Posts Tagged ‘government’

The response to the Snowden revelations must be more government, not less

11/07/2013, 02:13:30 PM

by Sam Fowles

I wasn’t that bothered when I read that GCHQ could basically have seen everything I do on the internet. Unless they’re concerned that I might be receiving secret messages from Ayman al-Zawahiri encoded in cat videos or decide to prosecute me for using a friend’s username on Lexis Nexus at law school, I can’t think of much that would interest them.

But I was wrong. Edward Snowden’s revelations should terrify. They should terrify because, with more crimes in statute and case law than even the most eminent criminal lawyer can learn (and this is before one even gets into torts), most of us would probably be guilty of something if someone was prepared to keep us under surveillance for long enough.

But they should also terrify because they will contribute to a growing distrust in “government”. Not “the government” as in the one which we have at any one time, but “government” as a concept. They should terrify because losing faith in “government” translates all too easily into losing faith in democracy.

More and more people don’t trust government whoever is running it. Apparently all politicians are liars, all public institutions are corrupt, the state is only ever out to get you.

The irony is that the left, traditionally the side of the political divide most associated with “big government” has most reason to fear it. For the last two years the Guardian has painstakingly revealed the scale to which the British state has spied on left wing political groups. The focus has been on the impact on individuals, the affairs between undercover officers and the activists they betrayed, the children conceived in relationships based on lies, the dead infants whose identities were stolen.

What hasn’t been mentioned nearly enough is that the state used undercover agents to spy on activists who were simply exercising their democratic right to disagree with those in power. These operations didn’t result in high profile prosecutions and they had absolutely nothing to do with protecting us from dangerous criminals.

This wasn’t Al Qaeda or the IRA or even the National Front. The worst that groups of this type have ever been convicted of is occupying a big chimney for a bit.

For this, five received conditional discharges and the rest got 18 months community. Hardly the stuff to threaten the peace of the kingdom. Yet someone in government felt it was necessary to embed multiple agents for up to twenty years. We’ve all agreed this is bad. Someone needs to ask why it was done.

These weren’t isolated incidents either. Along with Snowden’s revelations came the news that the police embedded undercover agents in order to smear the Lawrences.

That bears repeating: the Metropolitan police went to the expense of a full undercover operation. the target: an aging black couple who’s son had just been murdered. Their crime: criticising the Metropolitan Police. It was just a few years earlier that South Yorkshire police had mounted a campaign of defamation (including 95 prosecutions, all of which failed) after they brutally attacked picketing minors at Orgreave.

What unites these victims of the unfettered aggression of a shadow state? They expressed left wing views. Where were the infiltrations of the National Front, the BNP the EDL or even the fox hunting lobby?

All of these groups actively expressed plans to break the law. Some still do. It turns out that dissent is permitted in this country, even violent dissent. So long as it’s dissent of the right kind.


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Don’t promise what you can’t deliver on immigration

26/08/2011, 11:21:00 AM

by Matt Cavanagh

Yesterday’s ONS figures are a reminder of the risks of politicians promising what they can’t deliver, particularly on an issue as emotive as immigration.

Before the election, Conservatives and Liberal Democrats said immigration was out of control; afterwards, they said they would cut it dramatically. Neither was true.

The figures reinforce how stable immigration has been in recent years: non-British immigration is estimated at 455,000 in 2010, compared to 437,000 in 2009 – and broadly stable since 2006:

Long term immigration, emigration, and net migration of non-British nationals

Source: IPS, ONS Migration statistics quarterly report, August 25 2011

The Government’s chosen target is not non-British immigration, but ‘net inward migration’: total (British and non-British) immigration, less total (British and non-British) emigration. As the above graph shows, non-British emigration is falling, and while British emigration has risen slightly over the last year, overall emigration remains down – with the result that the Government’s target of reducing net migration below 100,000 has moved further from their grasp since the election:

Long term immigration, emigration, and net migration of all nationals

Source: LTIM, ONS Migration statistics quarterly report, August 25 2011

Yesterday’s figures suggest the interim immigration ‘cap’ on working migrants from outside the EU had negligible effect in 2010. The Government has made further changes since relating to non-EU migrants, including closing Tier 1 (highly skilled) to all but the wealthiest migrants in December 2010; a number of changes to Tier 4 (students) in March 2011; and a permanent ‘cap’ on ‘Tier 2’ (skilled) workers in April.

The latest quarterly figures to June 2011, published by the Home Office yesterday, should show these changes starting to have an effect, and indeed there is a slight fall in people coming from outside the EU for work (down 2.7% compared to the year ending April 2011), almost all in Tier 1 rather than Tier 2. This fall is offset, however, by a rise in those coming from outside the EU to study (up 3.5% compared to year ending April 2011).

