Alex Massie

Big Jacqui is Watching You

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Simon Jenkins signed off from his Sunday Times column with a spankingly good piece last weekend:

Is Jacqui Smith, the home secretary, a pocket dictator? Is there no drop of liberalism in her veins, no concept of personal freedom, no fear of a repressive state? Or is she just another home secretary? This month she apparently felt obliged by dark forces beyond her control to add another weapon to the armoury of illiberal power. She wants to record at her Cheltenham communications headquarters every mobile phone call, text and internet message of every Briton living. This is close to madness.

Home secretaries always speak with forked tongues...

Each new repressive law is abused, sometimes blatantly. This month Gordon Brown used the 2005 antiterror law to seize the assets of Icelandic banks, an outrage that passed without protest from parliament or the courts. The same law has been used by local authorities to monitor school catchment areas and rubbish disposal. When ministers take untrammelled power, they lie...

The war on terror has been a wretched blind alley in British political history. It has revealed all that is worst in British government – its authoritarianism, its sloppiness and its unaccountability. Yet restoring the status quo ante will be phenomenally hard.

In all my years of writing this column, from which I am standing down, I have been amazed at the spinelessness of Britain’s elected representatives in defending liberty and protesting against state arrogance. They appear as parties to the conspiracy of power. There have been outspoken judges, outspoken peers, even outspoken journalists. There have been few outspoken MPs. Those supposedly defending freedom are whipped into obedience. I find this ominous.

I agree with every word of this. Will anything change? Probably not. Matters will have to get still worse before there's hope for a shift in attitude. And by then it will be too late.

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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