Douglas Carswell should call another by-election!

In August 2014 Douglas Carswell shocked the political world by announcing he was leaving the Conservative Party to join UKIP and in doing so triggered a by-election in his Clacton constituency which he subsequently won convincingly. He then went on to hold his seat in the 2015 General Election, but tensions with the top of the party and in particular Nigel Farage and the direction he was taking the party begun to come to the fore with Carswell calling for the UKIP leader to quit after the General Election in 2015.

More recently revelations have emerged about Carswell’s true motives for joining UKIP. In Owen Bennett’s book on Brexit The Brexit Club it is claimed that Carswell only joined UKIP to undermine Farage and stop UKIP and the UKIP leading running the ‘Out’ campaign for the EU referendum. Carswell is unrepentant about this and claims the success of the Brexit campaign justifies his decision and actions.

UKIP leader Paul Nuttall claimed he was hardly surprised by Carswell’s decision and that ‘Carswell had been becoming increasingly uncomfortable with the party’s direction of travel’, despite Carswell claiming recently he was ‘100% UKIP’. Former leader Nigel Farage long estranged from Carswell could not hide his joy saying the former UKIP MP ‘jumped before he was pushed’ and that now he should call a by-election in his Clacton seat.

Carswell has been unmoved by these calls and claimed that as he was not moving to a new party there was no need to call a by-election. This has not stopped Nigel Farage saying that Clacton residents will be contacted by UKIP to ask for their thoughts on whether a by-election should be called and has also cited Carswell’s support for the ‘recall principle’.

Carswell is correct to state that becoming an independent MP is different from moving from one party to another, but cannot hide from the fact that he will now no longer be obliged to follow the manifesto that he was elected on. Carswell was elected to serve as a UKIP MP by the constituents of Clacton. That was an important pledge Carswell made to his constituents. This pledge has been broken and should justify a by-election.

Carswell previously called his electorate in Clacton ‘his boss’. If this is something that Carswell still truly believes, then he should call a by-election as he did in 2014 and see whether he has the support to make this decision.

 

What should the Tories hope for from Copeland and Stoke-on-Trent by-elections?

On the 23rd February the voters of Copeland and Stoke-on-Trent Central go to the polls in two very important by-elections. Both seats are currently held by the Labour Party but both are considered to be in play. The results in these by-elections are likely to define the political narrative of the next few months, therefore it is valid to ask what would be a good night for the government?

According to reports the Tories have decided to concentrate firmly on the Copeland by-election which they see as more winnable than Stoke-on-Trent. Labour are defending a small majority of 2,500 in Copeland and the book-makers make the Tories marginal favourites in the by-election. In Stoke-on-Trent UKIP are seen as the main threat. UKIP’s chances in the seat have been further helped by the presence of their leader Paul Nuttall standing. The Brexit nature of the seat plus UKIP’s second placed finish in the General Election makes this an attractive target for the party. There is a real prospect Labour could lose both seats to the Tories and UKIP respectively.

Should Labour lose both seats the pressure will rise on Jeremy Corbyn. Traditional Labour voters turning away from the party in seats Labour has not lost for generations will put far more pressure on Corbyn than any internal coup. Theresa May and the government will be perfectly content about facing Corbyn’s Labour at a General Election and therefore may secretly be hoping that he is not forced to resign and that these results strengthen rather than weaken Corbyn’s position.

Alternatively Theresa May could be hoping that Labour’s demise continues. Her government only enjoys a small majority and could certainly do with greater breathing room. Furthermore the presence of a UKIP MP rather than a Labour MP is likely to make her job of getting Brexit through the Commons easier. May could consider the short-term gains of Labour losing both these seats as better than any long-term gain of Labour hanging on and Corbyn staying in his position.

This seems a foolish question, but in realpolitik terms it is worth considering. A political party is normally perfectly content to see their enemies fall apart and there will not be many on the Tory side crying should Labour lose both the seats, but should this facilitate a change in Labour’s leadership and a more competent opposition, Theresa May and the government’s job could get a lot harder. In private the government will be torn about what they want from these by-elections.

Parliament should have a say on Brexit!

Britain’s projected exit from the European Union has taken another twist. High Court judges have ruled that Theresa May cannot trigger Article 50 without the backing of Parliament putting at risk the government’s planned timetable for Brexit. The decision will be challenged by the Government but unless the appeal is successful, Theresa May could be forced to change her plans.

