What is a political party?

 

So familiar are we with the established, big-P political parties, one may miss the real parties which dominate our political system.

 

A party, as Burke almost said, is a body of people united for promoting by their joint endeavours the national interest upon some particular principle in which they are all agreed.

 

Applying this neutral definition, one quickly sees the real parties: there is a privatisation party, pushing for “market-based” reforms in ever-more unlikely situations; there is a defence party, always urging more military spending; there is a European party maneuvering so that more decision- and rule-making is done on a EU level; and so on.

 

Instead of, say, three main parties and some fringe ones, what we have in effect are dozens of parties which dominate public bodies and which all remain in office, regardless of elections and the politicians passing through.

 

One of the scariest and most formidable of these parties is the national security and anti-terrorism party, which dominates the Home Office, the police, and the “security services”.

 

It matters not for the national security and anti-terrorism party if the ministers are Labour or Tory.

 

It is irrelevant that there is a coalition with Liberal Democratic votes supporting it.

 

This party will keep on with the ratchet-effect of more illiberal legislation.

 

Today this illiberal party is reported as having their latest success: the Coalition is now warm to monitoring emails and social media usage.

 

The Home Office is quoted as saying:

It is vital that police and security services are able to obtain communications data in certain circumstances to investigate serious crime and terrorism and to protect the public.

 

But they may as well be saying:

It is vital that police and security blah obtain data blah serious crime blah and TERRORISM KLAXON blah and to protect the public.

 

 

The depressing thing is the sense of sheer relentlessness in the promotion of such policies; and one knows that the Tories will generally nod-a-long, just as the Labour politicians did before them.

 

Having the Liberal Democrats in the Coalition seems to be making no difference at all.

 

 

Fortunately, for most parties there is an opposite party, even if there is often not any equality of arms.

 

The human rights and civil liberties party still exists, and will challenge this illiberalism in the courts and elsewhere even if the battle is lost in the legislature and government departments.

 

But what will be missing is any sense of democracy: no one can stop the national security and anti-terrorism party by voting.  The big-P parties are not providing any efficient way of making political choices by allowing us to use our vote.  This lack of alignment between the form and subtance of political parties is saddening, but it is difficult to see any way it will be changed.

 

And in the meantime, how long before the national security and anti-terrorism party entices the Coalition into reviving ID Cards?

 

 

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26 Responses to The national security and anti-terrorism party

  • michael says:

    spot on – except for an odd typo :-)

    is a big L, big P Liberal Party a pipe dream?

    • Steve Tierney says:

      Hah! The “Civil Liberties” party of people like Shami Chakrabati etc pushes centralisation. Okay, centralisation of civil liberties, but centralisation nonetheless. If we can’t agree on what actually is a liberty and what is something nice we’d like if money grew on trees and rainbows danced above our heads then it is easy to torpedo the arguments.

      I’d like a big “L” liberal party too, but I bet what I think it is will be different from what you think it is. Arguing for social liberty alongside economic coercion is a dead end.

  • admin says:

    Sorry for typos. Hopefully now dealt with.

  • Rick Falkvinge said at his recent TEDx talk in London, there is a crackdown on freedom of speech on the Net all over the world, only the excuses differ. Whether the reason given is fighting terrorism, organised crime, civil rebellion, copyright infringement, pornography in various forms, security of the nation.

  • Tom ( iow) says:

    Come on, it’s not like you might be jailed for two months because people object to the opinions you express, or anything like that.

    My next prediction is a prosecution for saying something like “it went down a bomb” in a genuinely metaphorical sense. Perhaps on the pretext of wasting police time or something similar.

    • Kimpatsu says:

      Tom, that’s already happened. Look at the Irishman who was denied admission to the USA because he tweeted that during his holiday he intended to “destroy America”.

  • alex B says:

    “But what will be missing is any sense of democracy: no one can stop the national security and anti-terrorism party by voting.”

