an if an indication of what can be expected by law-enforcement in future, we can all be justifiably scared. Apart from the point that it must be a badly-drafted piece of legislation to be able to be abused in such a way.
    Likewise councils using other legislation to spy on people for trivial matters.
    Would you care to post your thoughts on this, Mr Harris?
    Also, the Govt does not have a good record on data security.

    To be honest, I didn’t much think about my personal freedoms until the past five years. I am starting to be concerned by the manner in which the Labour Govt. is trying to curtail them, nomatter how well-intended. The ongoing case concerning one J.C. de Menezes should be a cogent reminder of how very wrong supposedly well-trained people can be.

  98. michael ridgwell

    *I genuinely believe – rightly or wrongly – that Islamism (as opposed to Islam) represents the greatest and deadliest threat to our society.*

    (As opposed to islam)….hahaha…

    Ok genius, how often do you read and attempt to understand the Qu’ran? Not much I’m guessing. I began studying it after the Bradford book burnings. Feel free to mail me if you want to get up to speed…in the mean time don’t embarrass yourself on an open access website pontificating on that which you clearly have no understanding of.

  99. Gosh, Michael – if only I were as super-clever as you…

  100. Wyvern

    Mr. Harris, what you consider moderation appears, to all intents just to be censorship, I may swear sometimes, but only on a blog that it is considered acceptable and certainly not on this one. I have posted twice on your blog yesterday; no swearing, only links to your voting policy and your expenses, which are publicly available to anyone wishing to look and some extrapolation on the reasons for it yet zero result, no rebuttal, just censorship. Hence the second post, because if you have not heard it before, is as does Mr. Harris.
    I have also seen other bloggers comment on this, so what exactly is your policy? Or is it just the usual Zanulab window dressing. That is what the second post was about, changing the rules. Also as it states on your comments policy section,” if I feel like it I may mock you”, is that just a one way street. I’m afraid I have not seen any mocking, only snide remarks. Do you not really understand what blogging is about? Freedom is the essence of it. If you, Mr. Harris make assertions about something, anything, you have to be able to back it up or refute it in a believable manner. This is why all the really good ones always provide links, not just their word.
    As I stated in the original post (blocked) maybe you just don’t want your constituents to see those links. Please bear in mind if you respond in such an abrasive manner to people, it does tend to come back at you.
    DK, I have a decent camera and that is quite near my area, we could even get my own MP to accompany Mr. Harris, as sadly her voting record is a rather dismal mirror of our host, we could even get a few beers down the Byres road. PS, mind and take lots of pictures on Wednesday. Oh, how unusual just before I send this, what do I see. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7704611.stm wandering data sticks again.

  101. Wyvern – First of all, I don’t allow smartarse comments about my kids. Didn’t think I’d actually have to explain that to an adult, but there we are.

    Secondly, I seem to have a much more liberal – even libertarian? – view of blogging than you do. You see, I think blogging should not be as strictly regimented as you seem to want. Bloggers should be free to write what they want, when they want. And that applies – heavens to betsy! – to MPs who blog as well.

    If I choose to respond to a comment (as I choose to do now), that is up to me. If I choose not to, that is also up to me, unless you believe blogs should be regulated and that writers should be fined if they don’t abide by your rules?

  102. You’re quite expensive as an MP aren’t you? I mean you cost us, the people who pay you, more than most MPs. How did you manage to spend £7655 on airfares last year?


  103. Er… by buying airline tickets? Sorry, was that a trick question?

  104. martha

    Mr Harris,
    I’m just one of the little people you seem to think ‘don’t matter’ but I am aghast at your responses to these people. They have genuine concerns about the state of this country, which to be honest are also concerns being talked about in hundreds of workplaces and social gathering places. And your responses are on a par with a truculent 11 year old. If this is the calibre of other MPs in our government then this country is surely doomed For goodness sake grow up and realise the position of responsibility you hold.

  105. Stuart – as I’ve already mentioned on another thread, I won’t be at Westminster on Wednesday. If you’re a constituent of mine, however, I’d be happy to arrange a meeting in the constituency or arrange a phone conversation. If you’re not a constituent of mine, I suggest you contact your own MP.

  106. My God What Did We Do To Deserve This

    “The vast majority of your fellow citizens believe we live in a free country, where we are free to express our views, free to demonstrate against the government, free to read others’ opinions in a free press, protected by a robust framework of rights. And they’re right.”

    Odd. 17 year old daughter of a friend of mine got arrested at the Bush/42 day protest. Apparently. lifting one end of a barrier is the same as assaulting a police officer. No sign of any officer being touched by a barrier, though they are trying to hit the protesters with their night sticks. The protestors are chanting “We are peaceful”.

    They they changed the charged to affray. More serious. Didn’t read her her rights. Kept in a police cell for 17 hours, without anyone being informed. Woken throughout the night and pressured to make a statement. Without a solicitor present.

    Now they charge is Section 4. Frightening a policeman apparently. Indeed, one such policeman has stated she was shouting “Arse cheeks” at him. Odd. On the DVD provided, it is clearly “Our streets”.

    Apparently, the police can change the charge as often as they want to. Said lass has lost her Uni place, as the arrest meant she missed an exam, and thus got a lower grade in an ‘A’ level.

    Well done the state; clearly, the state wants this lass criminalised. And do you know where she wants to work.

    The Foreign Office

    New Labour. Criminalising us all.

    Mind you, she’s well radicalised now. Another success for NL policymakers.

  107. David


    The future of civil liberties in the U.K. was demonstrated by Walter Wolfgang at the Brighton Labour conference in 2005.

    Heckling then was regarded as an offence under the Terrorism Act 2000.

    I would be interested to see your explanation of how the situation has improved since then.

    Walter Wolfgang received an apology from Sussex police but the precedent was established, as the Icelandic people have recently discovered.



  108. In which Brown starts to assemble the armoury for a totalitarian state. Just read this shit

    Ministers revolt on Brown’s rights bill
    Isabel Oakeshott, Deputy Political Editor

    THE prime minister’s high-profile plan to introduce a “bill of rights and responsibilities” is in disarray following a cabinet revolt.

