My election notes, E-Day – 3

by Pseud O'Nym


First things first.

What happened in London on Saturday night was yet another outrage, a frightening example of the new reality in which we now live.  The sudden and violent ending of many lives, with many more wounded, some with life changing injures is something that mere words alone cannot adequately express.

Secondly. how to deal effectively and proportionally to this new reality, whilst ensuring the our civil liberties are protected is nor an easy task, Everyone will call for something to be done, but if that something contains measures that erode the freedoms that are a hallmark of ways of life in this country, is it a something worth having?

It’s a difficult one, As this BBC article notes,

Anti-terror laws made up on the hoof in the heat of the moment are not always the best ones.

Before noting,

This was a recognition by the prime minister that security is now a significant issue in this election. Long after the rows of this campaign are over the government that is elected will still be facing the threat of Islamist terrorism.

Where once the last few days of the election might have been focused on Brexit or tax or spending, much time and space will now be devoted to police numbers, intelligence capacity and extremist ideology.

And that in itself is a problem. What exactly is extreme? Seriously, it’s all well and good banning something if that something is a tangible thing. You ban murder, for example and impose punishment for those that transgress. But extremism? Isn’t there a danger we’re in danger of veering into Big Brother style ‘thought crime‘ here? What views are extreme and not extreme? Who defines them?

As The Guardian noted yesterday,

Her ( Teresa Mays )original 2015 anti-extremism programme included banning orders against groups that fall short of existing terrorism proscription thresholds, extremism disruption orders against individuals who incite hatred and closure orders against premises used to host extremist meetings or speakers.

That “full spectrum” response has been largely frustrated by the reservations of her cabinet colleagues and serious problems finding a legally robust definition of “extremism” that will survive its first legal free speech challenge in the courts from a banned individual or group.

Dealing effectively and proportionally to this new reality won’t be easy. And as I wrote in a blog about proposed privacy laws some years ago, the people these laws are meant to protect are often the very people they’re used against.