    I doubt an only-Lib Dem government would do this. Just because that’s not going to happen doesn’t mean there’s necessarily a democratic deficit. Anti-Europeans claim the same about an in/out referendum, but they have UKIP/BNP if they want.

    • Steve Tierney says:

      The Lib Dems are barely liberal at all, in the classic sense. They’re all for liberty when it doesnt conflict with their pet issues, but quickly turn into authoritarians when any of those precious areas pop up – education, global warming, nationalism, the EU etc.

  • Greg Bean says:

    There is a simple answer. We need to be able to vote on issues, not for Parties. Simple really. And the time when others recognize the validity of this form of democracy is fast approaching.

    @greglbean

  • Nile says:

    “Having the Liberal Democrats in the Coalition seems to be making no difference at all”.

    You say this like it is a surprising thing, or a source of shame and dismay.

    You’ve had nearly two years, and the successful passage of the Education bill, the Welfare Reform act, and the abolition of the NHS, with Lib Dem support, to get used to it.

    There is no ‘Liberal Democrat’ political party: there is merely a clique of professional politicians,who have discovered that they have more in common with the Cameron Clique than with their public declarations of principle, and an inordinate fondness for their ministerial limousines.

    The smart Lib Dem MP’s will fight the next election as Conservatives, or under no-compete agreements to squeeze out Labour; the smarter ones will get the hell out of politics, recognising that they have failed in every possible way.

    Meanwhile, the privatisation of universities and the NHS are a fait accompli – Labour policy initiatives implemented and made irrevocable by their fellow-Thatcherites in government; so, too, the finalisation of the surveillance state.

    You are aware that the pervasive email and mobile telecomms surveillance operation will be contracted-out to the private sector… Aren’t you?

    Don’t bother replying: if your private opinions matter to me, I will be able to purchase the relevant transcripts. And ‘privileged communication’ between clients and solicitors is *so* last year: take a close look at the relevant clauses in the draft legislation when it comes out – if it ever does: this might not actually need primary legislation and commercial contracts aren’t subject to the FOI.

  • Michael says:

    Well, if you’re not against terrorism then you must surely be for terrorism. How could anyone possibly vote for terrorists? You must be mad. Or just not British.

  • Kingsley says:

    “Michael says:
    April 1, 2012 at 23:27

    Well, if you’re not against terrorism then you must surely be for terrorism.”
    I don’t necessarily disagree with your statement although it is over simplistic.
    However being against terrorism and also against measures that will be useless against terrorism, whilst impinging on the civil liberties of millions of non-terrorists is a wholly contestant position.

    What you have done Sir, is to set up one of the most obvious False Dichotomies in existence.

  • Kingsley says:

    “contestant” should read “consistent” in the above post.
    Apologies for poor proof reading of spell-check’s obvious suggestion.

  • Fiona Hanley says:

    David, I had the same reaction as you to that story yesterday only nothing like as coherently. If it’s a cross-party move towards surveillance and invasion of privacy how do people protest against it?

    Also since squabbling trolls know how to purchase several fake IP addresses without any great difficulty, it’s reasonable to assume terrorists can do the same. So I’m a bit sceptical about the terror threat excuse.

    Michael, this post addresses your point. http://www.biometricidentitycards.info/articles/NoHideNoFear.htm

  • Pingback: Puppet Masters Play Terror | Fox Tales

  • Bertie says:

    Interesting points. I felt with the NHS Bill that the fault lay less with Lansley (however idiotic he might be) than with the civil servants who drafted the thing. Why should the same civil servants who gloriously fecked up every attempt at NHS reform under Labour suddenly get some level of ability when doing it for the Tories?

    Same with ‘national security’, the politicians have changed, the bureaucrats remain the same. Pushing their same ‘legislate and it will be okay’ solutions.

