Written by: Mark Chapman

Written by: David Elston

Written by: David Elston

Written by: David Elston

Written by: David Elston

Written by: Danfox Davies

Written by: Danfox Davies

Written by: Danfox Davies

Written by: Mark Chapman

Written by: Loz Kaye

Written by: Andy Halsall

Written by: Adrian Short

Written by: Loz Kaye

Written by: Loz Kaye

Written by: Andy Halsall

Written by: Andy Halsall

Andy Halsall : Let's make being 'Wrong on Rights' unelectable

When it comes to the clash between surveillance and civil liberties, it seems the fight is still very much on. It's a war we have to win and with the General Election looming, making the case that mass surveillance and privacy should be important issues for voters is pretty vital.

Happily, on that score, there have been a number of developments that might just help us move the debate forward.

On Monday, the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights, Europe’s top rights body published a report that shows that it believes mass surveillance is a significant threat to human rights.  That's good news for anyone hoping to see a rolling back of the surveillance state.

The report recognises what the Pirate Party and others have been saying for years about the threat of mass surveillance. Like us, it did not shy away from discussing the disclosures made by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden:

“The disclosures have provided compelling evidence of the existence of far-reaching, technologically advanced systems put in place by US intelligence services and their partners in certain Council of Europe member states to collect, store and analyse communication data, including content, location and other metadata, on a massive scale”

Mark Chapman : Secret Courts - A silent start

Lady Justice - Old BaileyUnremarked upon, a mere footnote in the newspapers, but Justice took a significant step backwards this week with the start of a trial that will be held, at least in part, 'in secret'. The trial of Erol Incedal at the Old Bailey will - according to the judge - "have some unusual features. The usual way that justice is administered is in public. Some of this trial will be conducted in that way. However there will be other sessions of this trial that will be conducted in private. The public will not be able to attend these".

Not just the public, but journalists as well will be restricted from certain sections of the trial, so that the contents disclosed will never be public. Furthermore, the public will not be given an outline of what it is that is being discussed in secret, or any reasons why it must be secret.

That this has come about at all is as a consequence of the bill passed by the Coalition government last year. At the time there was a fair amount of media comment on it and the Lib Dem MPs defied the vote of members at their conference in voting for the bill. Now however, reporting a case which is affected, and there is silence - merely a footnote at the end of the standard court report. It seems as though the battle has already been lost, and the media have moved on.

Just because the media move on, however, doesn't mean that we should. The principle and practice of secret courts are dangerous and should be challenged wherever and whenever possible. We should take the time to understand the Justice that is being done in our name, and seeking to ensure that it is, above all, Just.

There are 2 major issues with the existence of secret courts. Firstly, it removes one of the fundamental tenets of the right to a fair trial - that the trial be conducted in public. As recently as 2011 in a landmark hearing (Al Rawi) the Supreme Court of the UK upheld the principle of open justice. The removal of this openness means that the accused can either never hear evidence which helps to convict them, removing them of the ability to accurately refute that evidence; or alternatively it means that they too are restricted from talking about certain aspects of the trial in public meaning that even if found to be innocent, they have restrictions placed on their freedom of speech.

Wendy Cockcroft : Opinion: 'Middle-Out' A Pirate Solution For The Economy?

 

I'm basically a moderate conservative who sees the need for a well-funded welfare state governed by and for the people via a decentralised, distributed democratic process. My personal motto is,

"The individual must be free to act and the will of the people must be respected."

If this principle is not at the core of every policy those policies will fail. The needs and desires of BOTH the many and the one must be kept in balance, with neither gaining the advantage over the other if we want a fairer world. It's the reason I don't vote for the major parties; each of their philosophies tends towards nanny-knows-best authoritarianism and I don't like being told what to do by people who don't care about me.

At the moment, we're caught between the Left/Right dichotomy with either Socialism or Free Market Supply-side ideologies being touted as the solution despite neither of them ever having been proven to work in practice. Middle-out is a departure from both and would create a more inclusive society by providing incentives for production, rewarding labour, and funding a robust welfare state. Let's take a closer look at it.

Loz Kaye : Iraq - Repeating Past Mistakes

Before we move forward against ISIL in Iraq, we have to learn from our past mistakes, or we will be doomed to repeat them.

So here we are again. Parliament has voted to back military intervention in Iraq. In fact it is not so much as here we go again, as back to business as usual. Since 1990 we have been militarily involved in the country every year apart from 2012 and 2013. That in itself should give us pause for thought. 

It's certainly the case that the most recent Iraq war has left a deep scar on British politics. Cameron is clearly all too aware of that with his statement that we should not let the mistakes of the past affect decisions about the future. 

But the mistakes of the past are much broader than the "dodgy dossier". What the rise of ISIL shows is that the implementation of our entire defence strategy has been mistaken. The stated aims have been to tackle instability, identify security risks, to exploit influence to manage risks, to help resolve conflicts and strengthen international norms.

Does giving ISIL what it wants with a scrap in their own back yard achieve any of this? Plainly, no. US and UK strikes pave the way to further undermining the territorial integrity of Iraq, the precise opposite of the motion agreed.

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