openDemocracyUK

Whose Side Are They On? How Big Brother Government is Ruining Britain

Alan Pearce, author of Whose Side Are They On? How Big Brother Government is Ruining Britain, explains why he was compelled to write a book that would drive people insane with rage
OurKingdom Ourkingdom
4 November 2009

Alan Pearce, author of Whose Side Are They On? How Big Brother Government is Ruining Britain, explains why he was compelled to write a book that would drive people insane with rage.

Writing a book like this makes you question your sanity. My wife certainly questioned mine. From out of my office came regular outbursts of mad laughter followed by torrents of angry obscenities. I even caught her Googling "Tourette's Syndrome".

When I came to write ‘Whose Side Are They On?' I had no idea just what a passionate and powerful grip it would have on me. I've never been political, not in the party sense, and my interests have always been in foreign affairs and history.

Then one day I picked up a newspaper and read that the government was creating around 320 new laws a year, according to the Liberal Democrats, and more than half of those had never been debated in Parliament. I wanted to know why and particularly why they thought it necessary.

Some of it appeared plain bonkers. What were our law-makers thinking when they made it an offence to "disturb a pack of eggs when instructed not to by an authorised officer"?

Why should we need a special license to have a sing-song in the village hall or put on a panto at the community centre? How many of us know we can no longer go to a fancy dress party as a barrister or traffic warden? It's all very amusing but don't they have better things to occupy their time?

It was only when I started to dig a little deeper that I began swearing out loud. According to legal publishers Sweet & Maxwell, the LibDems were well short of the mark. Far from introducing over 3,000 laws in ten years, they were introducing that many each year.

In 2007 alone, 3,071 new offences were added to the statute book; which works out at around eight new laws a day. The record is even worse under Gordon Brown. We now have so many laws, it's impossible to say just how many we do have. As a result, the average Briton is committing an offence a day. Forget ‘nothing to hide, nothing to fear'.

Suddenly there are 1,043 laws allowing officials to enter our homes, often with sanctioned violence; 430 of these powers have been approved by Parliament since New Labour came to power.

I was staggered to hear from the Home Office that under Clause 56 of the Immigration Asylum and Nationality Act 2006 people born in Britain can now be stripped of their citizenship and deported - so long as they have a second passport and won't be rendered stateless. Next year, under the E-Borders scheme, we will need an ‘exit visa' to leave the country - even the cross-channel swimmers, day-trippers and anglers.

Stories that I would splash across the front page are regularly buried deep inside. Conversely, the Press did a big number when Google joined forces with the Chinese to censor the Internet but when similar moves were introduced in Britain the response was mooted.

Why wasn't there a bigger outcry when such odd groups as the Post Office, the Food Standards Agency and the Health and Safety Executive were given access to our emails, our on-line history and purchases? And why would they need it?

Laws aimed at child pornographers are being used to gag on-line protest deemed ‘extreme' or ‘offensive'; examples include people complaining about the criminal justice system and the neighbours who opened a Facebook page to moan about an officious Community Support Officer.

With the constant drip, drip of legislation, it is impossible to keep up or even pay more than passing attention. It's only when you put them all together like this that you see the sheer scale of State intrusion. And that's when my blood began to boil.

It wasn't that long ago that control orders, banning orders, gagging orders, house arrest and detention without trial gave the apartheid regime of South Africa a bad name. What were once seen as intolerable affronts to human dignity are now accepted by the majority in Britain as necessary tools in the fight for ‘freedom'.

Have we lost our marbles?

And it's not just the laws. It's the smoke and mirrors of it all. From police targets that do virtually nothing to tackle anti-social behaviour but criminalise the law-abiding, to the 15 percent of school boys that fail to even register a score in tests. Not to mention the appalling way we treat our returning soldiers.

We are obviously being taken for a very big ride but try telling that to people at a dinner party and their eyes quickly glaze over. I want people to be as amazed and angry as I now am.

But who is going to read a book where I just rant about the injustice of it all? I needed to demonstrate the appalling and callous acts of this government by showing how real people are being affected.

Take for example Gareth Corkhill, a bus driver and father of four from Whitehaven in Cumbria. He was arrested at his home by officers in body armour. Now he can't take the kids to Disney World in Florida because he has a criminal conviction.

And what had Gareth done? He had left the lid of his wheelie bin open four inches (10.16 cm); and he is just one of 20,000 homeowners fined for ‘bin crimes' in a 12 month period. In the government's fight against crime, these are success stories.

Or how about the man who fell into a coma on a bus and was then blasted twice with police Tasers because he would not ‘obey' instructions? And what about the sinister use of our DNA by private companies?

We live in a country where our every movement is observed and every important personal detail is known to the State. Neighbour has been encouraged to denounce neighbour and others recruited to spy and snoop.

Most of it would be hilarious if it wasn't so frightening. I have read through my book hundreds of times checking, re-writing and proofing and I am still shocked when I read it now.

I am also shocked how few people have been paying attention these past 12 years. I'm hoping ‘Whose Side Are They On?' may open a few eyes as it opened mine. It also makes for great Christmas presents for the uninitiated!

Readers of Open Democracy can order Whose side are they on? for a reduced rate free of postage by quoting ‘Whose side are they on?' by phone: 01903 828503 or by email: [email protected]

Expose the ‘dark money’ bankrolling our politics

US Christian ‘fundamentalists’, some linked to Donald Trump and Steve Bannon, have poured at least $50m of ‘dark money’ into Europe over the past decade – boosting the far right.

That's just the tip of the iceberg: we've got many more leads to chase down. Find out more and support our work here.

Who is bankrolling Britain's democracy? Which groups shape the stories we see in the press; which voices are silenced, and why? Sign up here to find out.

Comments

We encourage anyone to comment, please consult the oD commenting guidelines if you have any questions.
Audio available Bookmark Check Language Close Comments Download Facebook Link Email Newsletter Newsletter Play Print Share Twitter Youtube Search Instagram