    Ministers have warned Gor-don Brown that his proposed charter laying out the rights and duties of citizens is unworkable and could pave the way for a deluge of court cases.

    Earlier this year Brown hailed the proposed bill as “of fundamental importance to our liberties and to our constitutional settlement” and said it “opens a new chapter in the British story of liberty”.

    However, the plan, unveiled to the cabinet last week by the prime minister and Jack Straw, the justice secretary, has been labelled “pointless” and “provocative” by ministers, who fear they will be given a hostile reception by a public weary of the “human rights culture”.

  109. Jim Callaghan

    Tom. You might like to deal with this list from Mr. Holborn’s blog. Item by item, please, point by point, for all he lists are indeed transgressions against our freedom.

    The UK is now joint 1st place as the most surveilled country in the world, alongside Russia, China, Singapore and Malaysia.

    Lack of accountability and data breach disclosure law

    Commissioner has few powers

    Interception of communications is authorised by politician, evidence not used in court, and oversight is by commissioner who reports only once a year upon reviewing a subset of applications

    Hundreds of thousands of requests from government agencies to telecommunications providers for traffic data

    Data retention scheme took a significant step forward with the quiet changes based on EU law
    Plans are emerging regarding surveillance of communications networks for the protection of copyrighted content

    Despite data breaches, ‘joined-up government’ initiatives continue

    Identity scheme still planned to be the most invasive in the world, highly centralised and biometrics-driven; plan to issue all foreigners with cards in 2008 are continuing

    E-borders plans include increased data collection on travellers

    England & Wales

    Inherited constitutional and statutory protections from UK Government and many of the policies
    National policies are not judged, e.g. Communications surveillance, border and trans-border issue

    Councils continue to spread surveillance policies, including RFID, CCTV, ID and data sharing, road user tracking

    Few democratic safeguards at local government level, even though local government may be more accountable to electorate because of smaller numbers, decisions do not appear to be informed by research, prototyping


    Inherited constitutional and statutory protections from UK Government and only some of the policies

    National policies are not judged, e.g. Communications surveillance, border and trans-border issues

    Stronger protections on civil liberties

    DNA database is not as open to abuse as policy in England and Wales

    Identity policy is showing possibility of avoiding mistakes of UK Government

    Scottish government appears more responsive and open to informed debate than local governments in England

    Then we have the databases. UKLiberty tells us these are just the major ones, there are loads more public sector databases:

    ContactPoint is to record our interactions with state agencies from the day we are born until we are 18;

    the National Identity Register takes over at 18 15 and 9 months (even earlier if the child is given a passport), recording our names, addresses, and so on, as well as every interaction that requires us to prove our identity (from collecting a parcel at the Post Office to getting a new job to using non-emergency health care to crossing international borders) – also we will each be assigned an identity number, which will be used as an index in other databases (that is, if I am 10365 in the NIR, someone could draw together all the data on 10365 from all the other databases to find out everything about me – precedent suggests this isn’t a good idea)

    the Department for Work and Pensions Longitudinal Study links tax, social security, benefit, pension, ISA, TESSA, PEP information with names and addresses;

    the Intercept Modernisation Programme is to record every detail of our communications (except for the content, probably only because this would be practically impossible), who we talk to, when, for how long, and using what (see Article 5 European Data Retention Directive);

    the ANPR is to record all our vehicle journeys nationally and the PNR (see also this and this) is to record all our international journeys (currently its just journeys by air);

    the NHS medical records database, with our names, addresses, medical issues, health care workers etc;

    the CRB database and the Independent Safeguarding Authority database, which not only have details of our proven convictions (which I have no problem with) but also unsubstantiated allegations;

    the National DNA Database, which is recording the DNA of not only convicted criminals and suspects, but also innocent people including volunteers and witnesses, along with other details.

    All adding up to an almost complete picture of our lives – and all for our own good, of course.

    In the years 2009 and 2010 all the major government IT projects will see the completion of some, and limited roll out of others but they all come together in 2010.
    Immigration Passport Service interrogation centres
    The upgraded National DNA Database 2010
    The upgraded National Fingerprint Database 2009,
    The Children’s Fingerprint Database 2009,
    The upgraded Police National Computer 2009,
    All e-Passports 2009,
    The National Number Plate Recognition System project 2009,
    Employment systems 2009,
    The enhanced Police National Computer/Interpol link system 2009,
    MI5’s Scope project 2010,
    The Home Office C-Nomis project 2009,
    The Children’s Register Contactpoint 2009,
    Terminal 5 at Heathrow 2008,
    Phase II Home Information PackS 2008,
    The e-borders system 2009,
    The DWP Customer Information system 2009,
    The NHS NPfIT 2010,
    The European SEPA (Single European Payment Area) project 2009/2010and many more unnamed or secret projects

    This all happens at the same time as the final ratification of the European Constitution Lisbon Treaty 2009 (after they have forced Ireland to vote again), just before the European Parliament Elections 2009

    Then we can look at a list of only some of the 26,000 new draconian laws and 3000 new criminal offences introduced during the past 11 years.

    You tell us what kind of Britain is Brown and the EU building. Remember that all of this has been done with the collusion and agreement of the Conservative and LibDem Parties who in the main voted for the legislation listed below.
    A summary of the principal legislative sources of the erosion of rights and freedoms in Britain becomes cumulatively chilling.

    Abolishes a suspect’s right to silence (by permitting Courts and Juries to draw inference from a suspect’s refusal to disclose matters to the Police at the time of arrest.

    POLICE ACT 1997
    Allows the police to break into property and install electronic surveillance.The chief constable can make such authorisations.

    The occupier of the property need not be under suspicion of a crime. The decisions can be taken without a warrant. (Sections 91 to 108)

    First facilitation of ASBO’s and the conception of causing Harassment, which makes everyday perfectly legal activities illegal for the target subject.

    Distress or Alarm. Introduction of Parenting Orders and Curfews on Offenders released on Licence.

    Among other matters, facilitating the establishment of Detention Centres.

    Definition of “terrorism” close to catch-all..The government can proscribe organisations or persons without having to prove that they have committed any offence.

