My thoughts on the ‘Snooping Law’

The plans floated at the weekend to enable the security services to be able to log every email, phone call and internet hit of UK citizens is an extremely concerning development, and totally at odds with the beliefs of the Liberal Democrats. I’m sure, if you’ve got to my blog, you’ve been following the story and already know the widely-held views of Liberal Democrats members – that the ‘Snooping Law’ as it has been told, flies in the face of liberal views on the amount of knowledge the state should know about its citizens, without justification. I won’t go over old ground.

Just to add a couple of things…

This is simply a process spying on our private relationships, within our own homes. A person’s private use of technology within their own home should be allowed the same levels of privacy as a citizen’s right to have guests at their home. The Government does not have the right to know who we speak to,  when and for how long. The fact that these interactions take place over electronic media are no different to conversations wholly taking place within the privacy of a citizen’s own home. I understand that the content of conversations would not be monitored, but that is not defence enough. The actual fact of conversations taking place at all should not be recorded.

Difficulties with coalition and Liberal Democrats principles
Being in coalition can be difficult. Clearly there are things which the Coalition Government is doing which do not sit comfortably with my social liberal principles. But I can live with them – sometimes only just – within the context of coalition. There are certain aspects of Conservative policy which do match with degrees of economic liberalism, and I can see merit in what the leadership is trying to achieve, even if I tink they are misguided in certain areas.

I am lucky enough to have a Liberal Democrat MP who, whilst supporting the Coalition, has amongst others opposed individual issues we should not be supporting, such as tuition fees or the NHS Bill.

But one issue where I can was confident that the Coalition would be able to protect is the issue of civil liberties. The Protection of Freedoms Bill has almost passed, which was a terrific step towards redressing the horrific steps against civil liberties perpetrated by Labour during their time in office. Liberal Democrat members also recently reinforced their beliefs in civil liberties and opposition to Labour’s actions at Spring Conference.

Abhorrence of Labour’s record
What makes the introduction of this policy even worse is that, if true, this is the kind of policy Labour would strongly support. The kind of policy which makes the overall idea of a Lib-Lab Coalition as abhorrent to me as a Lib-Con Coalition is to others.

Tim Farron, Lib Dem President, often says that he joined the Liberal Party in opposition to Thatcher, and the damage  he could see her government doing to his community. Well, for our generation, a large proportion of people will have joined the Liberal Democrats, like myself, out of opposition for Labour’s treatment of its citizens, encroachments on civil liberties, restrictions on the right to protest, and support for illegal and unjustified wars. We believe the Liberal Democrats to be the party which stands up for the rights of the citizen to be free from the undue attention of the state machine.

There are many things Liberal Democrats in Government should do, including as part of coalition some things which we are uncomfortable with. But bringing in laws the previous Labour Government would have been proud of, which encroach on the freedom of the citizen, should be a line in the sand. I hope it remains one.


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