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Home > Politics

Good Egg #1: Baroness Blatch

An unlikely defender of our freedom receives the first in a series of occasional hagiographies, by Alan Connor.

14 November 2003

Okay, it's time to start a list of The Good Eggs In The Houses Of Parliament. Obviously, Andrew Mackinlay is in there for his efforts to make the government accountable and the abuse he suffered for the same. Clive Soley is evidently a decent fellow, but it's defending democracy that we're specifically looking for.

And so it's time to salute Baroness Blatch as a hero. The Deputy Opposition Leader has had a joyless week tackling the five Statutory Instruments on Interception of Communications and Data Retention. They have a boring name, but they're anything but.

These are the regulations described below, whereby internet service providers and mobile phone companies have to keep a record of every call everyone makes and receives, where they take their mobiles, every email sent and received and each website visited. Oh yes, and surrender these to any of dozens of government agencies without question.

And, naturally, you won't be told about each time some civil servant at the Food Standards Agency reads your mail and finds out where you were on Tuesday evening. Especially since there are a billion demands for data each year already.

Well, the Baroness managed to spot some potential badnesses, stalking possibilities, snooping and disregard for civil rights in this wheeze - and that's not to mention the downright illegality [ PDF ].

And so when the Lib Dems caved at the last minute, the Baroness remained convinced these awful statutes needed to be stopped for further debate. So she proposed a Fatality Motion, which is a parliamentary tool to - well, to delay the passing of dodgy Orders when they need a lot of work.

That didn't work, because the government promised that if the motion passed, every Order proposed by a future Conservative government would get the same treatment. Regardless of whether it was good for the electorate. Classy. Mugabe would be proud. Another piece of our democratic system rendered useless by the current hubristic bullies.

And after the Lib Dems' volte-face, the Tories knew there was no point in even arguing their various motions and withdrew them [ fuller description in a Privacy International media release ].

But Blatch wasn't - and isn't - backing down. We're now down to damage limitation, but she's not letting go. The government are going to have to report on how much of this personal information goes overseas.

And as Blatch left the room where democracy had been overriden to ensure the passage of a law that tramples on democracy, she put the House on notice that all the problems with the legislation haven't gone away and that Parliament would be discussing them again next year, because there's going to be a Private Members Bill.

Go, Baroness! You've got to love someone who knows all the mechanics of our weird polity - and uses it in the interests of the electorate. Your apparent distaste for sex education is a terrible thing, but for fighting the Snoopers' Charter:


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