    Authorises Surveillance and disclosure of Communications largely without warrant.Authorities able to do so range from any Police Force to include any Local Authority and the FSA. (now extended to over 700 organisations).

    Enables courts to place banning orders on people, prohibiting them from travelling when a football match is on, without proving they committed an offence.

    Allows the police to prevent a person without a banning order from leaving the country if the police have “reasonable grounds” for believing the person may cause trouble at a football match.

    Enables the Health Secretary to authorise disclosure of confidential patient information to anyone he chooses if he believes it is in the public interest or will improve patient care.

    Allows government departments and public bodies to disclose confidential information to police forces for the purposes of investigations of any crime anywhere in the world.

    Permits the Home Secretary to certify any foreigner as an “international terrorist” if he/she decides that they are a risk to national security.
    Terrorism is defined as in the Terrorism Act 2000.

    Section 29 prevents courts from challenging the detention of foreigners under sections 21 – 26,.

    Officials authorised by local councils and the Department of Work and Pensions can demand that banks, credit card companies, utility companies, any company providing financial services and phone companies hand over any data they think is necessary for the purposes of preventing or detecting benefit fraud, without a warrant.

    These officials can also demand that telecommunications companies tell them who owns a particular account, when given only a number or electronic address associated with the account, again without a warrant.

    Under this Act, the Criminal Assets Recovery Agency is set up and in Part 5, it is given the power to seize a person’s assets via civil procedures in court. (now updated to allow police to seize assets and bank accounts BEFORE charge or conviction).

    This law applies civil proceedings to a dispute between the state and an individual, with the state as the adjudicator.

    Extends the thinking behind ASBOS and includes premises closure,obligations on landlords, parenting orders, dispersal of groups, public assemblies (the 1986 Public Order definition of an assembly reduced from 20 to 2).

    EXTRADITION ACT 2003Part 2 – unratified treaty with USA. No prima facie evidence required for extraditions from the UK to the USA, but still required for USA to UK extraditions.

    Part 1 of the Act implements the similar European Arrest Warrant extraditions.

    There is no requirement for evidence to be heard before a UK Court.Also refer to the Home Office website.

    Facilitates the elimination of Juries from complex fraud cases.Removes “double jeopardy”. Permits hearsay evidence.


    Authorises any cabinet minister to make “emergency regulations” Emergency regulations may make any provision that can be made by Royal Prerogative or Act of Parliament…..
    the FIRST of the real shifts towards Enabling Act thinking.


    Under this Act, the government can impose “control orders” on anyone they suspect might be involved in “terrorism-related” activity.
    The person subjected to a control order does not get a trial, is not charged with anything, and may have the evidence or accusations against them withheld from them or their lawyers.
    Terrorism is defined as in Section 1 of the Terrorism Act 2000

    Sets up the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA).
    All offences, no matter how trivial, are now arrestable, granting powers to obtain DNA, intimate samples, fingerprints and photographs of those arrested, to be retained on file regardless of whether the suspect is charged with or convicted of an offence. (Don’t discard your cigarette butt).
    Protesters, even a single protester, must apply at least 24 hours (and more normally 6 days) in advance for a permit to protest within 1km of Parliament, or any other designated place.

    Originally drafted in terms which would have made this an Enabling Act, the diluted text with some safeguards introduced remains the second part of Enabling Act thinking.

    By this, Ministers can, with minimal Parliamentary scrutiny, modify and enact regulations, interpretations, resources targeting and law.

    Further powers tor restrict the rights of immigrants and asylum seekers.
    Sections 56 and 57 modify the British Nationality Act (1981) to permit the Home Secretary to deprive a person of citizenship or the right of abode.

    Further clarification of offences of glorification etc.Extends detention period. (currently 28 days, government planning further attempt at 42 days).

    Well publicised. Read and weep.

    I could mention that we may no longer simply live by the rule of law, but by legislation for everything we do, legislation for everything we cannot do, and legislation for what we might do. No longer free thought, the state will do that for you.

  110. Nice job if you can get it. And a really good way of getting people to vote for you.

    Do you feel this to be just, Tom? My 25 years worth of pension saving is now going to get me an annuity of £2,300 per annum, after your master’s destruction of the economy. Fucking GREAT


    Public sector pensions will cost £1 trillion

    Ministers are accused of recklessness as state workers’ schemes are revealed to be 15 times bigger than those of private workers

    The average public sector worker will be entitled to a pension worth £17,091 a year, according to data compiled by Ros Altmann, a former adviser to Tony Blair. By contrast, the average private sector pension annuity last year paid £1,086.

    The Taxpayers’ Alliance has obtained figures showing that 17,150 public sector workers have already retired with pension pots worth more than £1m each. Nearly 10,500 NHS workers; 3,680 civil servants; 815 judges; 1,800 teachers, mainly former heads; and 167 Royal Mail staff have retired on seven-figure pension funds.

  111. The 646 People Responsible For All Of Britain’s Woes

    Politicians are the only people in the world who create problems and then campaign against them.

    Have you ever wondered why, if both the Conservative and Labour parties are against national debt, we have a national debt? Have you ever wondered why, if all the politicians are against inflation and high taxes, we have inflation and high taxes?

    You and I don’t propose a budget. The Chancellor does. You and I don’t have the authority to vote on Government spending plans. Members of Parliament do. You and I don’t write the tax code. Members of Parliament do. You and I don’t set fiscal policy. Members of Parliament do. You and I don’t control monetary policy. The Chancellor does, and the Bank of England follows his instructions.

    646 Members of Parliament — 646 human beings out of our 60 million population — are directly, legally, morally and individually responsible for the domestic problems that plague this country.

    I’ve excluded the House of Lords for a sound reason. They don’t originate legislation, and any suggestions that they make can be overruled by the House of Commons. Members of Parliament, and Members of Parliament alone, are responsible for legislation.

    I’ve excluded all of the special interest groups and lobbyists for a sound reason. They have no legal authority. They have no ability to coerce a Member of Parliament to do one cotton-picking thing. I don’t care if they offer an MP one million pounds in cold, hard cash. The MP has the power to accept or reject it.