This ruling will not stop Brexit. Some pro EU campaigners point to the large majority in the House of Commons of Remain MPs but fail to grasp the changed climate. The country in a huge democratic exercise has now voted to leave the European Union and the campaign is over. Although many MPs are unhappy with this decision they understand the ramifications of overturning the will of the British people and will accept the result and vote for Article 50.

On the 23rd June, Britain voted to leave the European Union. That much is clear, that debate is over. However there were many different reasons as to why voters took this decision. Issues such as immigration have taken precedence in the post-mortem but there were other reasons as well. There was nothing on the ballot paper which spelt out what Britain’s new relationship would be with Europe and it is right this is discussed and debated.

In this country we live in a parliamentary democracy. It was Parliament who voted to bring about the referendum and it is Parliament who should sign off on the deal, sealing the will of the British people. The government should not be forced to reveal their whole bargaining hand before Parliament but should highlight their general direction. This way Parliament can carefully scrutinise the government’s plans and ensure that the British people gain the best possible deal.

The reality is this is a situation which could easily have been avoided. At no stage would Parliament have defeated the government on this and Theresa May could have prevented this outcome by including Parliament in the process. Brexit was never going to be smooth, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be this difficult. This will be interpreted as a setback for the government but could be the reminder they need that they cannot bypass Parliament and that Parliament could actually be useful in this process.

Can George Osborne still become Prime Minister?

George Osborne’s ambitions have long been common knowledge in Parliament. Furthermore the great political chess-player had seemed on course to achieve his aim and succeed his great friend and ally David Cameron into Downing Street, securing the front-runner status after the Conservative victory in 2015.

The Conservative victory in 2015 and the almost messianic status that Osborne received in the light of the win as a political strategist now seems a long time ago. Since then the former Chancellor has produced one questionable budget, played a leading role in ‘Project Fear’ and has lost his job with his reputation in tatters. Politically things have looked better for George Osborne!

So could this change in the future? George Osborne remains influential in the Conservative Party. Throughout his time as Chancellor he promoted many of his allies, some of whom now occupy powerful positions in the party. This gives Osborne a strong base for any future leadership contest. Added to this Osborne has begun to position himself as the champion of the modernising wing of the party. This gives him political room to exploit and allows him to maintain his influence and relevance in the new political landscape.

George Osborne remains young (he is only 45!). This gives him plenty of time. He has shown no desire to leave Parliament and has hinted he is yet to give up on his ambitions recently claiming he didn’t know ‘how this story ends’. Osborne can afford to be patient, even waiting for May to step down after a successful time in office. A vacancy does not have to occur immediately for Osborne to remain in the game.

The political situation in this country remains complex. Theresa May has enjoyed a solid start as Prime Minister but with Brexit negotiations to come things will become more tricky. Should May fail to take the party with her on Brexit, her position is far from insurmountable and a new vacancy may arise sooner than expected. In that climate Osborne’s experience could make him an attractive choice in what would be an open contest.

Much has to happen before this is even a possibility and we are largely talking about hypotheticals. However there does remain a plausible scenario where Osborne takes over from May as leader of the Conservative Party and Prime Minister either after a successful May government or a failed May government. George Osborne has been written off before in politics and has bounced back, so when it comes to the former Chancellor, it is wise to never say never!

Can UKIP survive?

It has been a tumultuous period for UKIP of late. The populist party has bounced from one crisis to another in recent times, beginning when Nigel Farage stepped down after the referendum triggering a leadership contest. This contest quickly turned into a farce when front-runner Steven Woolfe failed to make it onto the ballot submitting his forms late, paving the way for Diane James to win the contest. Diane James lasted 18 days in charge before resigning leaving questions about whether she had wanted to run in the first place. This resignation meant Nigel Farage was announced as interim leader and it was confirmed a new leadership contest would take place.

Steven Woolfe was first to declare his candidacy in this new contest promising to learn lessons from the last contest. Raheem Kassam, a former adviser to Nigel Farage and editor-in-chief of Breitbart UK also confirmed his desire to stand. This was before things took a turn for the worse in Strasbourg this week when Steven Woolfe was rushed to hospital (fortunately he now seems to be recovering!). It later emerged there had been an “altercation” between Woolfe and Mike Hookem (another UKIP MEP) over the news Woolfe had been in talks about defecting to the Tories (exactly what happened here is still unclear, so it’s unwise to speculate at this stage). Subsequently an inquiry has been announced.

