Tag Archives: Jacqui Smith

Poor Old Jacqui Smith

Former Home Secretary Jacqui Smith is embarassed. Say it with me – ‘awwwwww’:

Reflecting on this period, Smith said: “Having to fight your way out through TV cameras when you go out of your house in the morning, having press photographers outside your house for weeks on end is a real intrusion. It’s horrible”.

She added: “I could have coped with it on my own but my oldest son was doing, has just finished in fact, his GCSEs … and I just felt that it was not fair on all of them.”

Poor her. This is someone who thought that it was ok to tread on the constitution and allow the Metropolitan Police to investigate an opposition MP on political grounds. This is someone who thought that it was necessary to tag the entire population with an ID card and fine them for not updating them. This is someone who thought it was a clever idea to tap every single text, email and web access made by every single person in the country. This is someone who thought it was alright to send a gay asylum seeker back to Iran as long as he was ‘discreet’. And she has the nerve to say she was embarassed at press intrusion after her parliamentary expenses were made public? Disgusting. We’re well rid of her.


Chris Huhne is Right

Jacqui Smith hasn’t even left her department yet, but Lib Dem Home Affairs Spokesman Chris Huhne has already addressed whoever replaces her:

“The next Home Secretary must ensure that the worst excesses of recent years are not just curbed but rolled back.

“A good start would be to scrap ID cards, take innocent people off the DNA database and not spy on our phone calls and emails.”

As a starting point it wouldn’t be bad, and it really has to be the barest minimum to expect from whoever follows her. The question currently remains – will her successor be under Gordon Brown or Alan Johnson? If Johnson does he now appreciate the need for a rollback from the Blair/Brown lunge towards a police state, that it’s not just because it’s wrong, but because it’s to his electoral advantage?

Jacqui Smith Resigns?

So the appalling Home Secretary is about to leave?

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith is to leave the Cabinet in the wake of the scandal over MPs’ expenses, according to Sky sources.

There is no indication yet that Ms Smith will also step down as an MP.

Sky’s political correspondent Joey Jones said: “I have had it from impeccable sources that she has entered into that agreement with the Prime Minister.”

“There will be results on Friday from the local elections and results on Sunday from the European elections and these will probably be very bad for the Prime Minister.

“I fully expect that on Monday morning he will be calling people in to speak to them, to try and reshuffle the Cabinet, the entire government, to try and change things and move forward.”

Good riddance to bad rubbish. It’s only worth celebrating mind if she’s replaced not just with the likes of John Denham, but if her departure marks the beginning of the end of New Labour’s addition to its attitude and culture of ‘protection’ and control. ID cards must go. Innocent people must be immediately removed from the DNA database. Moves to the contracted out superdatabase must be stopped completely. Reform of the police must take place to stop them behaving like a brutal, semi-autonomous militia. People mustn’t be banned from entering the UK just because the Home Secretary doesn’t like them – they must pose a genuine danger. Asylum seekers with genuine risks of torture or death must not be sent back to the countries which they’ve fled from. And let’s not forget her involvement in the Damien Green affair…

This woman was more complicit in establishing a police state than any other Home Secretary. Her departure is worth celebrating, but don’t be fooled into thinking it’s important if the hard line she took doesn’t change.

Brown and Smith or Johnson and Miliband? Easy!

Where do we go with politics now? The conventional wisdom (which the papers seem to have a vested interest in shoving down our throats) is that the electorate has given up on politics altogether – the expenses scandal has soured everyone’s view of politics, and only a dramatic change will reengage us and stop us voting UKIP and BNP in our disillusionment. I’ll buy Stephen Fry’s argument to a point to be honest, that excessive behaviour with expenses is universal – to hold MPs to a different standard to the rest of us (most of whom do the same thing to differing extents) is unfair and unrealistic. But I also think that the public disdain for all politicians has now taken on a life of its own, and it’s partly because things have come to a head – a process which began before Blair, but which he and Brown have cynically accelerated – has now bitten them on the backside.

We have a first past the post voting system, whereby the first party to the biggest single share of the vote wins the election, even though the majority of people end up voting for someone else. This has led to shameless abuses with no political mandate ever having been given – the road to ID cards, torture, the withdrawal of legal aid to most people, allowing the police to become a brutal, semi-autonomous militia, an illegal war in Iraq. Most people thought Blair was a liar in his first term but accommodated him as long as his lies didn’t abuse the will of the majority; Iraq scuppered that and destroyed his premiership. MPs in turn were assumed to be cheats in small scale, but not to be rampantly stealing taxpayers’ money and trying to cover it up – their mandate too has now been crushed. It can I believe in part be restored by changing the voting system to proportional representation. It’s a reality which David Cameron and Gordon Brown both fail to realise. Nick Clegg and crucially Alan Johnson however do:

The adoption of AV+ would shift the political focus currently concentrated almost exclusively on a few swing voters in a handful of marginal seats. It would end the perversity of the party with the most votes nationally forming the opposition rather than the government, as has happened twice since the war.