    No matter what the lobbyist promises, it is the legislator’s responsibility to determine how he votes.

    Don’t you see how the con game is played on the people by the politicians? Those 646 human beings spend much of their energy convincing you that what they did is not their fault. They co-operate in this timeless con regardless of party.

    When a politician speaks of honour, it’s the kind that’s only found amongst thieves. When they speak of trust, you know it’s yours that they will be taking advantage of.

    It seems inconceivable to me that a nation of 60 million cannot replace 646 people who stand convicted — on a daily basis — of gross incompetence and irresponsibility.

    When you fully grasp the plain truth that 646 people exercise the power of our national government, then it must follow that what exists is what they want to exist.

    If the tax system is unfair, it’s because they want it unfair. If the budget is in the red, it’s because they want it in the red. If our troops are in Iraq, it’s because they want them in Iraq.

    There are no insoluble government problems. Do not let these 646 people shift the blame to bureaucrats, whom they hire and whose jobs they can abolish; to lobbyists, whose gifts and advice they can reject; to regulators, to whom they give the power to regulate and from whom they can take it.

    Above all, do not let them con you into the belief that there exist disembodied mystical forces like “the economy,” “inflation” or “politics” that prevent them from doing what they took an oath to do.

    These 646 people and they alone are responsible. They and they alone have the power. They and they alone should be held accountable by the people who are their bosses. These 646 people are employed by us, to work for us, but have miserably failed us at every turn.

    It’s time to sack every last one of them

  112. Hat tip to Mr. Dale, who would seem to have spotted the PM lying (again)

    Tom? Care to clarify the inherent contradiction noted below?

    If the UK economy is best placed to withstand the economic crisis, can anyone explain this table from last week’s Der Spiegel?

    Global Financial Injection (billion euros)
    (Bank guarantees, buying up of bad credit and capital injection)

    Great Britain 571
    USA 519
    Germany 500
    Ireland 400
    France 360
    Holland 220
    Russia 139
    Austria 100
    Spain 100
    Switzerland 48
    Norway 41
    Italy 40
    Saudi Arabia 30
    Portugal 20

    Surely if we were so strong we wouldn’t be at the top of this list? Just askin’.

  113. hard working family man


    This is what we are becoming

  114. C Jones

    Dear Mr Harris

    I have gone away and thought about what you said, about people concerned about civil liberties being in a tiny minority. I am starting to feel very, very angry. Your dismissive attitude seems to be all too typical of politicians. Most of you seem to have forgotten what you are there for. You are civil servants. Nothing more. You are paid by us, and you are there to do our bidding. More state control makes life easier for people like you. The answer to every problem seems to be another data base. I run a small business. I ask for nothing from the state, other than it leaves me alone, as much as possible, to get on with my life (yes, I do have one). My son left uni this year. He managed to get a job and he was looking forward to earning a salary after years of being a hard-up student. He is prevented from starting his job because he is waiting for a CRB check. It has been three months now. He is becoming depressed. He has never committed a criminal offence, but in NuLabour Britain it seems we are all assumed to be guilty of something. I always took my freedoms for granted. I never imagined I would live in what is fast becoming a police state. The writing was on the wall years ago. I wish I could have left, but I am now too old to emigrate. I feel I have lost my country.

  115. I have come to the conclusion that Tom is “demob happy”. He knows he is out at the next election. He probably is lining up some other work right now, so with nothing to lose, he is winding everyone up.

    It’s a bit like someone who has been given his notice, having a chat with the boss at the pub later on.

    He knows the boss won’t be the boss for much longer, so he stops hiding his contempt for him.

    The public is your boss for now Tom, but I can now see that you know that won’t be the case for much longer.

    However Tom; you should never burn your bridges, as you never know what the future may hold. You have certainly given your future opponents a lot of ammo, if you try to wriggle your way back into politics.

    I guess we should thank you, for confirming what a lot of us already knew. The thinking class now fully know the score, the X-Factor class will follow soon.

  116. michael ridgwell

    Blimey Tom you really are the hard man with the distance of a keyboard and internet connection. Here’s something I can tell about you from your childish reply. You know nish all about Islam but aren’t man enough to admit it. Good luck with being happy to remain ignorant. Honestly, you and your kind dip my wallet for what? I will continue watching your wanton displays of ignorance with pity. Honestly though, if you fancy I will help you out via email about Islam.

  117. In reply to: My God What Did We Do To Deserve This

    The experience you described above is, sadly, very typical. I have had a lot of contact with the police over the last few years, both in a professional capacity and also on the “wrong” side of a protest or other action.

    Our statistics and revenue collectors, sorry Police, are quite happy to throw the book, or even throw out the book (as in the case you describe) when it comes to a target they can victimise easily. It’s all about the statistics and the paperwork these days. Hardened criminals get a free pass. Only this Monday just gone I witnessed an altercation where someone was attacked with a knife. The person wielding the knife (and his chums who also dealt out a kicking) were given a brief word by the police and sent on their way.

    As I said, this is *not* the exception, it is the rule.

    Thanks Zanulabour for infantilising and emasculating our police force. Now it’s just something else I have to pay tax for and get nothing in return.

  118. Adrian P

    Is McNulty a Bilderberger too, and if her were, would he admit it.


    Why did Blair Lie about his Involvement with the Bilderbergers / The global Elite, What’s to hide.

  119. Eric


    your detailed response to the above criticisms promised for 12 pm seems to be delayed for some reason.

  120. defender

    I too have been waiting, do we start to make assumptions as to what might be keeping you?

  121. Pingback: Tom Harris - Might as well talk to the wall « Al Jahom’s Final Word

  122. A


    Your post, far from abating my fears, only confirms them. It demonstrates quite clearly the contempt that the Labour party has for the intelligence of the British people.

    I had great hopes for the Labour government and was pleased to see the back of the then Tory party. Oh what a wonderful thing hindsight is. I had my suspicions but put them aside – against my better judgement. Annoyingly, my mother, who had voted Labour many times, switched to the LibDems in 97. When I asked why she muttered something about Blair being ‘the most sinister man she had ever laid eyes upon’.

