I’ve taken a particular interest, at conference, in surveillance and human rights. The Open Rights group and Big Brother Watch organised a fascinating fringe meeting. Alan Travis from the Guardian and Julian Huppert MP spoke, as well as Emma Carr and Jim Killock from the two organisations above.
This morning I spoke at the emergency debate on Schedule 7.
I have three takeaways (as they say nowadays!) from all this:
1. It is remarkable that people in the UK are not more worked up about the whole Tempora/Prism scenario. In the States they are much more exercised. My theory is that this is because in the US people are much more clear on their constitutional rights. Amendment One, for example, gets routinely mentioned in normal conversation. Compare that to the UK. Not many people have a clue what our constitutional rights are, which is not surprising as they are expressed on scores of ancient&modern goat skins and a library full of law books.
2. Jeremy Browne gave a robustly liberal speech, supporting the Schedule 7 emergency motion today. (In passing he gave a welcome rejection of the “go home” vans.) Julian Huppert has been bouncing around the conference like Tigger and is particularly on the ball with these issues. After this morning’s debate I am confident that the Lib Dem parliamentarians are energetically pursuing reform of Schedule 7.
3. Thank God for the Guardian. I have the utmost admiration for their sense of patriotic responsibility, their journalist zeal and their courage over the Snowden/Tempora issue. This debate has a long way to go to allow public understanding of what on earth the state are doing with our communications data.