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Mar 11

Lying About the DNA Database to Get Elected

Posted on Thursday, March 11, 2010 in civil liberties, database state, human rights, Politics, surveillance society

The Labour Party has released an advert which attacks David Cameron’s policies on crime. No surprise there you might say, we’re in a pre-election period after all, but what’s done in the video below is actually quite sinister. They present their authoritarian project as absolute and unquestionable – our streets are so unsafe that any human rights-breaching use of the National DNA Database or overextension of CCTV (how many actually work, and how effective is it statistically in either reducing crime or prosecuting it?) are prices worth paying. Cameron standing against Labour’s surveillance society’s and database state’s human rights breaches makes him somehow weak and pro-criminal. This video makes me absolutely furious, but it does help in knowing once and for all that their position isn’t accidental; it’s tactical.

Where’s the evidence that retaining DNA profiles of innocent people on the scale (and without any debate) perpetrated by the Home Office has actually led to more matches and more convictions? Oh there isn’t any. But hey vote Labour folks, after all they have policies which may breach human rights, but they make you safer. Except they don’t. Instead we have police forces which fail adequately to protect the public, but admitting to that wouldn’t be a vote winner in marginal seats. This started out as a government committed to human rights; its third attempt at retaining power proves it’s now more interested in power. That’s something we should be afraid of. New Labour, New Danger.

Feb 10

Cameron Has No Idea How to Restore Trust or Accountability

Posted on Wednesday, February 10, 2010 in constitutional reform, Politics

So the man styling himself as our next Prime Minister thinks that modernising our voting system is ‘crazy’. I think it’s quite revealing that he believes that a system genuinely representative of the people’s wishes (or in AV+’s case more representative) is a bad thing. Apparently the people must ‘feel like this is their parliament’, but actually making it more their parliament is out of the question. Cheers Dave, but the only way it can worry about what I worry about is if it represents me better than it does now. My MP is Joan Ruddock, who because she controls a safe Labour (or in her case New Labour) seat doesn’t have to represent my wishes at all; first-past-the-post sees to that. I’ve even debated my wishes with her, and she didn’t want to know; why should she? There’s no constitutional mechanism to make her. Cameron is right when he champions select committees to increase accountability within parliament – no question – but that can only be part of wider constitutional reform which includes a more proportional voting system. And the Commons should have more control over its timetable – the legislature genuinely does need its powers ramped up against the now almighty executive, but if the legislature doesn’t represent the people’s wishes better than it already does, that’ll only do so much good. If the new parliament’s concerns go no further than continuing to placate swing voters in marginal seats, noone’ll notice much difference. Willie Sullivan from Vote for a Change said:

“Under our current system, a nation of 45 million voters will leave it to a quarter of a million in the marginals to decide the outcome of the next election.

“It’s the equivalent of letting only people who live in Brighton decide the government of the United Kingdom. The question of who runs Britain is all our business, and for that we need a vote that really counts.

“Polls have shown time and again that people are prepared to break with the past.

“MPs can stick their fingers in their ears and pretend its business as usual, or they can help make 2010 the last broken election.”

It’s a great illustration of the representational failure at the heart of first-past-the-post. Intriguingly for the post-Brown era beginning in May, Foreign Secretary David Miliband said:

“We’ve still got a 19th century political system trying to address 20th century problems and in my book the whole system – the election to the Commons, the Lords, local government and how it’s organised, fixed terms parliaments – they should all be on a ballot.

“We should have what I would call a reset referendum that would reset the political system in a way that can actually address modern problems by getting power where it belongs, by checking power at the right places, by giving more rights and making sure rights of the individual are safe-guarded.”

Frustratingly though, other members of the parliamentary Labour Party don’t get it:

Labour former minister Tom Harris, MP for Glasgow South, raised laughter as he asked Straw: “Do you attribute the stainless reputation of Italian politicians to the fact that they have proportional representation?”

Of course PR (which wrongly isn’t on the table for this referendum) hasn’t saved Italian politics from total dysfunction, but the reasons for that aren’t down to the voting system. Take a look at Germany, which is also governed by a PR system.  Their system has been a model for the Western world since 1949 – fairly representing the people has allowed them successfully to absorb a failed state (the GDR), their 5% representational threshold for parliament has made it hard for extreme parties to get into the Bundestag in the first place, and even when they’ve made it that far they’ve always fizzled out. Coalition politics and a culture of compromise has brought about remarkable stability, not to mention the necessary diversity into Germany politics. Britain, with first-past-the-post, has descended into complete ambivalence, and why not, when our elected representatives do whatever it takes to retain power, not to fulfill their side of the political contract?

The House of Commons voted 365-187 for a referendum on AV+ after the election, but it remains unclear if the bill will get passed before the general election in May.

Jan 9

Tenth Doctor Says ‘Don’t Vote Tory’

Posted on Saturday, January 9, 2010 in Politics, television

David Tennant, a long-time supporter of the Labour Party has come out sharply against David Cameron:

David Tennant has urged people not to vote Tory, warning that life under David Cameron would be a “terrifying prospect” for the future of Britain.

The Doctor Who star branded the Conservative leader a phoney who jumps on every bandwagon going and insists Gordon Brown is the man best placed to look after the interests of all Brits, not just a privileged few.

In an emotionally charged interview, Tennant said: “Clearly, the Labour Party is not without some issues right now and I do get frustrated. They need to sort some stuff out, but they’re still a better bet than the Tories.

“I would rather have Gordon Brown than David Cameron. I would rather have a Prime Minister who is the cleverest person in the room than a Prime Minister who looks good in a suit.

“I think David Cameron is a terrifying prospect. I think he’s a regional newsreader who will jump on whatever bandwagon flies past.

“I get quite panicked that people are buying his rhetoric, because it seems very manipulative.”

It’s a great line, and one which skillfully bypasses Brown’s numerous deficiencies. And it’s going to be a decisive issue in May. Whilst there are terrible things being done in the name of New Labour (Digital Economy Bill, ID cards, ISA, policing), the same would be true under the Tories but far worse. Gutting the BBC as well? Chumming up with the vilest racists and homophobes in the EU Parliament? Repealing the Human Rights Act? No thanks. I’m with The Doctor on this.