Freedom Dies Quietly...John Pilger
Source Ken Hanly
Date 06/04/14/14:29

Freedom dies quietly
The bill marks the end of true parliamentary
democracy; it is as significant as Congress abandoning
the Bill of Rights

By John Pilger

04/13/06 "ICH" -- -- People ask: can this be happening
in Britain? Surely not. A centuries-old democratic
constitution cannot be swept away. Basic human rights
cannot be made abstract. Those who once comforted
themselves that a Labour government would never commit
such an epic crime in Iraq might now abandon a last
delusion, that their freedom is inviolable. If they

The dying of freedom in Britain is not news. The
pirouettes of the Prime Minister and his political
twin, the Chancellor, are news, though of minimal
public interest. Looking back to the 1930s, when
social democracies were distracted and powerful
cliques imposed their totalitarian ways by stealth and
silence, the warning is clear. The Legislative and
Regulatory Reform Bill has already passed its second
parliamentary reading without interest to most Labour
MPs and court journalists; yet it is utterly
totalitarian in scope.

It is presented by the government as a simple measure
for streamlining deregulation, or "getting rid of red
tape", yet the only red tape it will actually remove
is that of parliamentary scrutiny of government
legislation, including this remarkable bill. It will
mean that the government can secretly change the
Parliament Act, and the constitution and laws can be
struck down by decree from Downing Street. Blair has
demonstrated his taste for absolute power with his
abuse of the royal prerogative, which he has used to
bypass parliament in going to war and in dismissing
landmark high court judgments, such as that which
declared illegal the expulsion of the entire
population of the Chagos Islands, now the site of an
American military base. The new bill marks the end of
true parliamentary democracy; in its effect, it is as
significant as the US Congress last year abandoning
the Bill of Rights.

Those who fail to hear these steps on the road to
dictatorship should look at the government's plans for
ID cards, described in its manifesto as "voluntary".
They will be compulsory and worse. An ID card will be
different from a driving licence or passport. It will
be connected to a database called the NIR (National
Identity Register), where your personal details will
be stored. These will include your fingerprints, a
scan of your iris, your residence status and unlimited
other details about your life. If you fail to keep an
appointment to be photographed and fingerprinted, you
can be fined up to 2,500.

Every place that sells alcohol or cigarettes, every
post office, every pharmacy and every bank will have
an NIR terminal where you can be asked to "prove who
you are". Each time you swipe the card, a record will
be made at the NIR - so, for instance, the government
will know every time you withdraw more than 99 from
your bank account. Restaurants and off-licences will
demand that the card be swiped so that they are
indemnified from prosecution. Private business will
have full access to the NIR. If you apply for a job,
your card will have to be swiped. If you want a London
Underground Oyster card, or a supermarket loyalty
card, or a telephone line or a mobile phone or an
internet account, your ID card will have to be swiped.

In other words, there will be a record of your
movements, your phone calls and shopping habits, even
the kind of medication you take. These databases,
which can be stored in a device the size of a hand,
will be sold to third parties without you knowing. The
ID card will not be your property and the Home
Secretary will have the right to revoke or suspend it
at any time without explanation. This would prevent
you drawing money from a bank.

ID cards will not stop terrorists, as the Home
Secretary, Charles Clarke, has now admitted; the
Madrid bombers all carried ID. On 26 March, the
government moved to silence parliamentary opposition
to the cards, announcing that a committee would
investigate banning the House of Lords from blocking
legislation contained in a party's manifesto. The
Blair clique does not debate. Like the zealot in
Downing Street, its "sincere belief" in its own
veracity is quite enough. When the London School of
Economics published a long study that in effect
demolished the government's case for the cards, Clarke
abused it for feeding a "media scare campaign".

This is the same minister who attended every cabinet
meeting at which Blair's lies over his decision to
invade Iraq were clear.

This government was re-elected with the support of
barely a fifth of those eligible to vote: the
second-lowest proportion since the franchise. Whatever
respectability the famous suits in television studios
try to give him, Blair is demonstrably discredited as
a liar and war criminal.

Like the constitution-hijacking bill now reaching its
final stages, and the criminalising of peaceful
protest, ID cards are designed to control the lives of
ordinary citizens (as well as enrich the new
Labour-favoured companies that will build the computer
systems). A small, determined and profoundly
undemocratic group is killing freedom in Britain, just
as it has killed literally in Iraq. That is the news.
"The kaleidoscope has been shaken," said Blair at the
2001 Labour party conference. "The pieces are in flux.
Soon they will settle again. Before they do, let us
reorder this world around us."

With thanks to Frances Stonor Saunders and Hanna
Lease. John Pilger's new book, Freedom Next Time, will
be published in June by Bantam Press.

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