"Civil liberties stuff" is at risk from our government. Photo: Getty
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Snooper's Charter: why restrict our freedom as a response to an attack on free speech?

The irony of David Cameron's response to the Charlie Hebdo terrorist attack.

With dull predictability, the big beasts of the Tory party, with one eye on the coming election, and the other on their positioning in the potential leadership election, have responded to last week's assault on freedom of speech (and freedom to shop in a supermarket) by suggesting the best course of action is to . . . restrict some more of our freedoms, assault our civil liberties and reintroduce the Snooper's Charter.

Because, of course, there’s no way that responding to a terrorist attack by giving up a bit more of our freedom looks like they’re winning – does it?

At least Boris, with his "I'm not particularly interested in this civil liberties stuff” quote in Trafalgar Square on Sunday was quite straightforward with his views, (though as Frankie Boyle pointed out, good job he chose to assemble in Trafalgar Square; if he’d tried it in Parliament Square he might have been arrested). Rather more insidious (because of its apparently reasonable tone), are David Cameron’s words that, “a future government will have to have a more comprehensive approach [to data collection] and I know absolutely that if I am Prime Minister I will put that approach in place.”

Never mind that no amount of general data collection would have stopped the Paris attacks, nor the murder of Lee Rigby in Woolwich, nor the Boston bomber, Tamerlan Tsnarnaev. In each of these cases, the perpetrators were already known to the authorities, and a law requiring the tracking and collection of every internet page visit and electronic communication we all make would have made no difference (plus it also appears that the security services are capable of accessing much of this data already). It seems it’s more important to be doing something – no matter that it’s ineffective.

As Nick Clegg will say today:

We have every right to invade the privacy of terrorists and those we think want to do us harm, but we should not equate that with invading the privacy of every single person in the UK. They are not the same thing.

Personally, I wouldn’t publish the cartoons of Charlie Hebdo – as Adam Hills put it on Channel Four’s The Last Leg:

I’ll tell you why I don’t want to show any (cartoons). It’s not because I’m afraid of violent reprisals. It’s because from what I understand, it’s offensive to someone else's religion . . . but by crikey, I’ll defend someone else’s right to do it.

And it’s in that spirit of defending our right to offend that I say to both the Mayor of London and the Prime Minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland – you can stick your Snooper's Charter up your arse.

Richard Morris blogs at A View From Ham Common, which was named Best New Blog at the 2011 Lib Dem Conference

Ukip's Nigel Farage and Paul Nuttall. Photo: Getty
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Is the general election 2017 the end of Ukip?

Ukip led the way to Brexit, but now the party is on less than 10 per cent in the polls. 

Ukip could be finished. Ukip has only ever had two MPs, but it held an outside influence on politics: without it, we’d probably never have had the EU referendum. But Brexit has turned Ukip into a single-issue party without an issue. Ukip’s sole remaining MP, Douglas Carswell, left the party in March 2017, and told Sky News’ Adam Boulton that there was “no point” to the party anymore. 

Not everyone in Ukip has given up, though: Nigel Farage told Peston on Sunday that Ukip “will survive”, and current leader Paul Nuttall will be contesting a seat this year. But Ukip is standing in fewer constituencies than last time thanks to a shortage of both money and people. Who benefits if Ukip is finished? It’s likely to be the Tories. 

Is Ukip finished? 

What are Ukip's poll ratings?

Ukip’s poll ratings peaked in June 2016 at 16 per cent. Since the leave campaign’s success, that has steadily declined so that Ukip is going into the 2017 general election on 4 per cent, according to the latest polls. If the polls can be trusted, that’s a serious collapse.

Can Ukip get anymore MPs?

In the 2015 general election Ukip contested nearly every seat and got 13 per cent of the vote, making it the third biggest party (although is only returned one MP). Now Ukip is reportedly struggling to find candidates and could stand in as few as 100 seats. Ukip leader Paul Nuttall will stand in Boston and Skegness, but both ex-leader Nigel Farage and donor Arron Banks have ruled themselves out of running this time.

How many members does Ukip have?

Ukip’s membership declined from 45,994 at the 2015 general election to 39,000 in 2016. That’s a worrying sign for any political party, which relies on grassroots memberships to put in the campaigning legwork.

What does Ukip's decline mean for Labour and the Conservatives? 

The rise of Ukip took votes from both the Conservatives and Labour, with a nationalist message that appealed to disaffected voters from both right and left. But the decline of Ukip only seems to be helping the Conservatives. Stephen Bush has written about how in Wales voting Ukip seems to have been a gateway drug for traditional Labour voters who are now backing the mainstream right; so the voters Ukip took from the Conservatives are reverting to the Conservatives, and the ones they took from Labour are transferring to the Conservatives too.

Ukip might be finished as an electoral force, but its influence on the rest of British politics will be felt for many years yet. 

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