Ed Miliband’s civil liberties credentials are now in tatters

16th July, 2014 9:05 am

Last night MPs overwhelmingly voted for the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers (DRIP) Bill in a so-called ‘emergency’ that was known of as far back as April. There no hurry over the last three months and then, suddenly, an emergency was concocted. There’s little point in complaining about the rush because that was the whole point. The leaders of the three main parties wanted to ensure it got minimal public debate and scrutiny in case people were outraged about how it expanded surveillance powers over all our communications. Once again, we will take our civil liberties for granted until these powers get (predictably) abused and we are jolted into outrage.


I don’t say this lightly: the DRIP bill farce has essentially shredded Ed Miliband’s credentials on civil liberties. The Labour leadership is acting as it did before 2010: pretending to be reluctant about signing away our rights because it is necessary. Then, we went from a demand to lock up people without trial for 14 days to demands for 90 days detention or else the terrorists would win.

Civil liberties are a social justice issue too – a point some Labour MPs and activists don’t seem to have quite yet grasped. When the police or security services abuse their ever-growing powers, the victims are invariably ethnic minorities and/or the most marginalised in society. From stop-and-search to 90 days detention and even the Malicious Communications Act – it has always people from minority backgrounds or those with unpopular opinions who get harassed, spied on or arrested.

This is why watching events unfold within Labour over the last few days has been a gob-smacking experience. Tom Watson wrote to Yvette Cooper in April, after a European Court struck down these surveillance powers as illegal, to ask what reform might look like. He wanted the shadow Home Secretary to grasp the nettle and start the debate early.

But instead Yvette Cooper kept quiet and instead agreed to a stitch-up between Theresa May and Nick Clegg. Then, astonishingly, she stood up in the Commons yesterday to call for a wider debate on UK’s surveillance laws despite having ignored a fellow Labour MP who called on her to do exactly that.

The hypocrisy doesn’t stop there. Last year Yvette Cooper said Labour would be guided by “evidence, proportionality…and seeking strong checks and balances” when it came to decisions on civil liberties. Yet the DRIP Bill fails on all those counts: it allows the security services to hoover up everyone’s data without offering sufficient reasons for doing so. No evidence has been provided in support either. We have been thrown some crumbs as amendments so the Labour leadership can pretend they were grudging partners rather than co-conspirators.

I implore you to read ORG’s “myth list” on the DRIP Bill and explain how this isn’t a farcical stitch-up. Yesterday, the debate was predictably peppered with constant references to terrorists and pedophiles if anyone even dared ask if this was a proportionate measure. A largely compliant media either toed the line or just ignored the bill.

All this doesn’t even make political sense any more. Since 2010 Labour has attracted a large chunk of ex-Lib Dem voters who abandoned the party because it broke their trust over Iraq, civil liberties and a host of related issues. What does Labour say about civil liberties to them after this? Why should they believe Labour will be different than in 2010? Ed Miliband’s calculation that they just won’t notice this, or will hold their nose because of their distaste for Nick Clegg, is cynical politicking at its worse.

Eric Joyce MP wrote last night that DRIP was, “essentially a repeat, in principle, of that terrible moment at the end of what I believe was a period in government Labour folk should otherwise be proud of.”

Ed Miliband himself said on Labour’s approach to civil liberties when launching his leadership bid in 2010: “There was too much of a sense that we were casual when it came to the relationship of the state and the individual.” It seems that casualness is back with a vengeance and nothing was learnt.

When presented with an opportunity to challenge the consensus, stand up for principle and start an important debate, Ed Miliband quietly gave in to Theresa May’s agenda. If Labour activists want to win the General Election next year, incidents like this should be a cause for outrage.

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  • treborc1

    The Tories do, Labour follow, that’s because the bloke is weak, desperate and sadly has no idea other then follow the Tories.

    We have now been told labour will get rid of the bed room tax great but when you see how many MP’s did not bothering voting the fact is labour are today split between the left who these days think Brown is a hero and he did not vote, and the right who only sole desire is to take over the party.

    This did not surprise me at all, and I suspect the through of having to fight and argue the Tories means it’s easier to agree.

