Tuesday, 31 March 2009

The real significance of 'Porngate'

Over on Lib Dem Voice yesterday, Alix Mortimer demonstrated how hollow the mantra of 'if you've got nothing to hide, you've got nothing to fear' actually is in the wake of Jacqui Smith's unfortunate expenses claim.

Although the claim has certainly given us all a good laugh, it does have some political significance. Alix highlighted part of it and I want to look at another aspect of it.

Over the past few months, Jacqui Smith has been busy telling us all that government plans to increase data storage and surveillance and to extend anti-terror laws even further were all perfectly OK really as they were subject to a series of 'safeguards'. Here's a couple of examples.

But I have a simple question for Ms Smith: what sort of safeguards are there against the sort of bone-headed stupidity you and your husband have shown? Him in including the porn films in your expenses claim, you for failing to check it properly - "Darling, what are these 'additional features'?"

Everyone, including public servants, is capable of such stupidity from time to time (the decision to put the details of 26 million child benefit claimants on to two unencrypted CDs springs to mind, for instance). Any safeguards on increasing the power of the state must literally be foolproof or they are worthless.

And more broadly, should we be asking the Guildford Four and the family of Jean Charles de Menezes what safeguards are effective in protecting innocent people in the fevered response to a major terrorist incident? Again, if any safeguards put into place in anti-terror laws would not have prevented either situation, they are worthless.

Ultimately, Jacqui Smith's embarrassment over her husband's viewing habits will fade. But this should be another reminder that the government's pledge that increased state power is all OK because it's in the hands of 'the good guys' who are competent and never act stupidly is somewhat hollow. There are no safeguards against human stupidity.

1 comment:

Liberal Democrat Blogs