    • Politics has always been like that, every cabinet “reshuffle” always see’s somebody that failed miserably at their job, get moved to another job they know f$*k all about & they will monumentally suck at that job too, but that’s ok because that’s how politics’s work . The “TERRORISM” threat, what a load of complete bo£$%&*Ks that is, it’s just a sham to keep us all living in “fear”, like “AL Quida” (if it even exist’s) gives a rats ass what I’m doing, I’m just a nobody, I have no enemies to fear at all, but the GOVERNMENT would rather I cower in my home, fearful of what some nasty oversea’s terrorist might do to me, give me a frikkin’ break….

  • Pete says:

    So many people with a liberal outlook now feel that there is no big-P party advocating their views.

    Often it takes something that goes beyond common sense and reason to ignite a movement. I hope that the right to privacy and free expression becomes the galvanising issue of our time. At the moment, though, it remains just that – a hope.

    Come on David, that career in politics awaits you…

  • BenSix says:

    As our browsing details are liable to be accessed by whoever, whenever, I might as well admit that I’ve visited Stormfront, Islamic Awakening and Perez Hilton, but I’m not a fascist, an Islamist or a Belieber.

  • Libertad says:

    The ID card database, the real issue of concern in any reflection on ID cards, is back in the guise of a national benefits system register. We outsourced it. How frugal. http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2012/mar/23/it-staff-india-benefits-system?fb=native&CMP=FBCNETTXT9038

    The ID card will follow. (“Want to make getting government stuff easier? You need our New Improved National Insurance Card!”) As will the temptation to cross-link that database with this one, in the name of efficiency.

    And so the wheel keeps turning.

  • Luke says:

    As I read this I was increasingly minded of Aragorn’s speech from the Lord of the Rings… “there will be a day, when the strength of men fails… BUT IT IS NOT THIS DAY!”

    Good work, I like it. Any idea how we might join this “human rights and civil liberties party?” Aside from just giving Liberty £2 a month.

  • AJ says:

    What is so striking is how low the threat from terrorism actually is.

    The contrast with when there actually were regular terrorist killings in the UK is stark. The more the threat has declined the more the threat has been promoted and used to justify extensions to the power of the state.

    The route cause of the problem, as with problems with politics in general, is the media. Terrorism and the threat of terrorism is ‘sexy’ and sells. The reaility that the threat is tiny but impossible to eliminate and there are no magic legaslitive solutions is boring so is never presented

  • AJ says:

    Oops root not route.

  • Jill says:

    I agree that successive administrations fall prey to interest groups and institutions once they finally come to govern. I’m not sure that I see these groups as “parties”, however. Any set of people will prioritise according to the living they’re earning. So it’s no surprise, for example, that the Home Office and police pressurise for illiberal measures. And it’s true that there is a balance to be struck between liberty and security. We all know that. We do need a voice for security as much as we need a voice for liberty.

    What worries me is the lack of leadership coming from our politicians – of all parties. They so easily succumb to the loudest voice from institutions. They may say what they mean in opposition. But once in power, they’re hypnotised by these people. So, instead of balancing the voices they hear and making a – god forbid – principled decision, they bow to the pressure. And it’s the pressure of the nearest, loudest voice, not principle, or even common sense or the wishes of those who voted for them.

    I don’t think this is a matter of an alternative reality of political parties underneath the ones we vote for. I think it’s a paucity of leaders.

  • Don Cox says:

    The main aim of a Liberty party should be to repeal as mant laws as possible.

    About one a day would make a difference over five years.

    It should be possible for the average citizen to read and understand all the laws of England.

    • @ Don Cox: It should be possible for the average citizen to read and understand all the laws of England.

      Considering all law is still written in “LATIN” for the sole purpose of making it more or less impossible for an “average citizen” to grasp what the hell anything mean’s, that’s a strange comment. I don’t disagree with you, it should indeed be our right to understand the laws of our own fatherland, but I don’t see it happening anytime soon….
      Peace, I’m on your side…..

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