"House of Lords reform? Who gives a f***?"

Tory donors and activists give their verdict on the coalition.

In February, the Sunday Telegraph asked Tory donors, "big beasts" and young activists what they thought of the coalition, and of David Cameron's performance as prime minister. Now, as recess begins, they have returned to them - and thrown in the views of their opposite numbers in the Lib Dems too. 

The quotes firmly suggest that Tory donors don't feel the coalition is Tory enough; that it is pursuing all kinds of footling Lib Dem projects while the economy should be the focus. For example, here's Lord Harris of Peckham:

“I don’t think David Cameron is representing core Conservative voters or values — he’s a different generation to mine. I’m against gay marriage — may be it’s my age. And when our economy is faltering, I’d rather we didn’t spend hundreds of millions of pounds on [holding] an EU referendum.”

And here is the exquisitely forthright entrepreneur Hugh Osmond: 

"They need to be radical and pro-growth. And House of Lords reform? Who gives a f***? Get the economy growing at 2, 3, 4% a year then do stuff like that. Nick Clegg is a banana for getting involved with that stuff now.”

Meanwhile, the big preoccupation among the Liberal Democrats was how to disentangle the party from the Tories in voters' minds -- in time not to be wiped out at the next election. Lord Oakeshott wins runner-up prize in the colourful metaphor stakes with this:

"It will be far easier to get our Lib Dem message across at the next election if Lib Dem ministers are not still in Government playing the pantomime horse with their Conservative colleagues right up to polling day.”

You can read the full set of interviews here

David Cameron. Photo: Getty Images

Helen Lewis is deputy editor of the New Statesman. She has presented BBC Radio 4’s Week in Westminster and is a regular panellist on BBC1’s Sunday Politics.

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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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