These events have been seen as being systematic of the underlying tensions which have existed in the party for quite some time. For a relatively small party UKIP are riven by factions and infighting. At its most simple it can be split between those who are loyal to Farage and those who are loyal to Carswell (UKIP’s only MP) but in reality it is far more complicated than that. After recent events major donor Arron Banks has threatened to leave the party if Woolfe is barred from standing and Neil Hamilton and Douglas Carswell stayed in the party, possibly taking away UKIP’s war-chest. From the Carswell wing of the party it is considered likely Suzanne Evans will run for leader paving the way for a very bitter leadership campaign.

Despite all these problems UKIP have showed they are still a political force winning a council seat off Labour in Hartlepool and continuing to poll around 12%. Of course there are challenges ahead, such as re-positioning themselves and finding a leader with similar appeal to Farage but this indicates there remains a place in the British political spectrum for a party with right-wing populist appeal such as UKIP, especially given questions about Labour’s long-term future. Whether this is UKIP in its current form or whether it is a new party or movement is up for dispute, but what is clear if this particularly form of UKIP wants to survive then they need to sort themselves out fast as they will not survive many more weeks like this.

Will the Labour Party ever win again?

So Jeremy Corbyn has won the Labour leadership contest. Again. After a bitter summer full of dispute and wrangling Jeremy Corbyn decisively defeated Owen Smith and strengthened his hold on the Labour Party. In doing so Corbyn ended the debate about who will lead the party into the next election, but added to a more profound question; can Labour ever win again?

It is hard for even the most optimistic Labour supporter to make a case for the Labour Party winning the 2020 election. The proposed boundary changes could cost Labour as many as 20 seats and the latest polling puts Labour a staggering 15 points behind the Conservatives. There is no historical precedent for an opposition party winning from this position. Politics has been strange in recent times, but it is not that strange!

So if we rule out 2020, what about future elections? The synopsis also looks bleak for the Labour Party in this regard as well. In their traditional stronghold of Scotland, they now only have 1 MP and currently sit in third place behind the Conservatives. Furthermore research has found a lot of working class Labour voters who voted for Brexit deserting the party. Without these voters it is impossible for Labour to gain a winning majority. This is a long-term problem for Labour and as of yet there has been no solution.

Perhaps most seriously there is the question of whether the Labour Party can or even wants to stick together. London Mayor Sadiq Khan has warned of a split and a large proportion of Labour voters now consider this to be likely. Figures from all sides of the party such as Chuka Umunna, Hilary Benn and John McDonnell have called for unity and have denied rumours of a split, but still the headlines won’t disappear. Can the Labour moderates really cope with another 4 years of Corbyn?

Political parties have no divine right to exist and certainly have no divine right to win. This is certainly true for the Labour Party. It is foolish given what is happening in politics in the world to make a definitive prediction on this topic, but what we know is that political parties do have a shelf-life and Labour could be reaching the end of theirs. Labour as an electoral force are on a precipice and it is anyone’s guess as to whether they can or ever will recover.

State Surveillance: Mass surveillance, its impact and the principles we claim to uphold.

The mobile phones, laptops, desktops and GPS devices that you and I use every single day provide tremendous opportunities. In the year of my father’s birth (1951) had I stopped a man in the street and told him that his children and grandchildren would one day carry almost all information and data in existence in their jeans’ pockets he would have looked at me like I was unbalanced. What we now also know however is that whilst we are looking at our mobiles phones they are looking back at us and recording our every word and action. We too know that when entrusting every detail of our lives to a computer we invite this upon ourselves.

The panopticon is an idea in which due to clever design one prison guard can at any time see any prisoner in his cell but the prisoner never knows if  he or she is being watched. As a result, the prisoner alters his or her behaviour. Picture this on a massive scale and we have state surveillance in 2016. The Snowden revelations showed us that any of us may be being watched at any time but we will never know it.

Today in the UK we are debating the nuances of the issue with the ‘snooper’s charter’. The ‘snooper’s charter’ gives police greater powers to hack into mobile phones, view browser histories and perhaps most significantly undermines the common man’s last defence against surveillance. Encryption. The act forces ISPs to weaken or break their own encryption at the state’s request. Edward Snowden claimed encryption was a reliable way to  resist surveillance. If the state can simply wish it away, we are in effect defenceless. Surely by accepting this we accept a form of voluntary servitude. There is no precedent for absolute surveillance (Of which we know) and its value is of question. Mass surveillance did nothing to prevent the recent attacks in Paris and Brussells.

