ABD Helps David Cameron with "Blueprint for Freedom"
Conservative Policy Ideas Need To Grasp What is Really Strangling Democracy in Britain
As David Cameron launches an attack on ‘Orwellian’ Britain, the ABD says that his suggestions to address this miss the point and might actually make things worse. Instead, the Drivers' Group lays out a ‘Blueprint for a Free Society’ covering key policy changes that are really needed to address the big brother state.
Mr Cameron is quoted thus by the Daily Mail:
“We rage that, as we go about our business, we are picked and poked and bossed around, annoyed and irritated and endlessly harassed by public and private sector officialdom that treats us like children with rules and regulations and directives and laws that no one voted for, no one supports, but no one ever seems to be able to do the slightest thing about.”
ABD spokesman Nigel Humphries said:
“David Cameron has hit the nail on the head — this is exactly what people feel like and exactly what brought the ABD into existence and motivated me to join, Britain's drivers were the first to experience what it feels like to be treated en masse in the way Mr Cameron describes — but the ABD was formed in 1992 under a Conservative government, and even today Conservative councils as well as Labour and Lib Dem ones are continuing to ratchet up the bullying of drivers in a plethora of different ways.
Orwellian Britain is a cross party creation of New Labour, post Thatcher Conservatives and crowd pleasing Lib Dems alike, backed by single issue pressure groups who have taken advantage of weak government and shallow media to drive their agendas forward. Giving more power to local people in this environment will further empower the militant minority because the rest of us have thrown in the towel in despair, such is the treacle of disinformation and obfuscation we have to wade through only to have our views and reasoned arguments dismissed out of hand.”
The ABD's ‘Blueprint for a Free Society’ has been developed from our own experiences of fifteen years of frustration campaigning against “rules and regulations and directives and laws that no one voted for, no one supports, but no one ever seems to be able to do the slightest thing about”. It is designed to deal with critical issues that stifle debate, circumvent the democratic process, facilitate bad regulation and undermine freedom at all levels.
Its four pillars are:
“The Conservatives (and other parties) should listen to this — it's a lot more fundamental than MPs expenses!”
- Control of the surveillance society to retain its benefits while preventing abuses.
- An end to the practice of delegating powers to local authorities then using financial constraints to force policy through by stealth.
- Restoration of scientific integrity by ensuring that funding interests and political interests are declared in scientific papers and that government no longer funds scientific papers to back policy decisions already made.
- Public access to the media via the BBC by petition to ensure that issues important to the public are no longer allowed to be ignored.
said ABD Chairman Brian Gregory.
The detail of the ABD's "Blueprint for a Free Society" follows:
- Statutory Control of Surveillance Data
An "Orwellian" society cannot function without the ability to abuse the criminal justice system to manipulate the behaviour of the majority to the ends of the regime. Historically this is not possible without a huge "Stasi" of spies combined with draconian penalties to create fear in the population, but now the surveillance society facilitates automated, faceless enforcement on a massive scale. This allows bad, oppressive laws to be introduced into a democracy by stealth.
"Surveillance and database activity of all kinds must be controlled by statute so that it is restricted to its two legitimate functions - to help the police decide where to deploy resource on the ground and to provide evidence to solve crimes," said Nigel Humphries. "It is a simple matter to legislate so that no individual can be targeted for surveillance and that no surveillance data can be accessed retrospectively except by order of a court of law."
Such legislation would allow the real time use of CCTV and ANPR to guide the police to genuine criminality, ensure availability of data for investigations into terrorism or child abductions but would introduce proper checks and balances to protect both individuals and the wider public from harassment and undemocratic lawmaking.
- End Financial Controls on Powers Delegated to Local Authorities
An Orwellian Society cannot function when its policies are openly understood and debated, but David Cameron's support for empowering local people is empty when central government quietly says to councils: "You have the powers to do what you like but we won't give you any money unless you do what we say".
This approach was most famously exposed in Manchester when the government made £billions of investment under the Transport Innovation Fund (TIF) conditional on introducing road pricing, but it is going on everywhere and means that policies can be implemented without any democratic process whatsoever. The Government claims it is a local matter and so does not need to debate it in parliament, whereas the council makes the decision to toe the party line behind closed doors and the public never find out what is going on.
This needs to end. Any restrictions and obligations placed on local councils, financial or otherwise, should be debated in parliament and be subject to full national media scrutiny as a national policy without the pretence of delegation.
- Restore the Integrity of Science
Orwellian societies seek an intellectual justification for their actions, as with the Nazi "Universities of Racial Purity". They do this by coercing or bribing academics to produce biased science, whilst suppressing dissenting expertise.
Whenever the Government introduces a policy that is likely to generate public disquiet, a plethora of "independent" scientific papers are produced to give intellectual credence to the party line, with the intention of marginalizing opposition from the start.
Often, the science in these papers is very poor and the authors are anything but independent - they are frequently directly or indirectly funded by the government or by a pressure group which supports the policy direction. In some cases, there is clear suppression of contradictory scientific evidence through the threat of withdrawal of research funds.
The most obvious example of this deplorable practice is in the area of Climate Change, but the ABD has regularly exposed similar issues in road safety and transport policy.
A clear line needs to be drawn whereby all authors of scientific papers must sign a "declaration of interest" whereby they state any political affiliation or source of funds. An independent scientific standards committee should publicly examine allegations of bias by authors and act as a tribunal for allegations of political suppression of scientific viewpoints.
- Creation of a Prime Time Debating Slot on the BBC which is Controlled by the Public
Orwellian societies always control the media - that is well known. Nobody would disagree that the media in Britain today has unprecedented power, which in many ways is a good thing. There are also necessary checks and balances in place to prevent active abuse of this power, but there is little control over what facts and viewpoints the media choose to ignore. The BBC requirement to show "balance" is weak and easily circumvented to prevent challenges to received wisdom - for example the AA are allowed to come on and toe the government line while dissenters are excluded on the grounds that the AA provide "balance" because they "represent motorists".
This state of affairs makes the media vulnerable to a form of passive control which leads to censorship by the back door - if journalists are under pressure to exclude certain views, those views don't exist.
"Before I discovered the ABD, I remember writing succinct, well argued letters to papers, which to my mind expressed a majority opinion, but they were never published," said Nigel Humphries. "I knew I wasn't the only person to hold these opinions, and so I smelt a rat."
The answer to this is to create prime time slots on BBC TV and Radio which debate issues chosen by the public, and where the debaters who participate are voted for by the public following an online synopsis of their arguments. The BBC would then be fulfilling its role as a public service broadcaster and giving value for the licence fee.
Notes for Editors about the ABD