Our embarrassment of a prime minister now calls on technology companies to go “further and faster” to remove extremist content from social networks. If they don’t, presumably Mrs May will introduce a “crackdown”, which is what politicians always say when they don’t know what to do, but want to sound like they do. Much as I sympathise with the idea of removing islamic extremist websites from the internet, there are certain issues with civil liberties here. And, surely, there are other things the government could do?
Not that long ago, I worked in a job where I had frequent dealings with the police. The government was at the time making enormous cuts to police funding, pointing out that actually they were only taking the axe to back office staff whilst protecting the frontline. In reality, this had the effect of removing even more officers from the frontline to carry out the back office functions that still needed to be done by someone, like preparing cases to be sent to the CPS to consider prosecution. In truth, it was a confidence trick carried out by a home secretary armed with soundbites but little real understanding of law and order issues. That home secretary was called Theresa May.
“Crime is falling,” say ministers. “Police numbers are irrelevant.” No one I ever knew in the police service believed that to be true. The reality, they believed, was that the public had simply stopped bothering to report many types of crime because they knew that they were not priority crimes they would receive nothing more than a crime number. What was the point of that?
May keeps parroting statistics that suggest actually anti-terrorist police spending has increased. If it has, the point is what? With the near abolition of adequately funded community policing, it is likely that acts of terrorism are far easier to prepare. A police service becoming separated from the people it serves cannot be a good thing?
We must keep arguing for the Tory cuts in policing to be reversed. You can’t do policing on the cheap any more than you can run the fire service without fire engines or the ambulance service without ambulances. So, why try to keep law and order without enough agents of the law?
And where will these powers extend to? How about the fascist Britain First party whose videos regularly get shared on Facebook? Or clear examples of anti-Semitism from the hard left as well as hard right? Or how about Ukip and the right of the Tory party whose views are increasingly closer to the fascist parties like the BNP and Britain First? Where does free speech end and hate speech begin? Who decides?
Trust me, even running a minor blog like this attracts bile and threats of legal action. I have to tread a careful path in expressing my opinions but also avoiding litigation from the rich and powerful. I have been forced to delete some blogs that I felt, and still feel, were fair comment and not in the least libellous and defamatory, but I do not have the resources to take a chance. That is free speech in Britain today. Although I do not advocate terror, that’s for sure, I cannot help concluding that free speech is only available to those who can afford it.
Defeating terrorism must begin with education and effective deterrence and not just the usual “crackdown”. This costs money and we need to be honest about that. But what do we want? Pro-active government or forever picking up the pieces when things go wrong?
There is no way you could describe ours as a free press given the nature of its ownership and the limited access ordinary folk have to it and our antiquated legal system which exists to protect and sustain the rich and powerful threatens the internet too.
Theresa leads a weak and divided government and yet acts like she has a three figure majority in parliament. Whilst May should take the necessary steps to dismantle terrorist groups, she should stop showboating as she is now. A weak and wobbly prime minister is a bigger threat to our freedom than anyone may have suspected.