Thursday, 12 February 2009

Now he tells us

Last night's Moral Maze on the subject of the surveillance society was predictably inconclusive - in my experience, the importance of defending privacy against the state's insatiable will to knowledge is something you either get or you don't. But there were a couple of highlights. An American professor described Britain as a "privacy dystopia" that was a terrible warning to the rest of the world. And in an exchange with state-loving journalist David Aaronovitch the former Tory defence secretary Michael Portillo came out with this killer quote:


I having been been in government have every reason for believing that the government routinely abuses the powers it has. It's not a matter of the last resort, it's the first resort. It isn't something that happens exceptionally, it happens all the time.


As the years pass, it becomes more and more obvious that Portillo's defeat in Enfield in the 1997 election was one of the great political tragedies of recent history.

9 comments:

Letters From A Tory said...

Disturbingly honest.

Olive said...

It isn't something that happens exceptionally, it happens all the time

Is this a surprise to anyone? It's one of the reasons I have no faith in Cameron's promises to rollback the current government's privacy invasion.

asquith said...

Olive, I'm slightly more optimistic than you, though only slightly.

Cameron is under huge pressure, not only from libertarians but also other grass roots members. I regard him as fairly weak, so the fact that he's not going along with New Labour suggests that not going along with New Labour is the easiest course.

It is, in honesty, mainly people in safe Labour seats (I live in one) who have the most punitive & authoritarian views. Apart from his pathetic & tedious drug "policy", there is at least some hope.

Time will tell, & I'm sure I'd end up berating a Cameron government regularly, but it can't be this bad.

valdemar squelch said...

If Portillo was so offended by the abuse of power when in government, why didn't he do the honourable thing and resign, then expose the shenanigans from the back benches? Now he's on our side because he's 'one of us' again. Big whoop.

lost causes said...

Even when I was decidedly anti-Tory, in the "are you thinking what we're thinking", pre-Cameron era, I always thought Portillo was brilliant. His commentary on the BBC is excellent, "Portillo's progress" was an unprecedented self-examination. Remember that his politics have changed unrecognisably since his defeat though.

What I'm finding it hard to understand at the moment is how Vince Cabal and the Lib-Dems could get it right on both Iraq (and I'll admit that by the time the war started, the propaganda had been so effective that even I was in 2 minds) and on the banking crisis, while still riding low in the poles. They got it right when the Conservatives and Labour got it wrong, surely they're the best candidates to take charge? Clegg does kind of suck the atmosphere out of the room though, whereas Cameron charms me every time.

valdemar squelch said...

The absurd but revealing Titian-Wiki fiasco gives us a little insight into how a Cameron cabinet might function. Not reassuring. If the facts don't fit, change the facts. Dodgy dossiers aplenty there, methinks.

Edwian said...

Am with Valdemar re Portillo. Can't mind who the American commentator was who said Galloway may be right on Iraq but was still a 'swamp thing' and not 'one of us' in any sense. And neither is Portaloo.

Andrew Zalotocky said...

Do you really think that Portillo would be so frank if he still had a political career to protect? If he had held on to his seat in Enfield he wouldn't be saying anything like this.

The Heresiarch said...

It's not that he says it that matters, Andrew. It's that he's aware of it - and knows that it's a problem. The present office-holders seem psychologically incapable of appreciating that anything they do might constitute an abuse of power.