February 27, 2008

Labour does what Labour does

Another week, another gross infringement of liberty proposed by the Labour Party. Labour apologists will of course try to say that this is only a small step onward from what already exists, namely the Drug Trafficking Act 1994 by the Tories and the Assets Recovery Agency created by Labour in 2002.

There is one very big difference between the Drug Trafficking Act 1994 and what is being proposed. Under the Drug Trafficking Act 1994 people have to be convicted of a crime before it was possible for them to have their property seized. Only after they had been convicted of doing something wrong was it then possible to try for the state to grab some of their assets. The Drug Trafficking Act 1994 followed the principal set down in the Bill of Rights that 1689.

Obviously having to actually prove that people had committed a crime before going after their wealth wasn't going to be good enough for Labour so they set up the Assets Recovery Agency. Nice use of the word 'recovery' implying that these assets all actually belong to the state, they are just lent to people and can be taken back (recovered) should the state take a disliking to them.

The Assets Recovery Agency didn't have to wait for anybody to actually be convicted of a crime. It could start proceedings against anybody to go after their wealth, whether they had been convicted or not. It had a budget of £15.5m, but it recovered only £4.6m which Labour count as a failure because it was supposed to fund itself from the money that it took. Rather like the way that witch hunters in the middle ages funded themselves by confiscating the assets of the witches they found. Labour even made sure to reduce the burden of proof to make it easier for them, from the normal test of 'beyond reasonable doubt' to just the civil standard of 'on the balance of probabilities'. Even then it could not seize enough to pay for itself, and is now being merged with the Justice Minister's private police force, the Serious Organised Crime Agency.

This fits well with the pattern of how civil liberties are taken away. Not in one big rush but piece by piece, just slowly enough to fool people into forgetting what it was like before.

The first of this set of erosions of the right to private property, the principal of no punishment without conviction, and that all punishments should be set according to the crime that they where convicted of was the Drug Trafficking Act 1994 which meant that after somebody was convicted of a crime the state could then ask the courts to let it seize assets that it could show where the proceeds of this crime. This should be repealed as soon as possible. Then Labour, never liking to have to actually prove people have done something wrong before punishing them, got rid of the requirement for them to be convicted of anything or having to prove that these assets where from a crime. It changed the law that so that it could seize the assets of anybody where it could show on the balance of probability could be from a crime. Now it wants to water this down even further so that the state can seize the assets of people on arrest. No need to prove that the person is a criminal. No need to prove in any way that these are the proceeds of a crime.

The same steady chip, chip, chip eroding away our liberties can be seen with Habeas Corpus. For most of the time since the Habeas Corpus Act of 1679, Habeas meant that when anybody was detained they had to be charged with a crime within 24 hours. Labour have sent this rocketing up being now over 24 days, soon to be 42 days. I have no doubt that after they get 42 days they will be back for more, just as they demanded more after raising the limit to 28 days, just as they demanded more after raising the limit to 14 days, just as they demanded more after raising the limit to 7 days.

This tactic can also be seen in the way that ID Cards and the NIR are being slowly forced upon us. Start with one group that looks like an easy target, such as children through the Contact Point database, then add more and more. Claim that it won't be compulsory to carry, but then make more and more things reliant on it until there is de facto compulsion which can be switched to enforced compulsion without raising much fuss. Or the national DNA database where everybody gets put but they are never taken off even if they prove to be innocent slowly rachetting up the number of people that it contains.

Labour simply do not care about the Liberties of the citizens they have been elected to represent, they only care about power. This can be seen by they way they are so willing to sacrifice the citizens of the UK should they think they can get a bit of leverage from it. Thanks to our entanglement with the EU the government was obliged to accept the EU arrest warrant, meaning that people can be arrested here and extradited even if they have done nothing that is illegal here. They did not however have to accept an extradition treaty with the USA that includes provisions so illiberal that the US government refused to let them apply to United States citizens, just the second class citizens of the United Kingdom.

That is the New Labour political project. Thatcherism was about economics, but Labour is about civil liberties. Thatcherism was about removing the state's power over industry. The New Labour project is about removing any checks on the state's power over individuals. The Thatcher reforms to industry where brutally implemented but in the end good. The Labour reforms to civil liberties have been carefully brought in at a measured pace, but in the end their result will be disastrous.


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