Sunday, February 26, 2006

Protector of Civil Liberty

Try to stay calm when you read these pearls of wisdom from our prime minister. It will not, I fear, be easy.
There is a charge, crafted by parts of the right wing and now taken up by parts of the left, that New Labour is authoritarian, in particular, that I am. We are intent on savaging British liberties, locking up those who dissent and we abhor parliamentary or other accountability.
Right wing conspiracy? Try here. Or here. Accepting that you've go a problem is the first step towards dealing with it. Blair is clearly in denial.

An interlude about personality politics. It is clear that Blair has decided on a strategy to try to deal with the many criticisms of him personally. In short, the strategy is to claim that these criticisms come from people who are obsessed with personality politics and do not care about real politics and policy issues. The implication is that their criticisms are petty and irrelevant. This is classic Blair.

Rather than dealing with the issues, he deflects attention by misrepresenting the criticisms which come his way. Let me spell it out. Blair has centralised keys powers to an enormous degree. To take one example, Blair's twelve point plan to tackle terrorism was launched when the Home Secretary was on holiday. It is abundantly clear that, despite Clarke's feeble protestations, this twelve point plan came primarily from Downing Street, not the Home Office. It was even announced by the PM rather than the Home Secretary.

If the twelve point plan had been a good one, Blair would have received only limited criticism for stepping on the toes of the Home Secretary. But, to be blunt, it was a shit plan. The criticisms have come from left, right and centre. They are motivated, in very many cases, by extreme concerns over real policy issues. And they are often directed at Blair. Because we all know that it was his plan. Not the Home Office's plan and certainly not the government's plan. It was Tony's shit plan.

Blair has intentionally sought to impose his will on every aspect of the proposals which have come from his government and he has succeeded to a large degree. Almost every government policy produced over the last eight years has been a reflection of the inner workings of the mind of Anthony Charles Linton Blair. For him to then claim that criticisms of him personally are an irrelevance is just typical his lack of regard for the realities of a situation.

But back to Blair's, yes Blair's, systematic destruction of civil liberties and his defence of that destruction. The key line is this one:
The question is not one of individual liberty vs the state but of which approach best guarantees most liberty for the largest number of people.
It is another classic Blair strategy. The question *is* one of individual liberty vs the state. If you read the article you'll see that at no point does he address concerns regarding the dangers involved in granting too much power to the state. Just pretending that this isn't a problem doesn't really add much to a grown up debate.

Instead, Blair relies on his old fall back, the fear factor - "Do as I say unless you want the the country overrun by antisocial Islamic mafia extremist criminals." Not good enough, not by a long shot. A perfect illustration of authoritarianism, in fact.

What's possibly more worrying is that, while I'm almost certain that Blair doesn't realise it, there are distinct facist undertones here. The state will guarantee your liberty to live your life in the way that the state demands. For the good of the nation.

Blair isn't a facist. He is, I suspect, ignorant as to exactly what facism is. He certainly doesn't understand that a government official with unrestricted power poses a greater danger to our society than a disaffected youth in a hoodie or a terrorist.

Btw, I did notice that the word "civil" appears only once in this article. Hence title of this post. The debate is being moved on focus onthe liberties which the government choose to grant us out of the goodness of their hearts. Gee, thanks. And here we was me thinking I had certain inalienable civil liberties. Like the right to be assumed innocent until proven guilty. Turns out I only get that if the government generously allows it. Who would have thought?

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