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Prime Muncher’s food ban following Great Hot Dog Meltdown

Plus will Tony Benn’s son reclaim the family viscountcy and enter the House of Lords?

It’s ermine and red roses as Labour peers discuss welcoming a Benn back into the House of Lords. My snout in the scarlet robe whispered that Stephen Benn, the eldest son of the deceased Tony, is keen to sit on the burgundy benches now that he has acquired the hereditary title renounced by Daddy. For the new 3rd Viscount Stansgate to bag a seat, one of the four Labour hereditaries (the 3rd Viscount Hanworth, the 18th Baron Berkeley, the 4th Baron Ponsonby or the 3rd Baron Rea) must shuffle off this mortal coil. Tony Blair reprieved 92 blue bloods in all and, under a peculiarly British constitutional oxymoron, the hereditaries elect replacements from a gene pool of 200 registered peers. The snout added that Baron Rea, an 86-year-old retired GP, is in no hurry to make way for Stansgate. “I would very much welcome Stephen Benn into the Lords,” he was overheard musing, “but I for one have no intention of popping off just yet.”

Michael Gove proclaimed loudly at a dinner: “Don’t worry, it’s just one more year.” What could he have meant? I refuse to believe rumours that the Education Secretary would relish a return to journalism. He hails from the Times, yet the talk is of Gove joining his scribbler wife, Sarah Vine, at the Daily Mail.

Gove’s appointment of Scotland Yard’s one-time anti-terror chief Peter Clarke to investigate the alleged Islamist infiltration of Birmingham schools was a paranoid overreaction. Clarke’s sleuthing was on show at a seminar on policing and technology at the National Liberal Club. Fiddling with his BlackBerry, he was overheard muttering: “God, I have never learned to work this thing.” Evidently he’s an old-style copper.

To Jarrow, where Jude Kirton-Darling, the newly elected north-east Labour MEP, recalled a £2,000 donation to the party from a Durham stonemason. On the back of the cheque was scribbled: “Don’t f*** it up.” Who said business doesn’t support Labour?

Ed Miliband’s lost battle with a bacon sarnie prompted a No 10 flunkey to mutter that David Cameron is banned by staff from eating in public after the Great Hot Dog Meltdown of March 2012. The Prime Muncher didn’t know how to tackle an American dawg handed to him by Barack Obama at a college basketball game. Dave, the answer is longways, not sideways.

I forgive right-wingers many things but not a sense of humour. The Mail’s Simon Heffer was tickled by this column’s report a fortnight ago that it is said he lay on the floor to minimise his chins in a photo shoot. The Heff responded that if he did lie on a floor, he’d never be able to get up again.

Kevin Maguire is the associate editor (politics) of the Daily Mirror

Kevin Maguire is Associate Editor (Politics) on the Daily Mirror and author of our Commons Confidential column on the high politics and low life in Westminster. An award-winning journalist, he is in frequent demand on television and radio and co-authored a book on great parliamentary scandals. He was formerly Chief Reporter on the Guardian and Labour Correspondent on the Daily Telegraph.

This article first appeared in the 25 June 2014 issue of the New Statesman, Who was Franz Ferdinand?

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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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