Is Britain becoming a police state?

February 17, 2009

We’ve been spooked, says former spook Dame Stella Rimington. The first female head of MI5, who stood down as the director general of the security service in 1996, believes the government has used the spectre of terrorism to restrict our civil liberties.

“It would be better that the government recognised that there are risks, rather than frightening people in order to be able to pass laws which restrict civil liberties, precisely one of the objects of terrorism — that we live in fear and under a police state,” Rimington told Spain’s La Vanguardia newspaper.

Ghoulish stuff and not the first time the former spy has piped up about the apparent erosion of our civil liberties. In the past Dame Stella has been a vociferous critic both of government attempts to increase the maximum amount of time terrorist suspects can be held without charge for up to 42 days and the introduction of ID cards.

Rimington’s view is given some credence by an International Commission of Jurists study that accuses the UK, as well as the US, of enacting “abusive laws and policies” in the aftermath of 9/11.

Do you agree with Dame Stella? Or has the government’s response to terrorism been proportionate to the threat posed?

16 comments

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More CCTV cameras per head of population than any other country in the world.

The ability to track vehicles across country using number plate recognition in roadside “speed” cameras.

Legislation allowing any public official to use covert surveillance techniques including telephone tapping without a court order.

“Voluntary” ID cards which will become compulsory by default because all applicants for a new passport are also required to hold an ID card.

From April 2009, records of all telephone calls, texts, emails and website visits will be held and made accessible to any public official without a court order.

Is that enough to constitute a police state? I think anyone with any idea of what they are talking about would agree that it is.

All introduced either by stealth or under the guise of “anti-terror legislation” supposedly made necessary by the Labour government’s own policy of leaving the country’s borders wide open to any criminal or terrorist or wants to walk in.

The situation has nothing to do with any genuine need to combat terrorism and everything to do with the government’s ideological obsession with complete control of the population. These people are the deadly enemies of a free society and must be thrown out before they do the same as Venezuela’s Chavez and suspend elections “in the national interest”.

Posted by Andrew | Report as abusive

Stella Rimington is right. I used to be proud of our tradition of personal liberty; the respect that the state has for the law abiding citizen. It was one of the best aspects of English culture. Now, as a middle class thirty six year old who has never been in any kind of trouble, I am afraid of the state. Not afraid of terrorism, Mr Blair and Mr Brown, afraid of the New Labour state. One of the best attributes of our country is being destroyed out of a mixture of misguided establishment promoted panic and political cynicism.

Posted by Oliver Chettle | Report as abusive

hopefully the general public will realise before its too late….

Posted by someguy | Report as abusive

It is not just Britain, but the whole of Western Europe that is energetically engaged in curtailing all freedom that is deemed to contravene a pseudo-moral political orthodoxy. The entire appratus of Legislative and Executive government and the whole justice system, is gearing up to suppress any individual and collective expression that might thwart the central dictat. Mainstream Christianity will be under greater censure in Britain in the next decade than in Putin’s reverted Russian state. Pan European state systems are desparate to control Islam in its varied forms, but continue to slavishly follow the self-defeating and vain notion of a war on terror.

Posted by Bob Watson | Report as abusive

Like so many others, I cannot understand the proposal that we give up our treasured liberties to protect us from those who seek to achieve just that. It would appear they have already won! As a commercial pilot, I am repeatedly interrogated by morons who claim to be protecting the public from terrorist attack. Am I missing something here or have the authorities discovered a secret cell of Anglo-Saxon commercial pilots, intent on suicide attacks?

Posted by Rod Mackay | Report as abusive

Current Score:

England 0 – 1 Terrorists

Posted by Anon | Report as abusive

“People who think themselves free are more easily controlled than those who have known serfdom. They are soft in the illusion of their freedom, which is easily taken away”.

Marx

He wasn’t talking about the British, but his cynical observation is certainly relevant in the UK today. For all the smug talk of having “fought two world wars for freedom”, we are sleepwalking into a Socialist dictatorship.

Posted by Jason | Report as abusive

I’m a British ex-pat living in southern Europe for 35 years. My friends and colleagues cannot immagine how a country can function WITHOUT identity cards and I tend to agree with them. If asked to identify myself I see no problem in showing my ID card. So simple and timesaving for all concerned. The same goes for CCTV cameras. The more of them I see around, the safer I feel. The bottom line is: if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to worry about.

Posted by Pietro | Report as abusive

“If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to worry about”, says Pietro.

