May 4th, 2010

Reply to a letter from my local Labour Candidate

I sent a letter to all my local political candidates regarding the Digital Economy Act as part of the ongoing campaign by Open Rights Group (see here: and the first response I received was from Clive Grunshaw from Labour - so I took the opportunity to send him another letter which I have published below. I urge everyone to consider these issues when they vote on polling day and I urge Labour to try to comprehend the damage they have done to our society.


As someone who works in the privacy sector as an advocate, campaigner, lobbyist and consultant it should be easy to understand that I have become disillusioned by the Labour Party over the past 13 years.  I voted Labour in 1997 and I literally wept with joy when the election was won after being raised for most of my life under Conservative reign.  But now 13 years on I feel like it was the worst political decision I ever made - regret doesn't begin to explain how I feel.

The erosion of civil liberties by Labour over the past 13 years has been so severe that I worry we may never manage to restore much of what has been lost.  The proliferation of CCTV, ANPR, Biometrics, Interception of Communications, Databases, Data Collection and Data Retention (to name just a few) has been so vast and so damaging to society and democracy and for what?  It has cost the public dearly both with regards to their rights and of course tax funds in a time where economic stability has crumbled.

We have seen one of the most corrupt governments in the history of democracy where regulatory capture and a corporatist body politic have destroyed the very definition of democracy for their own gain.  I was on the phone to my MP who was in Westminster the day of the tube bombings - I heard first hand the reaction from the halls of Parliament and the panic caused by this terrorist attack; but whereas it was tragic (as is any loss of of life to terror attacks) I feel that the government have abused it as an opportunity to tighten the reigns on society and create a police state.  The Government have disrespected those who lost their lives and their families by destroying the things that made Britain good.  I would gladly give my life to undo much of what Labour have done with regards to our liberty and human rights.

I have written many papers and been involved in Government consultations on Privacy over the past couple of years but all I see is lip service.  I still don't see any enforcement of the law when big business blatantly abuse their positions of trust and break the law.  I have a criminal complaint still being investigated after almost 600 days against BT and Phorm - a clear cut case of criminal activity which should have been prosecuted so quickly - yet I discover that the average time it takes for the CPS to decide whether or not to prosecute is a mere 9 days.  This sends the message that if you are a big company with lots of Government friends and contracts, you can do whatever you want and get away with it.

I have written about the use of biometrics in our schools which are stored permanently and are available for the police to access; I have read about CCTV in school bathrooms; I have read about GPS tracking on our school buses and children below the age of 10 on the DNA database and again Labour makes me weep just as I did in 1997 but now I weep with shame because my actions in 1997 have led to a world where my now 4 year old son has no liberty.

So I beg of you, explain to me how Labour are going to turn the clocks back and return our country to one I can be proud of - one where the politicians are there to serve the interests of the people not the interests of big business and the interests of politicians.  Tell me that Labour will abandon their plans to monitor and control everything the public do.  Tell me Labour with sever their ties with global corporations which are reaping in profits of billions at the expense of British liberty from contracts granted by the Labour Government.  Tell me that Labour will give us back our dignity, our pride and our liberty.

I don't think you can do any of that - it is my belief that things will continue exactly as they have been and will get worse to and beyond the point of total fascism - to and beyond a point that the Stasi would be envious of - to and beyond a point depicted in distopian literature such as 1984.  Labour have destroyed my world, they have destroyed my son's future and they have destroyed my faith in democracy - nay, they have destroyed democracy itself.

I am ashamed of myself for having voted labour in 1997; I am ashamed of my country and I fear the future regardless of which party wins on polling day.  History tells us that Governments do not relinquish control gained by previous administrations - the damage your party has done will be almost impossible to undo - and I can never forgive that.

I hope you take my concerns seriously; I hope you lay awake at night thinking about the consequences of your actions; I hope you look at your children with the shame I feel and I hope you weep every single day for the loss of democracy and liberty which your party is responsible for.

But I doubt you will.


Alexander Hanff
Privacy International