Sexy MPs and a bunch of Charlies

The Prince of Wales' address to the European Parliament has set keyboards alight this week, while li

As Prince Charles used his address to the European Parliament to outline the need to act on climate change, it was interesting to note the differing views bloggers took depending on their political allegiance.

The Lib Dems concerned themselves with the content of the speech. Wit and Wisdom picks up with the military lexicon used: “The use of such language seems to be missing a trick, as any politician with a few years under their belts should know, not to mention being ever so slightly dismissive of the numerous wars which are going on around the world, killing, maiming and generally causing misery to millions every year. So why are we still resorting to such ludicrous exaggeration?”

Meanwhile, the Conservatives seemed more distracted by the choice of venue – and the speaker’s seeming endorsement of the EU – than the speech’s content. So strong is The Huntsman’s views, in fact, that he writes: “It would be far better if, in future, His Royal Highness, avoided such partisanship if he wishes there to be a future for the House of Windsor. If he is not able to do so and he continues to express his approbation for the EU this monarchist will, reluctantly, become a republican.”

UKIP’s refusal to stand at the end of the Prince’s speech led Nich Starling to ponder in what direction the party is moving. He writes: “Given that Galloway’s ‘Respect’ is falling apart, perhaps UKIP could become ‘Lack of Respect’.”

As Valentine’s day came along, Sky News produced its annual most fanciable MPs list, whose winners were described thus: “In at the top, a new entry – the shadow culture secretary Jeremy ‘always on the’ Hunt. No sign of his opposite number, Andy ‘so hot I’ Burnham, much to the chagrin of certain colleagues in the Sky office.”

Iain Dale goes one better, assessing the most fanciable political hacks. Cathy Newman of Channel4 comes top, with the NS represented by Kevin McGuire in 20th place.

Finally, as NS editor John Kampfner steps down, Iain Dale is moved to write the following words: “It’s a real shame as the magazine under Kampfner’s editorship has experienced something of a revival. The redesign has been popular and circulation has increased.”

Owen Walker is a journalist for a number of titles within Financial Times Business, primarily focussing on pensions. He recently graduated from Cardiff University’s newspaper journalism post-graduate course and is cursed by a passion for Crystal Palace FC.
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The problems with ending encryption to fight terrorism

Forcing tech firms to create a "backdoor" to access messages would be a gift to cyber-hackers.

The UK has endured its worst terrorist atrocity since 7 July 2005 and the threat level has been raised to "critical" for the first time in a decade. Though election campaigning has been suspended, the debate over potential new powers has already begun.

Today's Sun reports that the Conservatives will seek to force technology companies to hand over encrypted messages to the police and security services. The new Technical Capability Notices were proposed by Amber Rudd following the Westminster terrorist attack and a month-long consultation closed last week. A Tory minister told the Sun: "We will do this as soon as we can after the election, as long as we get back in. The level of threat clearly proves there is no more time to waste now. The social media companies have been laughing in our faces for too long."

Put that way, the plan sounds reasonable (orders would be approved by the home secretary and a senior judge). But there are irrefutable problems. Encryption means tech firms such as WhatsApp and Apple can't simply "hand over" suspect messages - they can't access them at all. The technology is designed precisely so that conversations are genuinely private (unless a suspect's device is obtained or hacked into). Were companies to create an encryption "backdoor", as the government proposes, they would also create new opportunities for criminals and cyberhackers (as in the case of the recent NHS attack).

Ian Levy, the technical director of the National Cyber Security, told the New Statesman's Will Dunn earlier this year: "Nobody in this organisation or our parent organisation will ever ask for a 'back door' in a large-scale encryption system, because it's dumb."

But there is a more profound problem: once created, a technology cannot be uninvented. Should large tech firms end encryption, terrorists will merely turn to other, lesser-known platforms. The only means of barring UK citizens from using the service would be a Chinese-style "great firewall", cutting Britain off from the rest of the internet. In 2015, before entering the cabinet, Brexit Secretary David Davis warned of ending encryption: "Such a move would have had devastating consequences for all financial transactions and online commerce, not to mention the security of all personal data. Its consequences for the City do not bear thinking about."

Labour's manifesto pledged to "provide our security agencies with the resources and the powers they need to protect our country and keep us all safe." But added: "We will also ensure that such powers do not weaken our individual rights or civil liberties". The Liberal Democrats have vowed to "oppose Conservative attempts to undermine encryption."

But with a large Conservative majority inevitable, according to polls, ministers will be confident of winning parliamentary support for the plan. Only a rebellion led by Davis-esque liberals is likely to stop them.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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