    Not much difference in values between New labour Miliband labour and the Tories.

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  • Womble

    It doesn’t surprise me at all. Ed was one of those responsible for the creation of Section 44 of the Terrorism Act (Stop and Search Without Suspicion) which was later effectively reppealed after it was ruled illegal by the ECHR. He didn’t have a clue about civil liberty then, and he still doesn’t, now.

    • treborc1

      Now look at the mess which fall directly onto labour, the so called letters on the run, allowing killers bombers to go free, out side of this countries laws, secret deals again.

  • RWP

    Personally I don’t have a problem with government surveillance, it doesn’t outrage me and I don’t feel it compromises my civil liberties.

    • gunnerbear

      it doesn’t matter if you like the idea or not. Having or not having the Bill makes no difference. If agencies of HMG really want to investigate you, I suspect that they will, regardless of what the law of the land says.

    • Michael Murray

      Yes. And if Labour had strenuously opposed the bill they would have received condemnation from every quarter for being unwilling to protect the public against vicious terrorists. That would have lost us more than the votes of some Lib Dem supporters. When Michael Foot pledged to give up our nuclear deterrent we went down to the worst defeat in our history. At least we’ve learned something from that.

      • treborc1

        So you go along with it and the public will think all Miliband does is follow, which is the most difficult being a leader or following.

        I suspect all data of MP’s paedophile emails will be destroyed.

      • RWP

        The problem with the concept of the “big, bad, scary CCTV state” – is that there IS a credible terrorist threat facing the UK from extremists, and we can’t ignore it.

        • Michael Murray


        • treborc1

          We have had that threat since Iraq, but we use the police and we u8se what we have, we do not need all this.

  • markmyword49

    Hardly surprising that most Labour MPs filed through the lobby like lambs to the slaughter. They spent thirteen years under Blair and Brown doing the same thing every time the word “security” appeared in a piece of legislation

  • JoeDM

    Well, well, well ……

    The LibLabCon establishment getting together to snoop on the rest of us.

    Quelle surprise!!!

    • gunnerbear

      That is cynicism of the highest order…..well observed.

      And, I know this is going to sound like a comment from the wider fringes of the ‘net….but….just as assorted agencies demanded and got more power to collect, collate and refine data….

      …..a huge operation hits the news (well done to the officers on the ground though)…involving a group of allegedly (and in some cases known to be) vile individuals……

      …no doubt the Home Office will be saying very quietly to their friends in the Press, “See, we told you…..now you see why we needed more powers. This operation took months…..next time it needs to be done more quickly and be more wide ranging….the new powers will let us do that….”

      Of course I could just be showing my utter cynicism in thinking that the powers-that-be would ever act in such a way.

      • MonkeyBot5000

        It’s not surprising they worry about what we’re saying when they can’t hear. We know what they’ve been getting up to in secret whilst pleading innocence and ignorance in public.

        The politicians and police just assume that we’re all as crooked as they are.

  • Grytpype

    I have never, in my whole life, felt so uninspired by a Labour leader. Even Neil Kinnock and Michael Foot made speeches full of passion and enthusiasm, which at the very least made people feel involved and ready to act. Not this bloke, I’m afraid. He might be a decent chap, but I’m sorry to say, he will lose us the next election.

    • treborc1

      I think labour had three record breaking terms in power, and people do think that labour caused the mess, they may not have caused the banking crises but even that should have been seen, they saw the housing heating up and did sod all, They attack the poorest and the pensioners the vulnerable then had to give sweeteners to win elections, they did deals behind closed doors on wars and leadership contests. Labour have a lot of issues and to be honest this time they needed a leader, what they got was Miliband .

      This site and the people who run it stated give him time he’s new he has not done much he will grow into it, he has failed misterably but the choice is now simple vote back in Labour get Tory Lite and I’m already sick of New Labour, , Progress, and the bloody Tories.

      God if ever this country needed a third party to put pressure on the other two it’s now, what have we got the Liberals a bunch of bloody wets and UKIP to dangerous to elect but a handy protest vote/.

