Sacked for joking about the Queen

A musical response to the absurd sacking of the radio DJ Tom Binns

As we prepare to enter 2010 here's a candidate for most absurd sacking of the year. The radio DJ Tom Binns has been dismissed after interrupting the Queen's Christmas message on air, saying: "Two words: bor-ring."

The humourless directors of BRMB, a Birmingham radio station, took fright after a handful of listeners complained. That the station had not planned to broadcast any of the speech (it mistakenly picked up a feed) was not, apparently, grounds for leniency.

Binns's sacking is indicative of the post-Sachsgate climate of fear and of the extraordinary deference the media continue to show to the royal family. We have grown used to the subservience adopted by the BBC when reporting on the monarchy and, depressingly, this attitude now seems to infect the commercial sector, too.

Binns's swangsong was distinguished by at least one decent gag. As he segued into Wham's "Last Christmas" he quipped, "From one queen to another . . ."

Had the voice of Elizabeth Windsor invaded my broadcast (in my student days I anchored a show, Clash, Fuse and Amplify, on Radio Warwick), I would have retaliated with something far stronger.

So, as an antidote to the apologists of the airwaves, here are two of the finest republican songs, the Stone Roses' "Elizabeth My Dear" and the Smiths' "The Queen Is Dead". Enjoy.

 

Follow the New Statesman team on Twitter

 

 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

Getty Images.
Show Hide image

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.

0800 7318496