    “The gist of most of the comments on the original post is that the primary reason for Labour’s current unpopularity is the civil liberties agenda and the perception that our rights are being diminished. “

    They are damned right. I get about a bit and listen to people of all backgrounds, the message is quite clear. There are many reasons why people detest your government, that is true enough, however, the civil liberties issue is certainly high on the list. Thank god.

    “But if that were the case, then that anger has only emerged in the last 14 months; after all, Labour were 10 points ahead in September last year.”

    Then you really do misunderstand human nature. You see, it starts like this. You chip away at our rights a little here and a little there. Perhaps fingerprint peoples children in one area, maybe put microphones in street cctv in another – little things, a little at a time, you see? Then perhaps slip in a few laws here and there that don’t get much media attention – but again it’s the slow, drip, drip, drip. Then a few people start to notice, just a few at first, and they start to say ‘how can you get a criminal record for an over filled bin?’ or perhaps ‘did they really have to detain that old lady under the terrorism act?’ or ’Do we really need to spend billions on a state monitoring system like ID/ NIR, what purpose does it serve?’. Then maybe people start investigating, talking to one another, putting two and two together – do you see? Slowly the anger mounts, the feeling that one is being lied too, the impression that all is not what it seems. You see Tom, the British being the fair minded people that they are have been giving you the benefit of the doubt for some time now. This is now over and even committed socialists I know want to see the back of you.

    “If my correspondents are as tuned into public opinion as they claim, then not only will Labour lose the next election, but we will end up with fewer MPs than the Liberals.”

    It will take a miracle for you to win the next election, or maybe a suspension of said election.
    As for fewer MPs than the liberals, one can only dream.

    “No poll suggests this will happen, just as no poll has corroborated the claim that this issue is to the fore of most voters’ concerns, ahead of, say, the economy or crime.”

    Interesting is it not, your faith in polls. You know how this works as well as we do. It depends what questions you ask, and lets face it, you haven’t been asking the right questions have you.
    The public can only form an opinion when they are given the facts and they have not been forthcoming. Imagine how they are going to feel when they realise what the ID scheme really is and that they have been deceived.

    ‘You carry you ID card because you need it every day’
    ‘Coercion will be necessary’
    ‘Trusted relationship partners’

    Grow up.
    I thought for a long time that the Labour party was just deluded, that you actually thought that this is what the British people wanted, that you were doing the right thing. In recent times I have been forced of the fence, I now believe that far from being a benign but foolish government, Labour is now sinister and dangerous. Do you know what the great thing is Tom? I know I am not alone. There are many of us who will not cooperate.

    If this is the path I choose, to live my life without intrusion from the state, at some point I expect the knock on the door. The boys in black will be waiting, to take me and to take by force that which I do not wish to give and that YOU and your government have no right to take.

    Is that the Britain YOU want. New Labour, new Britain. No thanks.

  123. Max


    I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. The anger felt by virtually everyone I know (previous Labour voters included) at what your party has done to this country’s economy and traditional freedoms is palpable. You can hear it in every discussion. You can feel it everywhere.

    You are about to post a reply, presumably defending the many thousands of new laws, the vast majority of which you voted for but cannot have even read, let alone understood.

    The tragedy is that as we enter a period of severe economic distress, which many commentators are rightly calling a one in a hundred year event, your party has created the perfect mechanism for a totalitarian government. Everything is there – or due to come on stream shortly: the databases, the cameras, the army of snoopers, the petty (and not so petty) restrictions, the politicisation of the police and the courts, the way it is becoming acceptable to try to micro-manage how people live their lives and the everyday choices they make. The list could be very long. Just pause for a second and ask how you would feel if an ultra-right wing Government inherited these powers.

    What you have done to the country is impossible to defend, and you should hang your head in shame. The sooner the election is called the better. The SMS from head office telling you GB has just gone to the country will be your P45.

    PS You may, just may, come to regret the sneering comment about Labour being left with more seats than the Lib-Dems.

  124. Rory Meakin

    “Tom Harris
    November 1, 2008 at 5:11 pm
    SaltedSlug – You don’t have to wait for tomorrow: no free press, no free elections, no right to demonstrate against authority, no freedom of expression, no habeous corpus.

    Just like the UK, eh?”

    no free press – D Notices?
    no free elections – Why aren’t they secret ballots?
    no right to demonstrate – ok, we still largely have this
    no freedom of expression – ‘hate crimes’? incitement laws?
    no habeas corpus – ok, this largely intact, too.

  125. Sub Prime Brown

    Well Tom,

    I keep hitting refresh but your response has still not appeared – does one assume that you have seen the light and agree with all the comments on here about how your party is destroying the fabric of our lives?

  126. ‘Agree to disagree’? That’s appalling. What a cop out.

    What if the Nazis has simply told the jews, homosexuals and communists that they gassed that ‘you will be gassed by us but you obviouslily think thats wrong, lets agree to disagree while we gas you’. That’s the attitude Tom is taking with our liberties. Right to protest – well, we’ll restrict it but you are still ‘free’ to disagree (just not by protesting near parliament or in other areas dictated by our political policemen, oh sorry, Ian Blair has gone…), Right to privacy – all well and good except we think you should register your biological data with the state in an ID card and so on. Well, you’re an unthinking stooge of a totalitarian party so lets just agree to disagree, eh?

  127. Political Insider

    15,000,000 smokers will get revenge through the ballot box for a broken manifesto pledge to exempt pubs and clubs from the smoking ban.
    International opposition is growing.


    1st World Conference Against Prohibition: “Smoking Bans and Lies”
    Brussels, at the European Parliament Building, 27/28 January, 2009

    Impact of Smoking Bans
    Epidemiology and passive smoking fraud
    Toxicology and ventilation
    Public health ideology and the pharmaceutical industry
    Political fight against tobacco prohibition


    London, UK, October 2008 – The International Coalition Against Prohibition (TICAP) will hold its first world Conference on January the 27th and the 28th, 2009. Because of its prominence in these times, tobacco prohibition was chosen as the theme of the inaugural conference. Unfortunately, the denormalization of smoking comes at the expense of many citizens’ rights and it sets a very dangerous precedent, along with causing immediate and devastating economic repercussions.