  • Jack Fate

    surely you can find a better quote than Eric Joyce, who has zero credibility on this,or any other issue

  • driver56

    I think ED has sold the soul of the party, He should go.

    • treborc1

      They are all young wet behind the years because hardly any of them know what it’s like to spent ten twenty thirty years in opposition well it’s looming again.

  • kb32904

    “What does Labour say about civil liberties to them after this?”

    Didn’t you notice the LD’s all trotted through the same lobby ?

  • Doug Smith

    Ed, along with his Progress chums in the PLP, think the only way to achieve credibility is to mimic the Tories.

    But then, the Tories think the only way to achieve credibility is to mimic Blair. And so it goes on.

    More and more people have had enough of our one-party state – it’s time for a change.

    • treborc1

      The miners have gone the steel works and the mills have gone, and we have wet behind the ears children running the county. What can one expect when Cameron and Ed get annoyed we all know the issue, it’s nappy rash.

  • Tokyo Nambu

    May did announce that, owing to the Wilson Doctrine, MP’s data will be treated differently. So that’s alright then.

    We’re back in the noughties, with Labour falling over itself to be tougher on crime that the other lot, even if it doesn’t actually deal with any real crime. Shameful.

    Serious criminals are using one-time pads, pre-arranged keywords on eBay, covert meetings, etc. This isn’t about serious criminals, this is about catching the gang that can’t shoot straight, the idiots that email elaborate plans to blow up things they don’t have access to using explosives they don’t have with triggers they can’t build. You can catch them, and then talk about “winning the fight against terror”.

    And the Grand Hotel blows up. Which was the high water mark of the serious terrorists, the gang that could shoot straight, the people who weren’t idiots (McGee was finally arrested for other things, and got a PhD in prison).

  • John Mitchell

    My worry would be that DRIP legislation is either similar to the US Patriot Act now or will be in the future. It’s outrageous that this bill passed so quickly and was cleverly timed to coincide with the cabinet reshuffle in order to attract less mass media scrutiny.

    I think it’s more disappointing from a Conservative and Liberal Democrat standpoint. Labour’s record with their previous spell in government on civil liberties was already tarnished. The Liberal Democrats are or were supposed to believe in civil liberties and the Tories well I thought they valued limited government? Apparently not.

    The key observation from a Labour perspective though as Sunny Hundal highlights is that civil liberties are also an issue of social justice and it’s an issue which Labour are neglecting and have done so previously.

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  • ButcombeMan

    In fact our liberty can only be sustained in the modern world by something like the bill.

    Grown ups who have not been taken in by the Guardian and Snowden’s spying activity, understand that.

    The bill has a sunset clause, there is plenty of time for further review and it only continues what was there before, put in place (Note this) by a Labour government.

    It is a grave mistake to write articles like this and attempt to make our safety a party political issue.

    Intelligence is a needle in a haystack effort. If that is accepted, it makes sense to ensure the preservation of the haystack for a finite period and to properly control that haystack and make access to it subject to suitable regulation

    The existence of the data protects the innocent as well as help find the guilty.

    It would be better, if as seems to have happened, the grown ups in the major parties agree about it.

    • Michael Harris

      “Intelligence is a needle in a haystack effort. If that is accepted”..

      No. That isn’t accepted. And it isn’t accepted by the US Government or US intelligence agencies, hence the reforms conducted by their government. Only in the UK do we cling on to mass population surveillance – whereas in other European countries (and don’t tell me they don’t have paedophiles or criminals) they have scaled back surveillance and increased old fashioned policing.

      • ButcombeMan

        So intelligence collection against those who would do us harm is easy is it?

        Whatever you do you are in the wrong job. MI5 or the NCA could use you.

        In fact it IS accepted in the US.

        The UK does not DO “mass surveillance” of its population.

        China does, Russia does, both places that have given aid to the corrupt spy Snowden.

        And what exactly IS “old fashioned policing”?.. Electronic contact data has always been used in serious crime investigation.

        • Doug Smith

          The UK intercepts and stores all electronic communications.

          I have no idea why an email from my wife to her grandchildren is of interest to the security services but I suppose any minor indiscretion would be used against her should she ever step out of line.

