A British political disease

From today's Guardian:

It's a British political disease, this, the suspiciously neat, aggressively spun response to a passing media hurricane. New Labour were past masters at it; and Cameron's Tories are worryingly diligent students. Much later on, when the headlines have faded, it often turns out the legislation wasn't properly followed through, or only dealt with a fraction of the problem, or hasn't changed anything.

Jackie Ashley is talking about the role of feminism in tackling the sexualisation of young girls, but the quoted text is spot on for any number of issues where the tabloids have seemingly driven government policy over the last 10+ years. Most particularly the last sentence.

For us the most relevant example is probably anti-terrorism legislation. A large amount of it seems to consist of little more than what Bruce Schneir calls 'security theatre' - it's intended primarily to make people feel safer, not to make people genuinely be safer. A great deal of it also seems to be poorly implemented - vague phrasing, loose guidance, and little-to-no constraints on the behaviour of those who enforce (and wilfully re-purpose) such laws. Many of these problems are surely consequences of the speed with which such laws are passed - "fast law is bad law".

It is particularly annoying when such legislation fails in a way which can no longer be ignored - for instance, ECHR judgements against Section 44 searches and the indefinite retention of DNA of innocent people - and yet these laws are retained for as long as possible (with official bodies such as ACPO explicitly advising police forces to ignore ECHR judgements!) and reinstated with minimal changes as soon as possible.

While many of the civil liberties violations we end up documenting on this site are directly attributable to the conduct of street-level police officers and (perhaps more importantly) to the strategic decisions of their commanding officers, it's the legislation which enables such conduct, and the political system which produces that legislation, which should be our greater concern.




Re: A British political disease
Posted by Anonymous (86.128.xx.xx) on Tue 7 Jun 2011 at 05:51
It is interesting that when I ask a reasonable person to come up with a quick and workable version of such legislation the man-on-the-street is very good at balancing precious civil liberties and 'british way of life' with realistic appraisal of threat, law enforcement balance, cost, and nuanced qualifications of other relevant factors. Yet leave it to the political system to do this and they take years over it before producing a bollox of a travesty.
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