    The conference “Smoking Bans and Lies”, will be held at The European Parliament Building in Brussels. Subjects presented for discussion at the gathering will include: the impact of smoking bans, passive smoking exposure studies, the pharmaceutical lobby and the politics of prohibition.

    TICAP includes more than 20 organizations from all over the world who share the conviction that prohibitions are a threat to democracy and a free society. Once an individual’s right to choose is eliminated, special interests are enriched and state intrusion is tremendously augmented.

    With this conference, TICAP intends to lay the foundations of an active, world-wide opposition to the expansion of a political trend that uses questionable science and public health institutions as vehicles to control citizens.

  128. Stuart


    I’d also like to talk to you on Wed, but how will I know that it’s you? Will you have your papers with you? I’m a member of the silent majority and I’m going for a stroll on Wednesday. I’m 46 year old, law-abiding, professional, etc. and I’ve never had anything to do with politics. Until now…

    I’m a little bit scared of Wed to be honest, but I’m an MBCS CITP (British Computer Society) and I’m more scared of this Government and the ignorance (not supidity) than I am of terrorists, Avian Flu, HIV AIDS or my wife. So I’m walking…

    Tom: you misjudge the mood of the people. This is bigger than the credit crunch.

    ps. The BCS seriously suggested that members should consider not working for tobacco companies. More nannying…

  129. John Smith

    “Surely no-one can have any objection to the use of these powers to gather evidence against paedophiles?”

    I object.

  130. Rosie

    Now, I don’t expect that libertarians will look at this letter, or any argument in favour of RIPA, and change their minds. But there has clearly been some exaggeration of what RIPA does. Surely no-one can have any objection to the use of these powers to gather evidence against paedophiles?

    If they’re looking for evidence against paedophiles I suggest the first places they look is to some of the agencies advising the government on introducing complusory sex lessons to four & five year olds (babies) I also find it amazing that politicans agree. In my opinion, it’s tantamount to grooming young kids. To my mind it’s a perverts policy, put forward by those who have a financial vested and people who are either paedophiles themselves or that way inclined, I’m sorry if my opinion offends anyone but it’s how I see it. It’s disgraceful that these lobby groups have such a grip on politicans that they can dictate these sickening policies. Soon they’ll be calling for the legal age of sex to be lowered to 11 years old or less.

    Parents & children managed very well before all these vested interested groups sprung up with their different agendas. Let children be children, stop using the excuse ‘it’s in the interests of the child’. Politicans should be looking to protect children not subject them to these dangerous organisations.

    As to RIPA, I posted on another thread that this anti-terror law is being used to place cameras on lamp posts, in tin cans and to their shame for allowing it, peoples houses to catch people who put their rubbish out too early or who are not recycling properly. Is this exaggeration Mr Harris!

    The terror rests in the House of Commons.

    Mr Harris, the medical database, at present at a standstill, unless we opt out, which I did last year, will hold the medical details of all who will allow it on a central database where thousands of government employees will have access, but as I understand it politicans, celebrities & the wealthy will be exempt for security reasons, the same goes for the DNA database and every other database the government have introduced. What this amounts to is that the security of politicans, celebrities and the rich rate far more highly than us peasants.
    Labour was once the party of the people, now it’s the party of selective people.

    Compulsory sex lessons for babies, sick, politicans should feel deep shame in allowing this.

  131. Mahatma Gandhi

    I’m very much sympathetic to the comments on here regarding loss of liberty (in fact I hate the erosion of freedoms and the enlargement of the state since Nulabour came to power) and I’m definitely not a labour voter so why is my general impression after reading this lot that I’d rather live in a world managed by Mr Tom Harris than some of you Libertarian types? If being a libertarian means that you have the right to be a rude, unpleasant, piece of …… then, however much I agree with your philosphies, I don’t want to be part of your movement.

    Some of you mistake freedom with an excuse to abuse anyone in sight. Sorry thats not freedom of speech, that’s just being an ignorant t*at.

  132. Rosie, politicians don’t seem to have any shame or real humanity, which is why they are implementing sex lessons for very young children. I have written about this agenda many times.

    The vested interest groups include the FPA and Brook. It is totally unacceptable that this is happening. But why is it?

    Because those in power know that the earlier people engage in sexual activity and the more partners they have, the less likely they are to be able to build a normal, strong family.

    Family, along with community and religion, is the enemy of New Labour and our masters higher up the food chain.

    This is why: the smoking ban, overbearing health and safety regulations, Post Office closures, demise of town centres and using paedophilia as an excuse to keep adults from children are important implementations for them to ensure there are fewer social interactions.

    (Of course, now we are ‘meeting’ on the internet, so this too is being primed for regulation – all to stop the paedophiles and terrorists – naturally!)

    Another benefit to ‘authority’ of promoting sex to children is that they can use it to diminish the role of parents by giving all this contraception and abortion “advice” behind parents’ backs.

    And who are the UK’s leading advisors? FPA and Brook.

  133. Appalled

    Having read your blogs on many topics, all I can say is that you are out of touch with reality, or to put it bluntly a total pratt, I have voted labour all my long life, but will do so no more, especially if the rest of your Party seem to have the same contempt for the voters as you do.

  134. Tom,
    You need to face it, many member of parliament live in a cosseted and surreal world. The fact that this debate has sparked so many to take the time to tell you that your party’s stance is wrong, is indicative of a groundswell. The bottom line is New Labour is not trusted, it has lied to the public before (EU Treaty etc) and gone on to tell us that legislation is needed for one thing and then use it for something else (Icelandic bank assets). The list goes on, but I haven’t the time nor the inclination to list them.

    Margaret Thatcher underestimated the people that were against the poll tax and this was a factor in her downfall. She then promised that the Child Support Agency would target “errant fathers first”, but they didn’t they wnt for the easier target of those already paying child support, a blatant lie. This is not a party issue and you are a fool if you believe it is. Nor is it a Libertarian issue either.