          Perhaps, seeing as you’re fond of totalitarian practices, you should consider applying for political asylum in North Korea.

          • ButcombeMan

            The UK does not do that. You are delusional. It scans what metadata it can get hold of then focuses in on items of interest.

            To read you wife’s email needs a warrant.

          • Hugh

            Well as long as they only focus on the items of interest, I think we can all rest easy. Sounds water-tight to me.

          • Doug Smith

            You need to get up to date with developments. Do a search on GCHQ’s mass surveillance Tempora computer system.

            As the Guardian newspaper reported, Tempora makes no distinction in the gathering of data between private citizens and targeted suspects.
            Tempora is said to include recordings of telephone calls, the content of email messages, Facebook entries and the personal internet history of users.

          • ButcombeMan

            So? And do not believe everything you read.

            There is nothing being done I am uneasy about.

          • Doug Smith

            Your attitude is typical of many on the Right.

            You are only against totalitarianism when it is imposed by a government you oppose ideologically.

            Those who promoted the so called ‘war against terror’ said it would to protect our freedom. Instead, it has instigated instability, produced failed states and is now being used as excuse to diminish our freedom and institute a surveillance state.

          • ButcombeMan

            You have assumed to know what I think and thought and then implied criticism. Never a good debating position. Foolish.

            I am very critical of the WoT and especially, I was very much against the Iraq war and Blair’s deception.

            I regarded Iraq as essentially “contained” and as a counterbalance to Iran.

            I always believed intervention and regime change was illegal and dangerous and would lead to even more regional instability.

        • Hugh

          The UK does not DO “mass surveillance” of its population.

          What’s to stop it?

          • ButcombeMan

            The resources are not available in democratic societies to do that sort of thing

          • Hugh

            That’s not terribly reassuring.

          • ButcombeMan

            In the UK, the law does not allow it.

            We do NEED laws about what can be done, under what system of permissions, and by whom it can be seen, with what access arrangements.

          • Ultra_Fox

            Do you really think that governments, in the UK and elsewhere, will stay within the law on these matters?

            Did you not see the revelations from Snowden and Wikileaks?

          • ButcombeMan

            In the UK broadly yes, elsewhere, in many cases no,

            There was nothing in Snowden, particularly revalatory about the UK.

            The presentation by the Guardian and Greenwald was designed to wind up,

            I repeat, we HAVE to have laws on these matters.

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  • Jack

    Ed has capitulated to the right wing again, it was a cowardly action. He could and should have said he was not prepared to support any bill unless it had been fully and democratically discussed. That would have been an absolutely honourable position, the one he chose wasn’t.

    His fall back stance when in doubt should be “what would a Socialist do?”

    • treborc1

      Sadly his fall back is what would my mentor do, you know Blair

  • Why name and blame Ed Miliband in particular when it was entirely in the hands of and the responsibility of Yvette Cooper? Strange games going on.

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  • Barry_Edwards

    Hmmm, I suspect that the Mail, Sun and the rest of the Tory press already had the story “Labour supports Terrorists” written and would have run it every day until the day after the election when it would have changed to “terror-lovers defeated”. Even more than before, every action of the Tories should be viewed through the prism of the General Election.

    The argument is that, without this legislation, existing data already collected would have to be destroyed and that future detection of terrorists would be compromised. I suspect that this would not be the case but it is hard to prove the opposite argument.

    It is probably best to accept this as a short-term measure and for Ed to pledge that one of the first actions of the next Labour government will be to initiate a thorough review to find the proper balance between fighting terrorism and civil liberties in a democracy.

  • thewash

    This may not be exactly ‘on message’ but can someone somewhere tell me/us what is Labour’s position on the Tories intention for the UK to retract from the European Court of Human Rights?

    Why are the Tories able to get away with saying that human rights in the UK are different to human rights everywhere else?

    • treborc1

      MIliband will tell you once the Daily Mail and the Sun have had articles.

      The comments section will give labour a view.

  • Grouchy Oldgit

    How many thinking of supporting Labour will now stay home or even back UKIP because the main parties are “all the same”?


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