In 2015 David Cameron spoke these fateful words, “For too long, we have been a passively tolerant society, saying to our citizens ‘as long as you obey the law, we will leave you alone’.”
Of course, as ever with the Conservatives, Cameron made no attempt to clarify in what way he intended to interfere in our lives outside the law, other than a vague ‘series of measures that he said would crack down on people holding minority “extremist” views that differed from Britain’s consensus’, but it rang alarm bells in me and all I could do was wait for events to unfold, as they now have with shocking clarity and brutality,
The ‘Windrush’ debacle has revealed how Theresa May calculatedly set about stealing British citizenship from people who came to Britain as British Commonwealth citizens who were eagerly sought to help rebuild war torn Britain, not least to work in the newly formed NHS and for Transport for London. In 2012 Theresa May warned her aim “was to create here in Britain a really hostile environment for illegal migration”. When May brought out the Immigration Act 2014 she secretly removed, without parliamentary scrutiny or vote, a clause which had protected all longstanding Commonwealth residents from enforced removal from Britain in the 1999 Immigration and Asylum Act.
Far from targeting illegal immigrants, Theresa May has targeted legal citizens who are questioned on their right to be here every time they change a bank account, use the NHS, apply for housing, or wish to travel abroad and (crucially) return, or apply for or renew their driving licence, she even attempted to place a ‘requirement on schools to check children’s immigration status, and to shunt the children of the migrants to the back of the queue for school places’.
Theresa May is certainly creating a really hostile environment for migration, illegal or otherwise. The Windrush generation are expected to produce 4 pieces of evidence for every year of residence in Britain. How many people in Britain would be able to do that? Yet it was Theresa May who oversaw the destruction of ‘thousands of landing card slips recording Windrush immigrants’ arrival dates in the UK’, despite warnings from Home Office employees that the landing card slips were a ‘vital resource for case workers when they were asked to find information about someone’s arrival date in the UK from the West Indies’.
The reality, though, is far more sinister and wide ranging than immigration and migrant status.
The intrusion of the state into our lives has changed beyond all recognition since the 1990s with the proliferation of CCTV under Thatcher and then Blair, which earned Britain the dubious honour of being “the most surveilled industrialized state in the Western world”. There were facile disclaimers at the time that, ‘if you’ve done nothing wrong you have nothing to worry about’, how very wrong they were. The intrusive state is not a benign parent gazing with fond attention to the well being of its national family, as Cameron made so very clear, do not think that as long as you obey the law we will leave you alone. All ‘citizens’ are now regarded with grave suspicion, the more the fight against the ubiquitous , nowhere and everywhere, ‘terrorists’, was trumpeted, the more restrictions were placed on the lives of all ordinary people, in step by draconian step.
The Investigatory Powers (IP) Bill 2016, commonly known as the ‘Snoopers Charter’, which opponents rightly argued would infringe on many aspects of our private lives, was claimed as necessary by government to combat (surprise, surprise) terrorism, leading me, among others, to the conclusion, that we’re all terrorist now, existing on the sufferance of the state. I said at the time of CCTV proliferation that we are slowly watching the end of the presumption of innocence, little did I realise at that time what Cameron et al had in store for us.
In reality we are now living in a virtual Panopticon. The invention of Jeremy Bentham, a Panopticon is an institution which allowed ‘inmates of an institution to be observed by a single watchman without the inmates being able to tell whether or not they are being watched’. Information technology has enabled governments to invade our lives in previously unimaginable ways, GCHQ has become the invisible friend of us all, quietly invading every aspect of our private lives to ‘keep us safe’. The silent watchers watch and only the careless sleep well at night. Welcome to the prison state.
In the upcoming local elections the government have introduced, in a few test areas, a requirement for people to produce identification at polling stations in order to vote. In 2017 there were 28 allegations of someone having lied about their identity at a polling station, only one of those allegations resulted in a conviction out of 45 million votes cast. The problem is so infinitesimal as to be absolutely no problem at all, and yet we can expect a national roll out to follow.
We are all being turned into citizens on sufferance. Theresa May is a power crazed mad woman, but she is far from alone in her right wing oppressive and punitive pretensions, in Britain and globally. The DWP has enshrined in law the right to deprive people of the means of survival for up to three years, the government has imposed catastrophic cuts to pay and working conditions and millions are being disenfranchised from full participation in society. Disabled people are being stripped of care and Motability. Nurses are being forced to use food banks and to take out payday loans. ‘The Electoral Commission shows that 3.5 million people (7.5% of the electorate) in Great Britain do not have access to any form of photo ID, while 11 million electors (24% of the electorate) do not have access to a passport or photographic driving license.’
We are being driven away from citizenship into becoming stateless and powerless individuals on an unprecedented scale. If we are deprived of the ability to actively participate in society, what are we? Who are we? I have in recent years been deprived of a physical driving licence because I am unable to provide sufficient proof of who I am. The DVLA asked for DHSS records from my teenage years and, at the point where I gave up in utter disgust, wanted school reports and swimming certificates. All because my mother changed our names to her maiden name in our teens and I later changed my name again to my rediscovered, deceased fathers name which he had changed to his second wife’s name. Deed polls and an endless supply of current domestic bills and banking details and so on for a licence that was already in my present name in its paper form were rejected. The notion that a school report or swimming certificate would swing the balance was too ludicrous to even imagine. The entire ridiculous farce was driving me gaga. They have created hoops too far to jump through and insulting my integrity and intelligence into the bargain. I had reached my absolute “Fuck off!” moment and have been driving without a physical licence since.
To close this piece on the governments intolerable interference in our lives I’d like to quote a meme shared by Rachael, @Rachael_Swindon, on Twitter – “Fuck off. Then keep fucking off. Fuck off until you come to a gate with a sign saying “You Can’t Fuck Off Past Here”. Climb over the gate, dream the impossible dream, and keep fucking off forever.”
KOG. 23 April 2018
Britain Unchallenged As The Most Surveilled State In The World
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