More significantly, any reduction in numbers coming from outside the EU is likely to be offset by the continuing rise in those coming from inside the EU, particularly from Eastern Europe – a category of immigration which the Government cannot control.

Yesterday’s figures show that immigration from Eastern Europe rose from 52,000 to 71,000 in 2010 – and emigration back to Eastern Europe fell from 47,000 to 31,000, adding further to overall net migration.

In terms of the number of Eastern Europeans in work – as opposed to new arrivals – recent Labour Force Survey figures confirm that, after being stable between 2008 and the first quarter of 2010, numbers have been rising steadily since the election:

The changes the Government has made to immigration from outside the EU may well have more effect in the year to come – particularly on students and highly-skilled migrants.

But the rising trend in immigration from the EU looks set to continue. More recent figures from the Department of Work and Pensions, included in yesterday’s ONS report, show that for the year to March 2011, over 187,000 National Insurance numbers were allocated to Eastern European nationals, an increase of 24% on the previous 12 months.

In terms of employers’ future plans, a survey this week from the Chartered Institute for Personnel Development suggests that the number of private sector employers intending to hire migrant workers in the next quarter continues to rise. The CIPD survey also suggests that, if the ‘cap’ has any effect in future months, it is unlikely to deter employers from hiring migrant workers – it is more likely to make them switch to hiring migrants from inside the EU.

Ministers need to be more honest with the public about how far overall immigration numbers are really determined by government policy, rather than economic factors, and employer preferences. Ministers also need to avoid reacting to their difficulties with the net migration target by trying to clamp down further on those categories of migration which are the most economically valuable – and instead, start thinking about how to harness immigration to promote employment and growth. Conservative ministers in particular have consistently argued that welfare reform and immigration control are the answer to youth unemployment and worklessness. But with youth unemployment back over 20%, and NEETs at a record high, they need to look towards other policies if they are to prevent the creation of another ‘lost generation’.

Matt Cavanagh is Associate Director at the IPPR

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Tommy Watson takes the fight to the Tories

16/06/2010, 04:19:15 PM

When the coalition caved in to pressure and published details of – some of – its special advisers’ salaries last week – there were a few details missing.

So Tom Watson has produced this briefing paper, which contains a detailed account of the coalition’s spin doctors’ new pay rates and pensions.

It includes what last week’s document didn’t show: the additional civil service pensions that these coalition spinners can expect.

Under the civil service pension scheme, the PM’s spin man Andy Coulson gets £160K to add to his retirement pot.

These are the same “gold-plated and unfair” pension schemes that deputy pm Nick Clegg denounced this week.

Clegg said it was unreasonable to expect the taxpayer to continue to keep paying  into “unreformed gold-plated public sector pension pots” – just like those awarded to the new government.

So, Watson asks in his  letter to Nick Clegg, if low paid public sector workers are to forgo their “gold plated pots”, will all the coalition spin doctors be opting out of the civil service pension scheme?

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Efficiency Briefing: Number 1

16/06/2010, 04:16:51 PM

David Cameron and Nick Clegg: The cost of their recently appointed special advisers’ pensions

“So can we really ask them to keep paying their taxes into unreformed gold-plated public-sector pension pots? It’s not just unfair, it’s not affordable.” Nick Clegg, 14 June 2010 

Tom Watson MP

Efficiency Briefing: Number 1


Last Thursday, after a dismal performance in the chamber by Danny Alexander earlier in the week, the government caved into pressure and published the salary list of their newly appointed special advisers.

As well as showing a startling increase in the number of spin doctors working out of number 10, the publication showed that chief spin doctor Andy Coulson had been awarded a salary greater than that of the deputy prime minister.

What the publication didn’t show you was that on top of a £140K pay packet, Coulson is automatically entitled to a civil service pension – the same pension arrangements that Nick Clegg described yesterday as “gold plated…unfair…[and]…not affordable”. So on top of his £140K, the taxpayer could fund another £27,160 per year towards Mr Coulson’s retirement. 


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Labour must learn to oppose, says Benjamin Wegg-Prosser

27/05/2010, 02:22:59 PM

I did something very strange last week: I read a speech by a Secretary of State (Jeremy Hunt’s first – perfectly good if a little predictable).

I did something odder this morning: I watched the Parliament channel on the iPlayer.

Having been lucky enough to have access to the heart of government at various points over the past 13 years, I had fallen out of the habit of actually reading and watching the business of politics.  Having an inside track seemed to give me sense of what was going on without having to do so much of the legwork.

Times have changed. And in changing times following the nitty gritty is essential.  The Tories and Liberals are without doubt approaching government in a different way: identifying common ground, being honest about their differences and, if they can keep this going, I suspect making quite an impact on the public. (more…)

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