Edward Snowden claimed that the British security services operate an intelligence gathering regime in which “anything goes” (Cadwalladr, 2014). We would do well to ask ourselves if the authorities can be trusted to use this data responsibly or effectively. Data in a networked environment is often intangible and a lack of expertise in the area makes surveillance of online communications fraught with difficulty.

To seize data  is easy, any police department can do that, but to then access and analyse it is a different matter. Afterall, the internet isn’t merely a way to communicate. How we interact online is produced by and produces cultural and social practices that are not understood by academics or law enforecment. Is it wise that this online data be used against us in a court of law, to send us to prision and placed in the national press until we as a society really understand it.

In a democratic society based on the rights of the individual using the entire citizenry as a means to an end, by observing us all, whether it be in the prevention of a minor or major offense cannot be justified without  a fundamental shift in what democracy and the rights of the individual are and why they exist. This is Kantian thinking and is the ideological pillar on which many of our core democratic principles are based. If we allow ourselves to become perpetual instruments of law enforcement we consent to a shift of narrative within our socio-political society.

This may have already happened. The global intelligence regime is growing despite the overwhelming dissaproval of the public. A poll conducted across 13 countries by Amnesty International  found that 71% of 15,000 respondents strongly opposed government spying on their phone and internet communications (Amnesty International, 2015).

In opposition to this view one may state these laws exist to protect us. But I ask who is the state to protect us in exchange for our rights. Or perhaps these programmes simply exist for our peace of mind, but I then ask, who the state is to assume what brings you and I peace of mind. The Kantian line of thought would lead us to the view that guaranteeing security is the state’s responsibility but guaranteeing contentment requires the state to assume what we as individuals think and maunfacture our ideas of happiness. A bizarre kind of tyranny.

If we all agree that mass surveillance is morally wrong in and of itself then it should not be used. We would be much better served debating constitutional issues from this principled  perspective as opposed to a pragmatic one as there is always a reason flop on our principles. The does not mean we should always do so.

This goes back further than 9/11 and  is related to a culture of control that can be traced back several decades.  The threat posed by the Soviet Union was far greater and potentially far more dangerous than that we face today from Daesh and the Al Nusra Front. The reason these powers are required today has little to do with the scale of the threat and more to do with this need for control.

The UK has gone one an interesting journey since the Computer Misuse Act of 1990 which outlawed unauthorised access to a computer. The Terrorism Act of 2000 outlawed the use of a computer to glorify  or promote terrorism and now, in 2016, the state is reserving the neo-unconditional right to access the data of any man or women  in the name of stopping terrorism. An interesting, interconnected series of acts and manifestation of our government’s growing paranoia. Of note is the fact that the first cases of people being jailed under the Computer Misuse Act were as recent as 2013. This has real world consecuences. In 2012 the monitoring of communications by the security services led to five wrongful arrests in the UK.

Being perpetually aware that you may be being watched is enough to significantly alter human behaviour and what it means to be human in the internet age. State access to such a massive amount of data has not prevented some of the biggest terrorist attacks of our time, has led to gross abuses of power and will be misused and misunderstood until we as a society can better understand it.

In 2004 Richard Thomas, UK Information Commissioner, warned us of sleepwalking into a surveillance society. We may already be here.

 

State Surveillance: The bogeyman of our time?

In Response to ‘State Surveillance: Mass surveillance, its impact and the principles we claim to uphold’.

Did you ever get the feeling that someone was watching you? Did you act differently as a result? Maybe they were. But that’s not the point. Rather, the point is that it is natural to, every now and again, feel that. Paranoia over state surveillance has become the cultural bogeyman of our time. In reality, little has changed since the 1980s.

Credit cards, Oyster cards, log-in IDs and home security cameras are essentially a willing acceptance of surveillance that the state has always had the power to exploit and we said nothing. Police have been able to hack into mobile phones for years and as for private companies breaking encyption on request; private companies have and will be obliging to government whether formalised or not.

In the first 6 months of 2015 Apple provided information requested by the British government in 56% of cases relating to a device and 63% of cases in relation to a customer’s account, Google did the same in 75% of cases, Facebook in 78% of cases and Twitter in 52% of cases (Whitehead, 2016).