That little piece of naivete can of course be turned around. If you have nothing to hide, why would the government want to pry into your personal affairs?

Posted by Peter | Report as abusive

ID cards and CCTV are not the problem, and not really a solution either. Remember these points:
1. Terrorists. Bunch of nutcases. Anyone can do it for what ever reason sounds good as a sound_byte. There is no full protection against them.
2. Civil Liberties. Law makers make laws they rarely have to live by, or with. That’s life, all you can do is:
3. New Labour – old Bolsheviks in Cool Britania Clothing. Vote them out. While you can vote, and if Brown lets you vote, show them the door and why.
Very simple.
4. Wake up UK!

The control freaks have thrown our sovereignty away, all that’s left is the Police State. That’s why Justice is on the side of the Criminal.

Posted by Jimmer XXXX | Report as abusive

I think a lot of these comments are missing the point. The Law Lords decided today that Abu Qatada could be deported, but that decision will probably be reversed by the European Court of Human Rights and we will no doubt kow tow. Our own laws are such that other people, despite their whole purpose in life being to destroy ours, cannot be deported. It is in large part because of this ludicrous impotence of our laws, that the security applied to each and every one of us needs to be so exaggerated. There used to be a time when the Home Secretary simply had to decide that your presence wasn’t conducive to the public good, and you were out of here, bag and baggage. The rest of us didn’t need to be spied on 24/7 as a result. That’s the problem in my opinion.

Posted by Matthew | Report as abusive

You have all missed the point so far – WHEN did you last go to your local parliamentary representative’s weekly “surgery”? When did you take the door off the hinges and yell “enough is enough”? When did you go and remind these selectively forgetful people that we voted for them to do a job for US, not a job to win brownie points from some Prime Minister or satisfy some dubious political diktat. People of Britain! WAKE UP! – participate in your local politics and hound these people day and night until they do OUR bidding. Make them listen. Make them do what WE want to have done. If you do not exercise your RIGHT to call these people personally and directly to account, you will LOSE THIS RIGHT. If you doubt this, just ask honest people who work in some of our town halls – they will tell you it is fast becoming POLICY amongst councils to direct their staff to have as little contact with the public customers as possible. Just who the hell do they think they are – we pay for them – then they won’t deal with us – we wouldn’t pay a shop or a garage if they treated us like this when we give them our hard-earned cash – why oh why do we let government officials behave like this? Answer is: we ALLOW them to do it by default. Get down to your local office and start the ball moving – now – tomorrow – no later – next day will be too late by far………….

Posted by Larry | Report as abusive

Larry is right up to a point, in saying that the British people have got the kind of local government they deserve because most of them are too lazy to get involved with local politics and leave the way open for small pressure groups and political activists to manipulate the system to achieve their own ends.

However, a post in another blog describes clearly how the workings of local democracy and public bodies have been subverted by seemingly innocuous amendments to legislation made by the Labour government to allow its placemen to implement government policy against the wishes of the majority in local committee meetings, etc.

Given that most people don’t have the time or inclination to attend these meetings in sufficient weight to combat the rot, the best and easiest way to deal with it is simply to vote for a different government. The current government was elected with only 35.2% of the vote and was elected only because large numbers of otherwise responsible people couldn’t be bothered to go to the polling stations. “…soft in the illusion of their freedom”, indeed.

They need to do better at the next election. It might well be their last chance.

Posted by Mike | Report as abusive

Sad and harsh though it may sound the British people have got the government they deserve. They are not interested in politics anymore and this apathy has allowed the control freaks to take over. Because so few have or will speak out government has no respect for the people anymore and can now silence the remaining odd few who dissent by branding them as ‘terrorists’.

I am looking forward to the day I retire – that is the day I leave this over governed surveillance society that we have sleepwalked into and live out the rest of my life in a less oppressive and more respectful society. Of course this assumes two things – one is that I am still allowed to leave and the second is that I can afford to given the damage being done to our currency by the government.

Posted by Richard | Report as abusive

One has to realise that the constant surveillance we are now subjected to has nothing to do with countering terrorism. The government today is populated by control freaks who wish to ensure that they have total control of the population. Even when politicians themselves attempt to publish details of illegal acts by the government, they are subjected to police searches and interrogation.

I can sympathise with those who would wish to leave the UK, but having spent a lot of my time in other European countries and can assure you that the mentatlity is spreading mainly due to the EY.

Posted by Keith Andersonb | Report as abusive