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

Loz Kaye : LibDems and Labour – Nothing to Offer on Mass Surveillance

There is a set pattern for speeches from mainstream politicians about the Internet. Start off with a few “isn't it amazing what the kids can do nowadays” generalities to show you are vaguely with it. Then do a nod in the direction of the economic benefits technology can bring, to keep business happy. That leaves you clear to get on to the meat of what you really want to talk about – how the Nettywebz are a Pandora's box of terror, abuse, threats to citizen's rights, and moral dissolution.

So it has proved with the much trailed speeches by the Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper and the LibDem Leader Nick Clegg respectively. In particular, Cooper's speech is so packed with web cliches that it is clear that the Labour top remains fundamentally anti-Internet in its outlook. There are too many lazy conflations to mention, Facebook and NHS data are lumped together for example. She refers to the “digital challenges of the last 12 months” regarding mass surveillance. I have no idea what this means specifically, and I suspect whoever wrote it doesn't either.

To cut through the padding, the heart of what they set out to address, was surveillance in the light of the Snowden revelations. I want to focus on the substance – such as it is – of what they said and proposed, rather than how it was sold to the media.

The fact that they are discussing this at all shows that it is beginning to filter through to politicians that they can't ignore the gravity of the serious breaches of trust that have taken place. That's in no small way thanks to all the work of grassroots digital rights and privacy activists over the months. And of course Edward Snowden himself, whatever Cooper might claim to the contrary. To be fair, this is some kind of progress.

Loz Kaye : The EU - Where We Stand

Over the last few months it has been impossible to avoid that old battleground of British politics: Europe.

 In the run up to the European Parliament elections our membership of the European Union is being discussed all over the country.  We've seen statements issued, arguments laid out and promises made, yet there is still seems to be confusion about where various parties stand, and whether they will still be standing there in six months time....

No one should be confused about our position within the Pirate Party though.  Quite simply:

  • We want a referendum on the UK's membership of the EU.
  • We do not want the UK to join the Eurozone or use the Euro.

We need a referendum because our membership of that block has an impact on our lives, work and opportunities within the UK in a way that us very different to when we joined the EC.  We need a referendum because people deserve a say and our party believes in democracy. We need a referendum because the debate will give us a better idea of what we want in the future and the momentum we need to make radical changes to the EU. We need a referendum because it is long overdue.

Loz Kaye : Drug Prices are Harming Patients

Right across the continent health budgets are under pressure due to austerity programmes. In the UK, a leading group of cancer experts has spoken out saying huge drug prices charged by pharmaceutical companies are putting patients at risk. The message is stark. Over 100 physicians have warned reasonable prices are “a necessity to save the lives of patients who cannot afford them”.  

But in Jeremy Hunt's National Health Service there is no fight for reasonable prices. For example, there's no arguing that the costs of the latest Leukaemia drugs are eye watering. As reported in the Independent, Pfizer's Bosulif costs £76,000 a year. The price tags increase, Ariad's 90 grand a year for Iclusig, Teva's 100 thousand for Synribo. 

What price can you put on someone's life? Quite rightly, we would fight tooth and nail to give our loved ones any chance to survive. But the real question is why these drugs should cost that much at all. The pharmaceutical industry depends on the patent system, which grants years of monopoly for each new product.

t's supposed to be about making new molecules. But what the patent system has ended up doing in healthcare is carving out areas of illness real estate that no-one else can come on to. This keeps prices high. Each area is fiercely protected and marketed. Science writer Ben Goldacre has estimated that about a quarter of what we pay for pharmaceuticals goes on marketing. This system makes perverse incentives to suppress unfavourable trial results, to spend R and D money on drugs similar existing ones to extend patents and to stop successful cheaper drugs being available.

The argument has always been that companies are given exclusive power over life giving drugs because it  allows them to get back their investment.  

Loz Kaye : The David Miranda Detention and the Surveillance State

The detention of Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald's partner David Miranda at Heathrow airport for nearly nine hours under anti-terrorism laws has sent shockwaves through the British media and political life. Miranda had equipment such as his phone and laptop confiscated, was not given an interpreter, and was grilled about Snowden and even protests in Brazil.

While some details of the story have been in doubt, such as the extent to which David Miranda had legal support, the basic facts that he was stopped and questioned at length are not in dispute. Keeping someone for nine hours under the Terrorism Act 2000 is highly exceptional. No-one, least of all the police, have suggested that he was planning any kind of act of terror or posed any sort of danger to the UK or anywhere else.

The Metropolitan Police have robustly defended the holding of Mr Miranda as "legally and procedurally sound". Already much time has been spent analysing whether this is in fact the case. But that is to spectacularly miss the point - why was David Miranda stopped in the first place? Clearly his very presence raised a flag. Anyone who is even indirectly involved in the PRISM story is now in the searchlight. This is an attack on the ability of journalists to do their work and the taking of devices such as memory sticks undermines the basic principle of protection of sources.

The Whitehouse has confirmed it received a “heads up” from the British authorities before David Miranda was taken in to custody. While US officials would not be drawn on why he was singled out, this shows he deliberately targeted. Either the UK is indiscriminately enforcing a United States flagging system, or we are operating our own version of the 'no-fly' list. Whichever it is, this raises profound questions to our commitments to freedom of speech, freedom of movement and our relationship to the rest of the world. Understandably, Brazil has been hugely unimpressed by the detention of one of its citizens in this manner and has summoned the British ambassador to explain.

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