The author of ‘State Surveillance: Mass surveillance, its impact and the principles we claim to uphold’ cites the fact that ISPs will retain our data for one year under the terms of the Investigatory Powers Bill. If you have ever used an Oyster card you may know that information regarding any given journey on any given day was kept for eight weeks following your journey. What’s more, this information was useful to law enforcement.

So, what’s new? Rather than entering a dark new era resembling Orwell’s ‘1984’ the Investigatory Powers Bill merely makes the existing surveillance regime relevant in 2016.

We must not pretend that surveillance has no purpose. In ‘State Surveillance: Mass surveillance, its impact and the principles we claim to uphold’ it was suggested that perhaps these programmes exist to make us, the public, feel better and Kantian logic was used to put forward the view that the state has no right to decide what should make us happy. What is not mentioned is that the security services foiled 7 major terrorist attacks on UK soil between November 2014 and November 2015 by Daesh alone. In this time Paris saw the Charlie Hebdo massacre and later the tragic deaths of 130 people. Perhaps this is related to the ‘anything goes’(Cadwalladr, 2014) oversight regime our intelligence services enjoy as cited in that article. Perhaps it is mere coincidence that this is the case. But we have been presented with nothing to suggest it is.

Furthermore, he cannot seriously suggest that linguistics experts in conjunction with IT and communications professors from our finest universities cannot decipher the meanings of online communications. Is, for example, the innermost meaning of ‘meet me outside the train station at 8’ beyond the comprehension of MI5? I think not. What is beyond question is that this information could be essential in foiling a terrorist attack at Knightsbridge Station or Manchester Piccadilly.

As for the possibility of abuse of the system, this has always existed. However, even if theoretically possible it is beyond paranoid to believe that these brave men and women have the time or inclination to watch the 87 year-old Mrs. Griffith walking home from the supermarket. Mrs. Griffith’s freedom and agency to do as wishes, say what she wishes and express what she feels is protected under the Human Rights Act of 1998 and if she were to do something sinister  it is better that she be reprimanded.  Accepting that the state has any authority implies a kind of voluntary servitude. This does not make us slaves.

Furthermore, the s philosophical arguments in ‘State Surveillance: Mass Surveillance, its impact and the principles we claim to uphold’ simply cannot be applied to the modern world. If citizens should not be used as a means to an end the police should cease all covert operations. On top of this, whilst of intellectual interest his assertion that government attempting to make us happy is a ‘kind of tyranny’ is curious to say the least. If so, David Cameron’s attempt to ‘make happiness the new GDP’ represented the theft of our civil rights.

Utilitarianism is not of the same mind as Kantianism and would claim that all actions should, directly or indirectly, promote human wellbeing.  If a programme, effective or not, causes the population to feel safer, lowers anxiety and by extension allows us to live our lives in a more productive and contented manner surely this programme is a good thing. Social Contract theory –as prominent as the Kantian theory used by the author of the article in question- suggests that we must, through a cost-benefit analysis decide what is an is not reasonable. In a representative democracy this is the job of parliament and all standard operating procedures have been followed regarding the so called ‘snooper’s charter’.

The Investigatory Powers Bill is not the ideological or philosophical shift the author of ‘State Surveillance: Mass surveillance, its impact and the principles we claim to uphold’ would have us believe. Government surveillance should be taken seriously by us all and the potential for abuses is never to be ignored. But simply approaching any debate from a natural disposition of mistrust and suspicion is not the way for us as a society to make reasonable, responsible collective decisions on the nature of liberty, privacy and appropriate measures taken to protect us all.

 

 

 

 

 

Bibliography:

Bauman, Zygmaut and Lyon, David (2013) Liquid Surveillance. (Online). Cambridge: Polity Press. Available from: http://lib.myilibrary.com/Open.aspx?id=478138&src=0 (Accessed: 12th April 2016)

Booth, Jenny (2004) UK ‘sleepwalking into Stasi state’. The Guardian. (Online). 16th August. Available from: http://www.theguardian.com/uk/2004/aug/16/britishidentity.freedomofinformation  (Accessed: 18th April 2016)

Bowcott, Owen (2015) Intelligence officers given immunity from hacking laws, tribunal told. The Guardian. (Online). 15th May. Available from: http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2015/may/15/intelligence-officers-have-immunity-from-hacking-laws-tribunal-told   (Accessed: 18th April 2016)