Labour is the only party ever to win under First Past the Post (FPTP) and then use its majority to explore a change to the system that elected them. I recognise that Jenkins is gathering dust because we lost the will to carry it through — but that was at a time when it could legitimately be said that there was no public interest and when narrow party political advantage dominated our internal debate in the Labour Party. Of course, I recognise that many colleagues on my benches support FPTP for more valid reasons.

My proposal is that we offer the public the two options of AV+ and FPTP. We should debate these two alternatives freely and openly with no party whip and no government recommendation. Then on the date of the next general election we should have a national referendum and let the people decide. This is a genuinely radical alternative that only Labour in government can facilitate.

Where Brown, Smith, Straw et al are still talking about a British ‘bill of rights and responsibilities’, still wilfully conflating civil liberties and human rights for the most cynical political motives, Ed Miliband is advocating reempowering parliament instead of this almighty executive:

Miliband said the Commons should look at giving select committees more power to shape legislation. But he did not favour moving too far towards the US system, where Senate committees can destroy bills or delay them indefinitely. “There are upsides and downsides,” he said, citing lobbying by fossil fuel companies of the House of Representatives’ energy sub-committee which had the power to weaken climate change legislation. “You do have to protect an elected government’s ability to legislate.”

Brown doesn’t get it, whilst Cameron (who is against proportional representation) is a cynical opportunist who has no reform minded ideas of his own at all. Parliamentary term limits? Great, but repealing the Human Rights Act? It’s not exactly in keeping with the people’s will to restore power and rights to them from a cynical and overly mighty government, leaving Cameron a dangerous, unelectable option. Brown and his disconnected, out of touch cronies must thus be kicked out, and within the next fortnight at that. Whilst I don’t think Alan Johnson could save Labour from losing the next election, he has very clear allies, from Miliband to James Purnell who have grasped the clear (and overdue) means of reconnecting the public back to the political process, and whom together could begin reforming the party and political system itself. It really is Labour’s last chance for its principal legacy other than devolution to be progressive rather than embarrassing.

The Government Just Doesn’t Get It

She put in an expenses claim for her husband’s porn to be paid by the taxpayer. In return Home Secretary Jacqui Smith has decided that it’s worth ignoring the European Court of Human Rights’ ruling on the National DNA Database entirely, and is now even going to deny the House of Commons a vote on how she’s to alter her department’s use of it:

Jacqui Smith, the home secretary, has been warned that the government risks further damaging the public’s faith in politics after it emerged that plans for the police to keep innocent people’s DNA profiles for up to 12 years will become law without a Commons vote.

Opposition parties and civil liberty groups united to condemn plans that are being steered through parliament while MPs are distracted by the expenses row.

The Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats claim the government is seeking to make controversial changes to the national DNA database via a “statutory instrument” because it fears losing a vote that would be required if they were introduced by the more conventional method of primary legislation.

Get this lot out now. Replace Brown with Johnson after New Labour starts its final implosion after the European parliamentary elections, set a general election date for November, with Johnson setting that date for a referendum on proportional representation (PR) which the new Speaker, with an enhanced role of protecting the integrity of parliament, could also publicly endorse. Johnson would still likely lose the final first-past-the-post election, but he would also be responsible for the beginning of the end of this abuse altogether. I don’t think MPs are distracted by the expenses row – I don’t think this constant, illiberal, deceitful abuse of the electorate and parliament is separate from it – it’s all related. Just look at the undemocratic means by which she’s planning to use to get her way:

A statutory instrument has to be discussed only by a specialist committee which meets for 90 minutes and is usually made up of 16 MPs and a chairman. Critics say the Labour MPs who will dominate the committee will be handpicked by government whips and therefore back the Home Office proposals.

Why this procedure is so abusive is explained by Henry Porter:

The general point about statutory instruments is that they greatly increase the power of the executive and allow ministers to avoid unfavourable publicity and critical examination.

The Norton commission in 2000 said that scrutiny of statutory instruments was “woefully inadequate” and that “major changes were needed to existing practice”. This has not happened.

A statutory instrument should be published in draft form giving MPs the chance to look at the measure on its merits and describe in simple terms what it means to the public. A sifting committee should apply a systematic scrutiny and decide whether the measure should be debated. At present, it is left to researchers and individual MPs to ferret out any problems.

To restore power and respect to MPs, statutory instruments should be amendable by either house and both houses should have the power to refer back to the ministry concerned with precise suggestions.

Once the measure becomes law there should be opportunities for post legislative scrutiny to see how it is working in practice.

This government is fully out of touch with what’s moral, both in its attitude towards its own entitlements, and in terms of what legislation is just. Even Blair didn’t ignore the European Court – Smith and Brown must not be allowed to run roughshod over our basic civil liberties and human rights any longer. They must both go, and with any luck they will – with a PR referendum put in place by Johnson, at least setting a requirement for cooperative politics ahead of coalition politics in five years’ time, would Prime Minister David Cameron really have a mandate to repeal the Human Rights Act after all?

