Farewell to innocence

I think I’ve worked out the single concept that defines Britain’s bossy New Labour government, and it’s a bit more cerebral than I thought it’d be.

The basic thought: New Labour’s unwritten goal is to destroy the presumption of innocence. To treat citizens as guilty until proven innocent, of whatever they feel like accusing you of.

An ancient legal principle, yet technology and policy have been treating it as a minor inconvenience ever since Blair came to power. It’s not a sweeping tidal wave of change in public policy; it’s an attitude, a million little changes in procedures and precedents that add up to a wholesale destruction of a basic principle of liberty.

The right against unreasonable stop and search. The right to a private family life. The right against seizure of personal property. All going down the pan. And because it’s being executed drip by drip, it’s far more corrosive to society than one big bang would be.

It’s in the way CCTV has been turned on motorists, with barely a whisper. (Of course it was. All new technology gets used in unintended ways; the street finds its own uses for things.) Or the way police now invite several thousand local men matching a rapist’s ethnicity to ‘volunteer a DNA sample’, with the unspoken threat that if you don’t you’re a suspect. Fingerprinting 11 year olds, just in case. Charles Clarke thinking every ID Card should eventually carry a DNA sample too, without giving a moment’s thought to the knowledge (medical, mental, even behavioural) that makes available to government as we work out, gene by gene, what DNA does.

All these things have good outcomes, they smile. Because they’re not big thinkers; nobody in New Labour has the intellect to consider iterative outcomes and second-order effects. (Odd, since it’s usually the Left who emobody most political brainpower.) The Conservatives at least have some brains in their ranks.

It’s dangerous as hell. But at least I now understand that driving factor underpinning it all. Which means, perhaps, it’s easier to fight.

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