    No, it is about our basic freedom to get on with our lives without state intrusion and Big Brother monitoring our every move. There has never been a public debate on some of the most draconian legislation ever to be submitted before parliament. The headline issues may have been debated, but not the detail and as we have all grown to realise with New Labour, the devil is indeed in the detail.

    You and you party need to understand, that the people of this country can and therefore often are pushed around. But when you go too far, as with the proposed Data Communications Bill, the sleeping giant will awake and it would be politically foolish to ignore the views expressed here, because I believe they are far more widespread than you believe.

    I have to tell you, I have a wide range of friends and acquaintances and not one of them has indicated they will vote Labour, many are undecided, but none are in your corner. One of the biggest issues is trust, they feel they have been mugged by New Labour and Gordon Brown running around with a grin like a cheshire cat, is not helping. I suspect that most of the people that have paid for Gordon Brown to spread our money around will not see him as a saviour, which he clearly believes he is, but as the principal architect of our economic mess.

    On honesty and economic competency, think about it, do you still believe that New Labour can win? I really don’t think you are that naive, but you fighting spirit is commendable. The people you should be concerned about are the quiet one’s, I am sure you have heard this before. We may be vocal (and you should not seek to label us), but the quiet one’s will make their position clear in the ballot box. What is clear, is that you and your fellow Labour party members…and other parties for that matter, are surrounded by too many people that are either in awe of you, removed from you, or suspicious of you to tell you what they really think.

    Why not go some place, where you are not known and speak to some real people about their concerns, not as an MP, but as a voter. I think this will give you a better ‘feel’ for where the British public is. It would not take many disgruntled Labour voters to remove scores of Labour MP’s at the next election.

  135. Freeman-on-the-Land

    Typical MP, hasn’t got a clue, far removed from most of society just like a judge. Insults the masses that put him there. Lab/Con/Lib’s days are numbered, thank goodness!!
    All the so-called political parties are in it together. EVERYONE VOTE FOR AN INDEPENDANT IF YOU WANT REAL CHANGE.

    Cheers Tom, nice blog, actually doing it’s job for a change, lol!

  136. Jay

    If Tom you are saying that the Government is actually being unjustly accused of erosion of civil liberties and that the culprit is the EU, then why are politicians so damned keen on the EU in the face of so much scepticism on the part of the electorate to the extent that an incredibly important manifesto promise was broken and the UK’s ratification of the Treaty done so very, very quietly?

    What would actually happen if the UK left the EU? What consequences could be so dire that we must remain at all costs, no matter the extent of perceived loss of liberties?

  137. Rosie

    With regards to RIPA being used to target & catch paedophiles, (but let’s call them what they really are, nonces) why bother, once caught either lawyers like the former first Lady Blair, get them off or if convicted, (even in the most heinous of cases) apart from an homourable few, judges hand down a disrisory sentence, community service, a fine, or as in some cases actually blame the victim.

    The majority in this country, apart from Jim Baxter, are aware that EU, political correctness, the Human Rights Act has ensured the justice system has descended into a non-justice system. Ergo (can I say that word now as a couple of councils have banned, that word again, banned, their workers from using that and other latin abbreviations, i.e. via, ad-hoc, etc.,) RIPA will not make one iota of difference to paedophiles, when caught they’ll still be treated lightly by the courts. In fact what Mr Harris, stated, who can object to it being used for paedophiles, which is basically right, but I’d put money on it that if Mr Harris, stated all the other uses for RIPA, i.e recycling, dog muck etc., it’d get a very poor reception from the masses, although whether the government/public agrees with RIPA or not, they have no choice against an EU edict. As with all of Labour/EU legislation the detail is in the small print, very small print at that.

    Labour started out with the mantra of the three Es – Education, Education, Education. But they forgot to mention what the three Es really stood for – Enforcement, Enforcement Enforcement.

    And no, Mr Harris, I am not a member of the Libertarian Party, I’m just an ordinary housewife, and leaving the legacy of being ruled by the EU and its caretaker politicans truly frightens me for the future for my children and young grandchildren.

    Here’s a challenge for your party Mr Harris, offer any British person wishing to get out of this country but don’t have the wherewithal to do so, a relocation & compensation package to emigrate. I think the take up would amaze you, because the amount of people I hear say if I had the money I’d be out of this Godforsaken country tomorrow. Come on Mr Harris this government gives aid & compensation to everyone else, why not the British?

  138. bomma

    You lose, Mr Harris.

  139. Jay

    Can I please put my name down for that relocation package or do only illegal immigrants qualify, as I’ve heard?

    The Telegraph some months ago ran a feature on Britons leaving the UK and invited online comments. If I remember rightly, there were some 800 many of which cited ‘political correctness’, civil liberties and stealth taxation as reasons for wanting to leave or having left.

    Just to return to the question of whether liberties are really being eroded, not so long ago the Government’s own advisers expressed their concern in the report from which the famous line “We are sleepwalking into a surveillance society” was taken.

  140. Ian

    You are far too sanguine about the gradual erosion of civil liberties and your article makes no attempt to assess the letter you quote critically. As an MP it is your job to be a watchdog not a cheerleader.

    P.S. You can’t even spell “dystopian” which suggests you haven’t spent much time thinking about it and doesn’t inspire much confidence.

  141. Pingback: Tom Harris MP « UK Liberty

  142. Er, note the typical politician’s redirection of starting to talk about the sinister Communications Data Bill (implementing the EU Directive 2006/24/EC) but ending up trying to justify RIPA ,which does not grant quite the same comms-monitoring powers.

    So howabout a straight answer:

    Unlike the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Information Commissioner, who have both severely criticised the Data Comms Bill, do you support the recording of everyone’s e-mail and internet communications data?

    Guilty til proven innocent, anyone? That doesn’t sound like a police state at all. Oh.

  143. juan carlos

    As an Australian (you know – a convict that you guys put on an island) can I just say that your surveillance system coupled with your government’s stance on “terrorism” gives me the creeping willies?

    I’m sure people were better off under an absolute Monarchy, at least then they knew where they stood, and if they weren’t happy didn’t wait for a permit to show their discontent.