Cadwalladr, Carole (2014) Edward Snowden: state surveillance in Britain has no limits. The Guardian. (Online). 12th October. Available from: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/oct/12/snowden-state-surveillance-britain-no-limits (Accessed:23rd April)

Dahlgreen, Will (2015) Broad support for increased surveillance powers. YouGov UK. (Online). 18th January. Available from: https://yougov.co.uk/news/2015/01/18/more-surveillance-please-were-british/ (Accessed: 23rd April 2016)

Dahlgreen, Will (2015) Judicial oversight gives surveillance bill public support. YouGov UK. (Online). 15th November. Available from: https://yougov.co.uk/news/2015/11/15/judicial-oversight-surveillance-support/ (Accessed: 24th April 2016)

Demographic profile of Guardian readers (2010) The Guardian. (Online). Available from: http://www.theguardian.com/advertising/demographic-profile-of-guardian-readers (Accessed: 18th April 2016)

Gani, Aisha (2014) Who are you? YouGov profiles the nation’s newspaper readers. The Guardian. (Online). 18th November. Available from: http://www.theguardian.com/media/yougov-polling-blog/2014/nov/18/yougov-profiles-the-nations-newspaper-readers (Accessed: 19th April 2016)

Hern, Alex (2016)  Privacy watchdog attacks snooper’s charter over encryption. The Guardian. (Online). 12th January. Available from: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/jan/12/privacy-watchdog-attacks-snoopers-charter-encryption (Accessed: 12th April 2016)

Hinsliff, Gaby (2008) MI5 seeks powers to trawl records in new terror hunt. The Observer. (Online). 16th March. Available from: http://www.theguardian.com/uk/2008/mar/16/uksecurity.terrorism (Accessed 12th April 2016)

Jewkes, Yvonne and Yar, Majid (2010) Policing the Internet. In: Jewkes, Yvonne and Yar, Majid (eds.) Handbook of Internet Crime. (Online). Devon: Willan Publishing. Available from: http://lib.myilibrary.com/Open.aspx?id=246274&src=0 (Accessed: 16th April 2016)

Kim, Scarlet (2016) The snooper’s charter is flying through parliament. Don’t think it’s irrelevant to you. The Guardian. (Online). 14th March. Available from:  http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/mar/14/snoopers-charter-apple-fbi-bill-hacking-gagging (Accessed: 18th April 2016)

Lynch, Michael P. (2015) The philosophy of privacy: why surveillance reduces us to objects. The Guardian. (Online). 7th May. Available from: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2015/may/07/surveillance-privacy-philosophy-data-internet-things (Accessed: 12th April 2016)

Lyon, David (2007) Surveillance Studies: An Overview. (Online). Cambridge: Polity Press. Available from: http://lists.lib.mmu.ac.uk/items/FD583B87-19E7-F0B9-A6D8-C317235DCD03.html?referrer=%2Flists%2FC1F43CA6-6C45-E294-EEDC-40FD1E28BC2B.html%23item-FD583B87-19E7-F0B9-A6D8-C317235DCD03 (Accessed: 12th April 2016)

McMullan, Thomas (2015) What does the panopticon mean in the age of digital surveillance. The Guardian. (Online). 23rd July. Available from:  https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2015/jul/23/panopticon-digital-surveillance-jeremy-bentham (Accessed: 18th April 2016)

Newman, Melanie (2015) A guide to state surveillance, the ‘snoopers’ charter’ and government hacking. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism. (Online). 15th January. Available from: https://www.thebureauinvestigates.com/2015/01/13/a-guide-to-state-surveillance-the-snoopers-charter-and-government-hacking/ (Accessed: 12th April 2016)

Newton, Thomas (2013) Internet surveillance led to 5 wrongful arrests in 2012. Recombu. (Online). 19th July. Available from: https://recombu.com/digital/article/internet-surveillance-five-wrongful-arrests-2012_M11877.html (Accessed: 16th April 2016)

The National Archives (2000) Terrorism Act 2000. (Online). Available from: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2000/11/contents (Accessed: 14th April 2016)

The National Archives (1990) Computer Misuse Act 1990. (Online). Available from: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1990/18/contents (Accessed: 14th April 2016)

The National Archives (1998) Human Rights Act 1998. (Online). Available from: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1998/42/contents (Accessed: 23rd April 2016)

