Friday, February 17, 2006

Apathy in the UK

Daniel Finkelstein, The Times, Via (hat tip) Longrider blog.

There simply seems to be no end to what the British sheople are willing to swallow, as long as it's served up by PukeLabor. After the Nation was led into an unjustifiable war with a country that never fired a single shot at us,
posed no threat to us or our allies and on the shakiest of (possibly unconstitutional) grounds, to fight a metaphorical "war on terror", which has turned predictably into a quagmire, this Junta posing as a Government continues to ram-load the country with legislation that is either unnecessary, constitutes an attack on our civil liberties or seriously imperils our right to privacy and free expression.

So, in characteristic style the Lider Suprissimo, Poobah Bliar, has managed to get some more masterpieces rubberstamped in quick-fire succession.

On the ID cards bill, what is left to say? Let me put it this way: I'm a fervent convert of the anti-ID cause. Once I believed that ID cards could be a good thing for this country. Yes, I admit to this kind of stupidity. But I stopped believing this nonsense minutes into my
reading of the actual bill. If you haven't already read it, DO IT NOW! And for any (I mean, ANY) questions that you might have, go to NO2ID.net, the forum is a great place to have all your questions heard. The introduction of ID cards will be the extreme extension of the database and mass surveillance state whose foundations are already being laid today. I'm tired of repeating myself, so read the damn thing...

On the Glorification of Terror bill, the least said the better, really. The poor definition of both "glorification" and "terrorism" makes this piece of paper about as useful as a plaster on a wooden leg, whilst nonetheless holding the potential for curtailing free speech. There is little doubt that some of my posts could easily be interpreted as "Glorifying Terror" (and I'm not a terrorist apologist in the slightest) by a zealous prosecutor. Of course we're being told that the innocent can sleep safely, as per usual. Well, with Great Poobah Bliar and little Poobah Brown in his trail, somehow I don't feel too reassured...

And then there's the
smoking ban. Hailed by non-smokers as "it's a good thing because I'm not a smoker", a non-argument if there ever was one, the previously proposed compromise of leaving smokers at least a few smoking dens where they could congregate, has been steam-rolled over by a form of anti-smoking hysteria which I can only describe as health fascism. Again, I don't need to elaborate on my views, as I've already done so, see link above.

But with these three disastrous pieces of "legislation" passed, it would be too simple to just describe this latest episode as another a bad week in the Commons. No, think again. Look at what's to come (source: link at top):

Now I know what I am about to tell you is difficult to believe (Why isn’t this on the front pages? Where’s the big political row?) but I promise you that it is true. The extraordinary Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill, currently before the House, gives ministers power to amend, repeal or replace any legislation simply by making an order and without having to bring a Bill before Parliament. The House of Lords Constitution Committee says the Bill is “of first-class constitutional significance” and fears that it could “markedly alter the respective and long standing roles of minister and Parliament in the legislative process”.

There are a few restrictions — orders can’t be used to introduce new taxes, for instance — but most of the limitations on their use are fuzzy and subjective. One of the “safeguards” in the Bill is that an order can impose a burden only “proportionate to the benefit expected to be gained”. And who gets to judge whether it is proportionate? Why, the minister of course. The early signs are not good. Having undertaken initially not to use orders for controversial laws, the Government has already started talking about abstaining from their use when the matter at hand is “highly” controversial.

Now, I am not an extreme libertarian. I don’t spend my weekends in conferences discussing the abolition of traffic lights and the privatisation of MI5. But I have to admit that the legislation being debated in the Commons this week — the new ID cards, the smoking ban, the measure on the glorification of terror — has tempted me to take up smoking and start attending lectures about Hayek organised by earnest men with pamphlets in carrier bags.

[Hear, hear. My intervention]

Yet the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill has made me realise that I may be missing the point — the biggest danger to civil liberties posed by these new laws is not the nature of them, but merely their quantity.

Let me explain my thinking.

The Government claims that it has no malign intention in introducing the reform to parliamentary procedures. It is just that it has such ambitious plans for deregulation — or “better regulation” as it rather suspiciously calls it — that Parliament won’t be able to cope. The previous Regulatory Reform Act, passed in 2001, was so hedged around with conditions and safeguards that it took longer to produce a regulatory reform order than it did to produce a Bill. So this time, the Government wants more sweeping powers.

During future detailed Commons consideration of the Bill, restrictions on the terms of the new orders will be resisted using the argument that business wants deregulation and government has to get on with it.

What does this argument, used often by the minister during last week’s debate, amount to? An admission that we are now passing so many new laws, so quickly, and so many of them are sloppy, that we don’t have time to debate them properly or reform them when they go wrong. Parliament is drowning in a sea of legislation. Instead of calling a halt to this, the Government is seeking a way of moving ever faster, adding yet more laws, this time with even less debate.

The problem with ID cards, smoking bans and new terror laws is not just the standard liberal one. It isn’t even that they are entirely unnecessary, since you can fashion an argument for each measure. It is that we should be reforming and enforcing the laws we have, rather than adding new complicated, poorly thought through laws to the stack that already exists. The Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill isn’t just a dangerous proposal. It is a flashing red light.

[If this country excels at one thing it's legislative diarrhoea but clearly we're not looking for a cure. My intervention]

Our legislative activism is endangering our parliamentary democracy and we must stop before it’s too late.

Or am I a nutter?

I'm asking this question myself: does all the above make sense to everyone else? Is it just me and a handful of misfits that see a danger that's quickly growing past a few worrying telltale signs?

Or am I right in saying that the motivation to question the Government, to protest or even demonstrate, is inversely proportional to the average wealth of the Middle Classes? Sleep well sheople, Big Nanny is watching over you...

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3 Comments:

At 10:51 AM, Blogger J.UL1R4 said...

Unfortunately it's not nutty anymore. Something has gone enormously wrong, and it's going to take a lot to claw it back. I do think people should be concerned to put it mildly. From speaking to people I find they are and actually pretty aware of what is happening. The media have been in denial but are starting to make noises about it as the level of things is actually now beyond uncomfortable. Even Murdoch has made some pointers in this direction recently.

You mentioned this bill, and there is the Civil contingences bill too which sets out, as I recall, 'we declare a state of emergency' and we can just create laws on the fly as we like. I don't know if that passed.

These things are enormously serious, they are all choices, which I think often people forget.

There's people making these choices, and an ensemble of pathetic cretins will suspend their judgement (if they had any to begin with) to crown the object of their affection, Gordon Brown.

The writing was on the wall some time ago I feel, but many of us (myself included) hoped someone else would deal with it. But no one did and it kept getting worse and worse, but I don't know how much longer things can go on like this.

 
At 12:30 PM, Anonymous Longrider said...

Gert, I'm a non-smoker and I deplore the ban. It is just one more step to state intervention in our everyday lives and the removal of personal responsibility.

BTW please note, I've moved my blog.

 
At 5:02 PM, Blogger Gert said...

Longrider:

Guess it would have been better to write "most non-smokers"...

 

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