  144. Sadie

    QUOTE “The vast majority of your fellow citizens believe we live in a free country, where we are free to express our views, free to demonstrate against the government, free to read others’ opinions in a free press, protected by a robust framework of rights. And they’re right.”

    Whilst the majority may well think that, (lucky for you lot, or there’d have been a revolution by now), WE know that they’re not right at all. They’re simply believing the spin which they’re told on TV & in the tabloids.

    And to think some people believe that our government aren’t in touch with the people!!!

    You mention paedophiles in your post. I find paedophelia unacceptable because there can be no consent from someone who is under the age to legally give that consent. A lot of the motivation for section 63 seems to have come us

    Section 63 of the CIJB essentially lumps BDSM images in with child porn as “unacceptable” (to be defined later), making no consideration at all for the KEY issues of the consent given or the ages of those involved.

    So, many risk 3 years prison & being listed on the sex offenders register simply for making informed personal choices regarding their sexuality. Given that this key issue is being ignored I can’t see how any reasonable person can think that we still live in a “free country”.

    You may disapprove of these activities but if, as you suggest we do still live in a free country where one has the right to choose, how can anyone reasonably justify supporting a law like this?

    I am not (& never have been) a member of ANY political party (before you throw that one at me too).

    It seems obvious to me that effective problem solving must be based on considering the facts, investigating the options & making an informed choice. The pathetic tit for tat which is routine in Westminster certainly does not represent a reasonable (or cost effective) approach to problem solving IMHO.

    RIPA & ECRB both appear to be insidious pieces of legislation too. If sense prevailed they should not have been allowed to make it this far.

    And where’s our euro referendum?

    You (MPs) should all be ashamed of yourselves & resign if you have any respect for your constituents, for your country, for human rights or for freedom of choice.

    For the record, I don’t need saving from myself. Although it does appear that I need saving from you!

    READ 1984!


  145. Get Rid Of This Labour Government.


    November 1, 2008 at 2:04 pm

    As a Member of Parliament, I feel I should place the safety and security of my constituents and fellow citizens above every other consideration…Unquote.

    It’s a pity other MP’s don’t share your devotion to duty. My local (Labour) MP thinks immigration is great for the country and he disagrees with the electorate having a referendum over continued EU integration. He most certainly does not represent the vast majority of his constituents, just as the government does not represent the vast majority of the electorate.

    Democracy! don’t make me bloody laugh.

  146. Sadie mentions a ‘euro referendum’. I certainly think those MPs who did not vote in support of a referendum on the EU’s Lisbon Treaty, as they promised at the last election on its “substantially equivalent” predecessor, have made a grave misjudgement.

    Sure, by the time of the next election, the details of this treaty may be forgotten. And that’s what most of those MPs were no doubt counting on to help them get away with it.

    But the blatant promise-breaking nature of their actions has caused the issue to transcend into a matter of trust. Betrayal of trust is not forgotten so quickly, and can prove a very serious problem indeed when seeking re-election.

    As I think, and hope, many will find.

  147. Jim

    American here, I’m a bit curious about this statement

    “Surely no-one can have any objection to the use of these powers to gather evidence against paedophiles?”

    Very often, when I’m reading a defence of some surveillance program in the UK, I see the use of the eternal paedophile as a good reason to let the law stand.

    My question is: How many child rapists do you have over there? Also, is it safe for me to bring my children on holiday?

  148. Mark

    Tom said:

    ‘…Gosh, Michael – if only I were as super-clever as you…’

    Well Tom, with such a devastatingly forensic, intellectual argument coming from your side I suppose we will never know…

    Tell me – you used to be a Minister I hear. God help us all if that is really the best you can muster in such a serious debate.

  149. C Jones

    Jim from America, paedophiles are the bogiemen our government uses to justify increasing surveillance of the population. We are no longer innocent until proven guilty. The assumption is, we must all be guilty of something. As we all know, most child abuse is perpetrated by members of the child’s family. The next logical step is for all parents and would-be parents to submit to Criminal Record Bureau checks. Most of us are in despair at the way things are going. This blog is very informative, as it demonstrates very well the attitude of our elected representatives to our concerns. Be very thankful you still live in a free country.

  150. Liam

    “As a Member of Parliament, I feel I should place the safety and security of my constituents and fellow citizens above every other consideration.”

    That’s what I feel as well. And I feel that you are NOT doing so at the moment.

    Finally, it is NOT okay for you to ‘agree to disagree’ with your electorate. It is your job to debate issues that the general public is not discussing, but when the general public speak, you have no right to go against our wishes, whatever your personal views. Got it?

  151. @C Jones:
    “Jim from America, paedophiles are the bogiemen our government uses to justify increasing surveillance of the population.”

    No, we’ve gone one better than that now — ‘terrorist paedophiles’:

    I’m now waiting for ‘climate change denying terrorist paedophiles’ to make an appearance in some Labour apparatchik’s speech. Won’t be long, I’d wager…

  152. Jim

    @Patrick Vessey:
    ‘terrorist paedophiles’? For the love of all that’s holy, don’t let our (current) president see that.

  153. If one was seeking to avoid the attention of the authorities and encrypt messages in images, wouldn’t it make sense to use, say sites on botany, or dictionary studies? You know. Something that might not already be a huge magnet for the security services…..

  154. C

    “Betrayal of trust is not forgotten so quickly, and can prove a very serious problem indeed when seeking re-election. ”

    Re-election? These guys will be lucky if they’re not lynched. I mean seriously Tom you have to start listening to the people, I mean when you became a public servant (since politician is used nowadays more as a swearword) your consituents make demands or suggestions and if you’re serious about your job you will listen to them and implement their policies. I don’t know about you Tom but in my job if I don’t do what my manager tells me I get fired, I think it is about time your constituents did this to you.

  155. aljahom

    What do you think of this, Tom Harris? Not a surveillance state?


    THE Home Office has quietly adopted a new plan to allow police across Britain routinely to hack into people’s personal computers without a warrant.

    The move, which follows a decision by the European Union’s council of ministers in Brussels, has angered civil liberties groups and opposition MPs. They described it as a sinister extension of the surveillance state which drives “a coach and horses” through privacy laws.

    Al Jahom

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