Travis, Alan (2016) Snooper’s charter: wider police powers to hack phones and access web history. The Guardian. (Online). 1st March. Available from: http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2016/mar/01/snoopers-charter-to-extend-police-access-to-phone-and-internet-data (Accessed: 12th April 2016)

Stratton, Allegra (2010) David Cameron attempts to make happiness the new GDP. The Guardian. (Online). 14th November. Available from: http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2010/nov/14/david-cameron-wellbeing-inquiry (Accessed: 24th April 2016)

Two years after Snowden: protecting human rights in an age of mass surveillance (2015) Amnesty International. (Online).  Available from: https://www.amnestyusa.org/sites/default/files/ai-pi_two_years_on_from_snowden_final_final_clean.pdf (Accessed: 18th April 2016)

UK Civil Liberties (2009) Human Rights Act 1998. The Guardian. (Online). Available from: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/libertycentral/2009/jan/14/human-rights-act (Accessed: 24th April 2016.

UK Civil Liberties (2009) Terrorism Act 2000. The Guardian. (Online). 19th January. Available from: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/libertycentral/2009/jan/19/terrorism-act (Accessed: 24th April 2016)

Whitehead, Tom (2016) Snoopers’ Charter: Police have been able to hack into phones and computers for routine investigations for years. The Telegraph. (Online). 1st March. Available from: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/terrorism-in-the-uk/12178483/Google-Apple-and-others-not-forced-to-break-in-to-encryption-unless-practicable-snoopers-bill-to-say.html (Accessed: 12th April 2016)

Westacott, Emrys (2010) Does Surveillance Make Us Morally Better. Philospohy Now. (Online). Volume 79, p. 6-9. Available from: https://www.pdcnet.org//pdc/bvdb.nsf/purchase?openform&fp=philnow&id=philnow_2010_0079_0006_0009&onlyautologin=true (Accessed: 14th April 2016)

Wilkinson, Michael (2015) Revealed: Britain has foiled seven terror attacks in one year. The Telegraph. (Online). 16th November. Available from: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/terrorism-in-the-uk/11997853/Revealed-Britain-foils-seven-terror-attacks-in-just-six-months.html (Accessed: 12th April 2016)

Wintour, Patrick (2015) UK has thwarted seven Isis plots in a year, says David Cameron. The Guardian. (Online). 16th November. Available from: http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2015/nov/16/uk-thwarts-seven-isis-plots-in-a-year-says-david-cameron (Accessed 12th April 2016)

 

Garland, David (2001) The Culture of Control. (Online). New York: Oxford University Press. Available from: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=XcYoDVjVAIIC&printsec=frontcover&dq=david+garland+culture+of+control&hl=en&sa=X&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=david%20garland%20culture%20of%20control&f=false

Terrorist Attack Could Benefit Trump

There is a constant question mark over which nation and which location will be the next to fall victim to a serious terrorist attack. In the United States, the possibility of an attack has taken on added significance with the presidential election looming, and there is little doubt which candidate would stand to gain the most politically should such an incident occur before polling day on the 8th November.

The recent bombs blasts that occurred in New York have not yet been claimed by any particular terrorist group. It is likely that it was an instance of lone actor terrorism inspired by Islamic State; however, this has not been proven. The most important aspect of the incident was instead the contrasting reactions that it drew from Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump. One seized on the Afghan born perpetrator Ahmad Khan Rahami’s immigrant background to repeat calls for ‘extreme vetting’ of migrants entering the US, the other called for increased harmony between law enforcement agencies and Islamic communities in the US. It would not take a genius to deduce who said what.

The failed attack in New York re-emphasises how events beyond either candidate’s control could heavily influence the outcome of the election. The incident in New York thankfully did not result in any fatalities. However, what if another attack should occur in the coming weeks that does? There is every chance that such an incident will fuel more support for Trump and his hard line stance on immigration. In the aftermath of an attack, fear and anger rather than restraint generally take hold. The American people will demand tough rhetoric from both of their presidential candidates, something which Trump excels at projecting, far more so than the calm and professional Clinton. It is worth noting that Trump will be in a better position than ever to attack Clinton during the upcoming televised presidential debates that are set to draw massive national audiences.

It may seem cynical to focus on what Trump could gain in the event of such a tragedy. However, the reality is that Trump has harnessed the fear and anger that millions of Americans feel over issues such as terrorism to great effect. Another successful attack would inspire yet more fear and anger, and there is no telling how many more voters that he will be able to rope in should that time come.

