One of the worst infringements of individual rights in the western world passed through the British Parliament last week with almost no opposition.
A pet project of Theresa May, the Investigatory Powers Bill allows for the creation of databases recording all of an individual’s communications and online activity over a 12-month period.
Think twice about your web hosting requirements in this new climate.
The bill comes as another reminder of May’s illiberal approach to the role of government. Despite her positive moves on diversifying education and her proclaimed support of business and the free market, ever since the Conservative Party Conference last month she has made clear how she sees government as an interventionist force, both in the business and personal spheres.
It is interesting to note where the little opposition to this bill that has been seen has come from. Green and SNP MPs have spoken out against it, an interesting role reversal from the historic norm of a small-government Tory party opposing draconian measures from Labour like Blair’s ID card scheme.
The lack of serious opposition is the most concerning thing here though. There was a time not so long ago that individual freedoms were taken very seriously in the Conservative Party. Now it seems the only home for those who believe in liberty is on the left. Hardly a welcoming environment.
Theresa May is by no means all bad. Her attitude to education is a welcoming move towards more deregulated competition. Her responses to questions on such things as safe spaces and Fifa’s poppy ban have been refreshingly sound and level-headed.
Yet in her we seem to have a Prime Minister who, with some good ideas and clearly coherent principles, wants to move towards a society based far more on the state than has been seen really since before Thatcher.
Comparisons between May and Thatcher were bogus from the start, but this more than anything makes clear just what a gulf there is between the two in terms of policy and principle. Blair had more in common with Thatcher than May does in many important respects.
It’s very important for those of us who do hold individual freedom as a value to stand up to this bill and the wider direction it represents. It’s easy in an age of May and Corbyn, an age of Trump and an inescapable nationalist mentality around Europe, to feel like liberty has had its day.
But the same could easily have been said in the years of the post-war consensus. This is a blow for freedom, but it’s not defeat, and now more than ever, we need journalists, MPs, writers, thinkers and every person on the street who values the truly British principles of basic liberty to proudly stand up and defend them.