It’s the kind of quick deal that Del Boy would love.
The Westminster Government has hatched a new security bill and will force it through Westminster in one week flat to make phone and internet providers keep records of our calls and internet use.
Copper-bottomed and speedy the deal’s moved faster than the Honourable Ladies and Gentlemen file their expenses. And that’s fast.
Ministers say the European Court of Justice is to blame because it ruled blanket surveillance of citizens in European states must end.
Other countries didn’t have a problem with that ruling but in dear, jumpy old Britain, civil servants were alarmed.
So last week, the Government cited the collapse of Syria, the growth of Isis in Iraq, al Shabab in East Africa and paedophile networks in the UK to justify snooping on our calls and emails.
Not the content to be fair but the time, duration and folk we contact. Now of course, it’s hard to argue that privacy should be more important than national security.
One commentator said, “I’ve got nothing to hide, so what difference can this new law make?”
Another commentator replied: “Give me your bank details and let me take a look at your health records. Not so keen now, eh?”
Of course these kind of personal details aren’t what the Government is after yet. But the public fears a slippery slope and nae wonder. For one thing this “emergency” legislation deals with a court judgment made in April.
If it was that important why didn’t they legislate back then instead of waiting till the Commons is about to break up for the summer? Can it really take three months to hammer out a three-party deal over “vital national security?”
Or did everyone just fail to think through the repercussions of the European Court’s judgement? It’s all a bit fishy.
The last time we saw parties line up in uncanny total agreement was the day Ed Balls and Danny Alexander backed George Osborne’s Sermon on the Pound.
The Three Stooges Act didn’t exactly go down a bomb with Scottish voters. But has the common front worked this time? Admittedly data retention is more complicated and less urgent than the independence vote nine weeks away.
But public reaction could wind up being just as negative. Why?
Well the new law isn’t a crackdown on suspects it’s a crackdown on everyone. And this lecture about national security is coming from the folk we trust least Westminster politicians.
So in a week with allegations that serving politicians may be questioned over historic child sex abuse cases and an admission that vital files about a Westminster paedophile ring were lost by the Home Office it’s a bit rich to hear them lecture us on safety.
In fact ever since Ed Snowden revealed that US national intelligence agencies snooped on German leader Angela Merkel and their own citizens and buying, selling and swapping all that info with other “friendly” nations security claims made by any government kinda ring hollow.
So what will happen next? MPs will debate the new Bill on Tuesday. Labour will support the emergency legislation so will the Lib Dems thanks to a “sunset clause” Nick Clegg inserted so it runs out in 2016.
Labour MP Tom Watson has called the whole thing a “stitch-up.” He’s right but few other MPs backed him up. So that’s probably that then but David Cameron should remember one thing.
Every mobile phone company and Government agency may be monitoring us now. But we’re also watching you. And we’re the ones with the votes.