Sporting Controversies will Disrupt Relations with Russia

The recent controversy surrounding Russian sport reached a zenith with the publication of a report by the world anti-doping agency (WADA) accusing the Russian state of being complicit in an unprecedented deception of anti-doping regulations for Russian athletes. The repercussions of the report will be felt beyond the world of sport, and could make easing political and social tension with Russia increasingly difficult for Europe and the United States.

WADA’s report is the latest in a series of incidents that have greatly damaged Russia’s sporting and national image. It follows highly publicised incidents in Russia domestic football that show that homophobic and racist attitudes are rife amongst Russian football supporters, and the disturbing organised violence of Russian hooligans in France during the recent  European football championships.

A natural backlash against Russia has resulted, with Russian athletes banned from competing in the upcoming Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. Whilst this sort reaction is understandable, it could well reinforce a Cold War style ‘encirclement’ mentality in the minds of many ordinary Russians and politicians. This attitude, born out of the belief that Russia is encircled by hostile nations, was fuelled in the days of Stalin as a way of galvanising the Russian population against other nations that were mistrustful of the socialist path that the country had taken after the 1917 revolution. In the modern day, the proliferation of a similar way of thinking has dangerous implications when the need for deescalating tensions with Russia is paramount.

Other factors away from the world of sport are fanning the flames. Vladimir Putin’s authoritarian leadership style and foreign policy are reminiscent of the strategies employed by the USSR during the Cold War. This has undoubtedly contributed to the resurgence of a Cold War style mentality in Russia. Another factor that cannot be ignored is the need for national pride that has motivated the above controversies. The WADA report for instance, suggested that one of the motivations behind the doping scandal was the desire by the Russian government to enhance the performance of its athletes who were seen to have performed unacceptably in previous international athletics tournaments.

Russia must modernise its way of thinking and other nations must continue to tread carefully when imposing sanctions in sporting terms. These sanctions will fracture the relationship between Russia and the rest of the world further, at a time when the need for stability is desperate.

Counter-terrorism: Security Can’t Make Us Safe

Thursday 14th July. A man drove a lorry into a crowd of 30,000 people gathered to watch the Bastille Day fireworks from the seafront Promenade des Anglais. 84 people were killed in minutes, including more than 10 children.

In the days since we have seen familiar scenes. Francois Hollande has extended the national state of emergency. Theresa May has pledged greater security funding and a full review of security procedures in England. Boris Johnson condemned the “appalling” incident, which demonstrated “a continuing threat to us in the whole of Europe and we must meet it together”. But for all the condemnation, the calls for solidarity, vigilance, and stricter security measures, are we any safer?

Let’s assume – as everyone has done – that Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel was an Islamic extremist. The fact remains that he had no known Jihadi links and his actions were totally unpredicted. France has officially been in a state of emergency since the Paris attacks in November and yet he went under the radar. Perhaps in the coming weeks we will discover that there was an oversight by police or counter-terrorism units. But there will always be gaps and mistakes. We live in an age where we spend more than ever on national security and yet we feel less and less safe. We need a new approach.

We need to address the motivation behind terrorism. What is it that drives individuals to commit unspeakable acts, to sacrifice their lives? Islam is a lazy answer. In an interview on CNN Reza Aslan made this point: “Islam is just a religion and just like every religion in the world it depends on what you bring to it… People are violent or peaceful, and that depends on their politics, their social world, the way that they see their communities, the way that they see themselves.” It takes more than religious belief to create a terrorist. You need political conviction, passion, perceived moral justification and, crucially, disenfranchisement. No-one takes the decision to kill themselves and murder innocent people lightly. A terrorist is someone who believes in a cause so strongly that they will sacrifice everything for it, someone who feels they have no other options. If we ignore the political and social factors that lead to radicalisation we miss a chance to prevent it.

Increasing security will not suppress radicalisation. In fact mass surveillance, detainment without trial, racial profiling, tightening of immigration and media contempt all contribute to it. It is not enough to tell them that they are wrong – we must convince them that they are wrong, convince those at risk of radicalisation that there is hope, that the west is not at war with Islam, that violence is not the only route to change and that their concerns are being heard. In order to prevent terrorism we must address the motivation behind it. Until we do so we won’t be safe.

inspiring the world with debate