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Charles Clarke is back in the news as a heroic figure, the only man in the country with the position and the guts to tell Brown personally what the country thinks. But let’s not get carried away with any sudden burst of gratitude to the ‘Norwich bruiser’. He’s responsible for one of the nasty pieces of legislation that has caused a stir this year.

In 2005, Clarke was the government’s chief advocate for its policy of retaining records of all emails sent, all phone calls made and all web pages visited. He appeared before the European ‘Parliament’, and warned that privacy must be sacrificed in the fight against terrorism. He said that he would ‘redress the balance between privacy and security’. So if you were wondering why 8 year olds were being recruited to spy on you for money by the council (no, I don’t know whether they’ve been given armbands), there’s your answer. Clarke and his fascist ilk decided you had too much privacy.

Similar data retention laws were first mooted by the government in 2000 in their RIPA legislation, but they were rejected by Parliament. After September 11th, the government tried again, this time claiming they were necessary for the fight against terrorism. If so, why did they try to give access to local councils and other bodies not involved in the fight against terrorism?

The Queen’s speech will mention this legislation in the Data Communications Bill. Don’t forget in all the furore, that Clarke had a hand in this bill, he is not a step forward for the Labour party or the country, but deeply implicated in the authoritarian nastiness in which they have embroiled us.

To be clear: it was our government who took the lead in this legislation in Europe. Our government decided to use the EU to pass legislation that was deeply unpopular here. Out of sight, out of mind?

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