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British liberals don’t care about privacy

Guy Birchall

Topics Politics UK

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Theresa May would like to read your private messages. I simplify slightly here, but the essence of that sentence is true.

Following her disappointing (and politically daft) move to plump for Remain in the forthcoming EU referendum, May is now focused on pushing the Investigatory Powers Bill (IPB), which had its second reading yesterday, through parliament.

The so-called ‘snoopers’ charter’ is deserving of its disparaging moniker. The proposed act would enable the government to compel companies such as Apple and Facebook to hand over private correspondence between people using their services.

In the US, a court order demanding Apple help the FBI hack the phone of one of the San Bernardino shooters has provoked much debate, and has been met with a good deal of resistance. But, then again, our American cousins do have a much grander tradition of telling the government to bugger off when it starts getting too big for its boots.

We in Britain, however, are seemingly not as irked by such gross invasions of privacy. A good majority of those sounding off about the IPB do so purely because it is a Tory government trying to enact the legislation. These critics would back down in a heartbeat if the same illiberal, statist bilge were being spouted by someone sporting a red rosette.

So-called liberals have, for decades, approved of the government interfering in people’s lives. How many still voted Labour after Blair proposed extending the length of detention without trial? How many believe people should be punished for ‘hate speech’? The answer is far, far too many. Indeed, it was Labour that introduced the original snoopers’ charter, the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act, in 2000.

The liberal elites almost never object to the state interfering with people’s lives. For the most part, they actively encourage it. Whether it is luvvie actors and minor celebs demanding the end to a free press, because they’ve been papped stumbling out of a nightclub or caught bonking someone they shouldn’t have been, or councils deeming UKIP supporters unfit parents, the level of support for state meddling is disturbingly high.

The snoopers’ charter is a typically British piece of legislation; it is the sledgehammer of the Something Must Be Done brigade, wielded to crack the nut of a relatively small problem. We witnessed this in the wake of the Dunblane massacre, when draconian gun laws were introduced in response to a tragic, but thankfully rare, occurrence. We saw it again following the phone-hacking allegations, which sparked the most appalling witch-hunt of journalists in living memory.

We must tell the government to butt out of our private lives. No one else will do it for us, least of all Britain’s so-called liberals.

Guy Birchall is a writer based in London.

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Topics Politics UK

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