The values of modern Britain

It is difficult to write this kind of comment piece without sounding like one is aspiring to get a job as a Daily Mail columnist. So, anyway, deep breath and here goes.


The BBC is apparently due to screen a “documentary” about Lewis Carroll called “The Secret World of Lewis Carroll”. The programme will explore Lewis Carroll’s interest in young girls and investigate whether he was a “paedophile”. The Daily Mail

In human terms

The election campaign is warming up. David Cameron is quoted as saying

Full employment may be an economic term, but this is what it means in human terms: it means more of our fellow men and women with the security of a regular wage; it means you, your family and your children having a job and getting on in life

We could pick on hundreds of such statements written for politicians by nameless speech-writers. This is a good example. Its single sentence contains many of the themes of the new political language, themes which are completely common between all the major political parties. We can note:

i). He is talking down to people. It is assumed that the “economic term” “full-employment” is too challenging for people. It needs to be explained to them in “human terms”. Remember, little children, that the election will be a “big choice” election. (A term used by both main political parties).

As the poet Geoffrey Hills points out this “accessible” language is in fact anti-democratic.

We believe in “open front-doors”

David Cameron has said:

We believe in very clear front doors through legal processes that should help to keep our country safe.

[Reported by Reuters]

He apparently is concerned about the public being able to communicate using encryption. According to press reports Cameron wants to target commercial providers who build encryption into Web chat products. There is already legislation in the UK which makes it an imprisonable offence not to give the authorities a private encryption key on demand. So he clearly wants to go further.

What is somewhat hard to take is the idea that the British government believes in “open front-doors” backed up by legal processes. The Snowden revelations (not seriously contested to be accurate leaks) show that Britain’s GCHQ has been investing heavily in building back-doors unknown to the public. One leak showed that GCHQ Â was concerned about using evidence gained in this way in court in case it laid them open to charges under Britain’s Human Rights Act. In fact GCHQ appears to have “repeatedly” warned about starting a “damaging public debate”.

David Cameron then would appear to be lying through his teeth.

In fact he isn’t, because he is talking about the new system. This is apparently being coordinated with the US (like the old secret one).

The authorities are doing what they usually do when they get caught out doing something illegal. They just make it legal.

The case for the authorities being able to sift through all internet traffic is a strong one. People who object may be misunderstanding. The authorities have to hold all the traffic if they are to be able to carry out investigations into individuals. If someone becomes a target they (quite sensibly) want to sift through that person’s communications for the last year or so. The only way they can do this is if the telecoms companies and ISPs keep logs of everyone’s communications. It doesn’t necessarily mean that they do sift through the data of law-abiding member’s of the public.

Nonetheless it seems surprising that the programme was originally secret. Why was this?



The Named Person scheme

The Children and Young People Act in Scotland has introduced the Named Person system. Every “child” under 18 (and over if still at school) will have a Named Person who is responsible for their “well-being”. Typically this will be a senior teacher or health worker. It is their job to get involved if there are concerns: