Tuesday, 13 July 2010


So I am far from a political animal. I had no interest in politics while I was at school. I had no formal education in any of it. While at University I leant a bit towards anarchism but I have never really felt that interested. Politicians are all lying arseholes and they are all as bad as each other. What is the point of voting when they are all the same?

It is only fairly recently that I have changed my position on this. And it is almost entirely due to the increasing levels of authoritarianism of the Labour party.
Due to my lack of political background the rest of this post is probably going to be trite underthought bullshit. But when has that stopped me?

I believe in freedom. I believe that people want freedom, that they need freedom to thrive. I believe that true freedom has to include the freedom to fail.

I'm sure that Labour felt that they were doing the right thing for people. When they put up the CCTV their only thought is how it can protect people. The idea that people don't want their every move on film doesn't even occur to them.

When they decided to increase powers to hold people without charge, and make the ability to stop and search easier the only thing in their minds was "But it's terrorism!". Terrorists are by definition trying to make us fear. If they can get the government to overreact like this then the police end up doing their job for them. When people decide to leave their camera at home because they are afraid of the police confiscating it the the terrorists win. The other subject that comes up that Labour cannot see beyond is child abuse. Sure it is a terrible thing. As a father of a young child I can understand the urge to protect childred. But are CRB checks really the way forward? Mandatory checks with a cost associated and a nightmare bureaucratic process. That's certainly going to convince me to volunteer. Way to promote parent involvement.

I have listened to some of the debates over the past week or two about the revised guidance on section 44 stop and search powers, and the inquiry into counter terrorism, and I have been applauding the government. When I heard that Theresa May was going to be home secretary I never imagined for one second that I would listen to her deliver a speech to the house on civil liberties and find myself adding to the chorus of "Hear, hear!".

The state has gone too far. The state has become too big. Not only can we not afford it, but we also don't need it. I listen to the arguments. Labour MPs and activists say "The Tories are idealogically opposed to a big state". Well guess what, so am I. I am not a natural Conservative voter, and I didn't vote for the Conservatives this time around; however I most certainly agree with the coalition stance on cutting the bureaucracy and cutting the unneeded state interference in our lives.

Yes, the government definitely has a responsibility to protect us, the citizens. That duty is not only to protect us physically against external threats, it is also to protect us from internal threats to our liberties.

I remember September 11th. I was working in docklands that day. I remember watching the news unfold while sitting in the shadow of Canary Wharf. I remember the horror of what we were seeing as well as the fear that there could be a plane heading our way as well. But do you know what? Even having lived through that, and through using public transport immediately after the 7/7 attack, and walking through the soho area during the nailbomb attacks, and having worked in the original South Quay building that was blown up by the Irish republicans, and any other number of awful man made tragedies that have touched my life in London. Even after all of that I do not want these emergency counter terrorism powers.

I do not believe that an illusion of safety is worth sacrificing our freedoms.

At the same time I am applauding the efforts of the coalition to restore our freedoms I am slapping my forehead in frustration at the ridiculous proposal of Philip Hollobone. A private members bill to ban the wearing of a face covering garment in a public place. And not only is he putting this motion forward but he is claiming that campaigners for womens liberties such as Emmeline Pankhurst would be aghast at British women having the freedom to wear a veil if they so choose. His arguments are so specious that I am left flabbergasted. What on earth is he smoking?

There are so many things wrong with this. Firstly, what is covered? The concept of "face covering garments" could include any number of perfectly legitimate items. What about a balaclava / ski mask (or even a pulled up scarf) on a day where the temperature has dropped below freezing? What about full face motorcycle helmets? What about costume masks worn on Halloween? In the interview I watched this morning he drew a parallel to the requirement of motorcyclists to remove their helmets when they enter a bank. Firstly, this existing requirement is a civil matter, not a criminal one. Secondly the bill is worded as "in a public place". A park is a public place. A footpath is a public place. A road is a public place.

The next thing I have against the bill is the veiled (sorry) prejudice. Lets be clear. This is supposed to target Muslim women that wear full face veils. But wording the bill to this specific target would be seen as racist or as religious prejudice. So instead it is worded in the most general terms to avoid offense, and in the process becomes open for interpretations that were never intended. If the bill has a specific purpose it should be worded to express that. Call a spade a fucking spade. And let the rest of us ridicule you for the bigot you are.

While writing this I have just seen that the French parliament has passed a similar bill with only one vote against. I am happy to live in England where this private members bill is seen as little more than a joke, rather than in France where this is now law.

Give me my freedom. The freedom to express myself. The freedom to live. The freedom to fail. The freedom to be an arsehole.  The freedom to be a good samaritan.  The freedom to practise religion.  The freedom to mock religion.

The freedom to thrive.