Met Surveillance – Unlawful!

It’s a blow for the Met, a triumph for peaceful protest and campaigning organisations:

Police surveillance of a peaceful campaigner was deemed to be unlawful today in a ruling that liberty campaigners say could change the way officers are allowed to monitor protesters.

The court of appeal ordered the Metropolitan police to destroy photographs its surveillance teams had taken of arms-trade campaigner Andrew Wood, ruling that they breached his rights under the European convention on human rights.

Superb news. It’s a hammer blow against their forward intelligence team (FIT) units, with their policy of precriminalisation of entirely innocent protesters and campaigning organisations. This is something they allegedly do to Greenpeace all the time and it’ll be interesting to see the immediate repurcussions of this ruling.

Wood, a member of the Campaign Against Arms Trade, had been photographed by a Met surveillance unit in 2005 as he left a meeting in London.

His initial claim that the police action had breached his rights was dismissed by the high court in May last year. But today at the court of appeal in London two out of three judges agreed there had been a “disproportionate interference in the human right to privacy”.

Lord Justice Dyson said: “The retention by the police of photographs taken of persons who have not committed an offence, and who are not even suspected of having committed an offence, is always a serious matter.”

Lord Collins said: “There was a very substantial police presence … when I first read the papers on this appeal, I was struck by the chilling effect on the exercise of lawful rights such a deployment would have.”

The case follows an investigation by the Guardian that revealed police had been targeting thousands of political campaigners in surveillance operations and storing their details on a database for at least seven years.

And now we revisit the DNA database ruling. The European Court of Human Rights tells the government it’s in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights – Jacqui Smith sidesteps the ruling entirely. Who’s to say, political crisis aside, that she’ll behave any differently in this instance?

Manchester to ‘Trial’ ID Cards

So despite the government being essentially broke, despite their suppression of dissent in tatters, despite there being no case made for ID cards whatsoever (at least a believable one), mad Jacqui Smith is still going ahead with the plan:

Manchester will this autumn become the first city where people can sign up for an ID card, Jacqui Smith has said.

Anyone over 16 in the city with a UK passport will be able to apply for a card from the Home Office.

The home secretary’s speech signals her determination to push ahead with the cards, which will initially cost £30, despite opposition.

So here’s the question: why? Well look at this:

The home secretary was speaking during a visit to Newall Green high school in Wythenshawe, a deprived part of Manchester.

She took part in a workshop with pupils to discuss the benefits of ID cards.

Smith said: “I think, having talked to young people this morning, that having a safe and secure way of proving your identity is something they want and something they need.”

She said that there would be no government help towards the £30 cost of the cards, which would be issued to people aged 16 and over on a voluntary basis next year.

The home secretary said: “We’re saying: if you think it’s got benefits for you, for only £30 you can register with the scheme and you’ve got a card to prove who you are as you start out in life.”

So we’ve got indoctrination to start with. What does it say about the national identity register and ID cards that a government minister would have to go into a school in order to push them onto those without fully developed critical faculties? She won’t mention for a minute that they’re about as easily copied as passports. She won’t teach people to use the internet more safely or to buy shredders to protect their private information. She won’t let on that she won’t let you have a passport and leave and return to the country at will, without signing up to the register. She won’t let the kids know that they can’t have a student loan in the future without signing up. Pilots aren’t buying this garbage:

The British Airline Pilots’ Association (Balpa ), which represents more than 80% of commercial airline pilots, is to mount a legal challenge to Home Office plans to use “critical” airside workers as the first compulsory “guinea pigs” for the scheme.

MPs are shortly to be asked to approve the powers to compel the pilots and other airside workers at the two airports to register for the national ID card scheme as part of their “pre-employment” checks. The £30 fee is to be waived as an incentive for them to sign up.

The pilots’ union has protested to ministers that the £18m scheme cannot be regarded as voluntary when they are being told they will not qualify for an “airside pass” without them: “ID cards will have absolutely no value as far as security is concerned. This is nothing other than coercion and promises that ID cards would be voluntary have been broken,” Jim McAuslan, Balpa general secretary, has told ministers. “We will resist.”

It’s certainly proof that ID cards are indeed being introduced by stealth. The Home Office is trying to preempt coordinated dissent by marginalising group after group, minority after minority, to make a take-up by the majority an inevitability. She says it’s about protection from ‘criminals, illegal immigrants and terrorists’, but for that to make sense you’d have to have some evidence that the Home Office’s obsession with databases actually works. It doesn’t. The government’s handling of sensitive private information has been lazy at best and criminally neglectful at worst. Their obsession with including indefinitely the DNA details of everyone arrested by the police has had no impact at all on the solving of crime, and they have failed to explain to anyone how compromising the privacy of everyone improves the security of anyone. All we’ve seen from this government is multiple means of aggressive control, and why? To look strong on illegal immigration terrorism crime, and both placate the red top tabloids which they so fear? Or to further their ultimate obsession with ‘protection’? It’s time this government realised you can’t protect anyone by controlling everyone. It has to stop.