Blair and co thwarted by the EU?
Let's hope so, eh? Today the wonderful data retention and electronic surveillance proposals put forward by our delightful government are being tabled by the European Commission amid EU-wide differences of opinion over their legality and effectiveness.
Blair's lovely plan, for those who missed it, is to force all phone companies and internet service providers to record all your phone calls (and keep tabs on missed calls), texts, emails, internet usage etc. etc. etc. and store them for anything up to three years (with, naturally, the potential to extend this at a later date), enabling the state to poke around into our lives whenever the hell they feel like it (especially were this information to become linked to the proposed biometric ID cards for ease of cross-referencing - although, obviously, if you've got nothing to hide... and anyway, human rights are outdated...)
However, Blair's initial proposals seem already to have been watered down by the Commission - at least to an extent. There have apparently been clauses inserted stating that the stored information can only be used for the investigation of serious organised crime and terrorism. Which, while no doubt intended to be reassuring, summons up an image of using five-mile net to catch a single flea - after all, how many of the 450 million people whose details will be stored will actually have been involved in any of those activities? And don't you think, just possibly, that criminals and terrorists will switch to non-electronic communication methods to excape detection? (Sorry, repeating myself, but the point apparently still needs to be made.)
Perhaps most promisingly, the European Parliament is to be given co-decision powers, allowing MEPs to scrutinise and amend this crappy legislation. (Of course, the European Parliament - as the only democratically-elected body in the EU - should ALWAYS have co-decision powers, but that's another matter altogether).
The only danger, of course, is that these measures are forced through the EP in a bit of a rush, with little time for debate, and are passed unthinkingly by our anonymous MEP masters, thus daubing them with a touch of democratic respectability. This is unlikely to happen here (largely thanks to the unpopularity of the measures with business, with poorer EU states who don't like the idea of the cost, and with anyone who thinks for half a second about how hapy they'd be fore some civil servant to be able to poke through their inbox and read their texts), but I'm still worried about the ID threat, about which there has, of yet, been no word... When they go quiet, that's generally when they're about to pounce.
There will also be a Commission discussion paper on the radicalisation of European muslims published today. Be on guard for Blairite thoughcrime language in the small print - and be aware that, on this occasion, it is thanks to Britain holding the EU presidency that the EU is pushing ahead with these dodgy, antidemocratic moves. But enough should be reluctant (or simply pissed off with Blair over the rebate) enough to try and drag it out until our term at the top ends, and if so there's a good chance we can get it all pushed out. Perhaps it's nearly time to cynically raise the spectre of Nazism, still far more powerful an epitome of all that is repressive across the Channel than it ever has been over here? That should raise a bit more opposition to giving Uncle Tony the right to, effectively, flick through our diaries whenever he likes, eh?
Keep an eye out.