Tag Archives: Civil Liberties

Blunkett warns over ‘Big Brother’ Britain

Of all people, Blunkett is sounding the alarm.

This was seen on No2ID, quoting the Independent.

Andrew Grice writes in the Independent:

David Blunkett, who introduced the idea of identity cards when Home Secretary, will issue a stark warning to the Government tomorrow that it is in danger of abusing its power by taking Britain towards a “Big Brother” state.

At the 21st annual law lecture in Essex University’s Colchester campus, Mr Blunkett will urge ministers to rethink policy and counter criticism from civil liberties campaigners that Labour is creating a “surveillance society.”

He will come out against the Government’s controversial plan to set up a database holding details of telephone calls and emails and its proposal to allow public bodies to share personal data with each other.

His surprise intervention will be welcomed by campaign groups, who regard him as a hardliner because of his strong backing for a national ID card scheme and tough anti-terror laws. The former home secretary will propose a U-turn on ID cards for British citizens, although he agrees with plans to make them compulsory for foreign nationals.

The first comment hits the nail on the head:

“Oh for goodness sake, you couldn’t make this up. Blunkett ignored all the warnings back then while he was instigating all of these measures. Is he a turncoat, a colossal idiot, or just seriously deluded? Whatever the reality is, I don’t trust him one bit. Suddenly he’s leaning towards our side, is he? Pull the other one!”

Photographing Authorities

I’ve already posted on this topic, but the forthcoming ban has come in so sneakily, and this is such a good article that it needed further dissemination.

I’ve changed the photos used in the original, though I’ve linked to the original where relevant to the text.

It took the News Quiz to alert me to the latest change in the law. The police are to have new powers to stop us taking their photos. They’re using a provision of the Counter-Terrorism Act 2008.

Spectating Coppers It’s rapidly becoming impossible to obey the law. Taking a snapshot of a tourist site may turn out to be illegal. More seriously, what would happen if a member of the public witnessed a police officer commiting a crime or abusing police powers and tried to document this by taking a picture? A ban on photographing the police adds to police powers and makes it easier for rogue officers – or rogue forces – to break the law, suppress the evidence and punish the witnesses. This should not be possible in a free, democratic society.

Soon pictures like this will be illegal. Although the police are concealing neither their faces nor their weapons, we’re told that taking their pictures may put them at risk.

The Police Horses make their way home after the Investec Challenge - England vs. France Perhaps I’m old-fashioned. I grew up with a police force that rarely carried weapons, in the days before tasers had been invented. Nowadays even police without guns carry an arsenal of alternative weapons strung about their waists. We’ve come a long way from Dixon of Dock Green and the respect given to a friendly neighbourhood bobby.

I know Dixon was a fiction but the myth gave good policemen a kind of gentle authority. Dixon’s salute at the end of each episode as he bade goodbye to the audience with the phrase, “Evening, all,” suggested a police force that worked with and respected the public. Big guns, tasers and laws that threaten our freedom don’t make me feel that the police respect me. They don’t make me feel safer. They make me feel afraid.

Fuzz at the Freewheel

There hasn’t been much publicity for this latest change in the law but there is a demonstration on Monday 16th February. Press photographers, whose freedom is also threatened, will be taking part and the comedian Mark Thomas will be taking part.

Meanwhile, there’s interesting potential for a conflict of laws. A publican in Islington has been told he must install CCTV as a condition of his licence. But what happens if a policeman enters his pub?

But we shouldn’t worry. The provisions of the Act won’t be abused. We can be sure of thus. The government keeps telling us so.

A fellow contributor to this blog directed me to gizmonaut who, as often, follows this issue far more comprehensively. Evidently a busy week at work prevented me from paying sufficient attention to the blogosphere.


The insidious thing about this law is that it covers photos that show the police in a good light, interacting with the public (as my photos do above) – as well as photos showing police abuses. Neither should be covered by any such law.

The law, like so many others, suffers from vagueness.

‘Of use to terrorists’ could be anything. Already it’s an offence to have material which ‘may be of use to terrorists’.

Who doesn’t have an A to Z, or a map of the London Underground? Which Physics student doesn’t have information on radioactive substances? Which Biologist doesn’t have knowledge of pathogens? What about a tourism photo of Whitehall, or a snap taken on a shopping trip? Or of a local reservoir?

Taking Liberties

The British Library’s “Taking Liberties” exhibition opens tomorrow, and will be open until March. It is free, and should be well worth a visit. There is an interactive online tool which examines a lot of the issueshere.

I previously wrote about this exhibition in August.

Combining this with the Royal Academy‘s Byzantium exhibition could make for a good day out in London.

Now That’s British!

“When Gordon Brown called on the British Library to stage an exhibition about Britishness he perhaps envisaged a patriotic celebration of the national identity. ” begins the story in The Telegraph.

It continues to tell of the new exhibition called ‘Taking Liberties‘ – which is a very British response to such a request from a Prime Minister seeking a publicity tool. It’s an exhibition looking at Civil Liberties in the UK, and how they’ve been slowly but steadily eroded since 1997.

David Davis, the former shadow Home Secretary who recently stepped down from the Parliament to force a by election on the issue of civil liberties, said: “It is an astonishingly good idea but is clearly a snub to the Prime Minister and must be accurately embarrassing for him. Gordon Brown likes to talk about Britishness a lot without understanding that liberty is at the core of Britishness. It is our institutional DNA. Our history and tradition of freedom run longer and deeper than any other country.”


Iconic objects such as the Magna Carta, the death certificate of Charles I and Cromwell’s Oath of Loyalty from 1857 will be on display among less well known items some of which have never been on display before.

The exhibition will open on the 31st October and end on the 1st March 2009. Be careful what you ask for, you might just get it.

The British Library is at St. Pancras – very convenient for tube and rail connections.