Big Brother UK Turning Into Stalinist State

Bill Jacobs/SCOTSMAN | July 5 2005

THE news that the Government is considering compulsory voting reminds me of a comment made by the late Ipswich MP Jamie Cann.

He said: "I dislike almost everything that Tony Blair has done to the Labour Party but as a former Stalinist I'm very impressed by the way he's done it."

The revelation by Leader of the Commons Geoff Hoon yesterday that the Government is looking at fining people who don't vote is very reminiscent of the old Soviet Bloc.

But this is just the latest in a string of deeply illiberal measures.

The hottest topic at the moment is identity cards. Tony Blair says these are vital to fight terrorism, organised crime, and benefit and identity fraud.

The Prime Minister and Home Secretary Charles Clarke say they will be voluntary, with a vote by both Houses of Parliament at Westminster needed to make them compulsory. Few doubt that if Labour stays in power the necessary votes will take place and be won.

Antisocial behaviour orders - constantly being tinkered with to make them more Draconian in both Scotland and England - are another sign of the Government's authoritarian tendencies.

And if Edinburgh MP and Transport and Scottish Secretary Alistair Darling gets his way, every car will have to have an electronic tracking device to allow road charging.

This will mean that every driver will be tracked by a satellite everywhere they go.

The Government's own Information Commissioner Richard Thomas believes that the combination of this and ID cards is a step towards the Big Brother society, although Mr Clarke, Mr Blair and Mr Darling robustly deny this.

In England, the Government has tried to abolish the right to silence; habeas corpus, which allows a court to demand the production of a prisoner; and the right to a jury trial for people accused of many middle-ranking offences.

Then there are the Government's attempts to detain suspected terrorists not merely without trial but without telling them what they are accused of.

Mr Blair and his lieutenants seem impervious to the pleas of the Liberal Democrats and civil liberties campaigners about this drift to state control.

They may have some reason to be less than impressed by the Tory U-turns on these issues - they originally supported ID cards.

The question of compulsory voting is just the latest stage in this move towards a New Labour society that is not so much nanny state as Big Brother state.

Mr Hoon is the first Cabinet minister to float the idea

and as total Blair loyalist - whose career hangs entirely on the Prime Minister's patronage - his claims that it is just his "personal view" ring hollow.

It's one of the great ironies of Mr Blair that he transforms Labour in a bid to make it electable, modern and less old-fashioned, left-wing and Marxist, but increasingly as he remains in power, the actions of his government become more and more Stalinist.

As the Communists proved, you can make nearly everybody vote and a 99.9 per cent turnout can return your rulers unopposed. But it's not freedom and it's not democracy and it's about time the Prime Minister and his Labour Cabinet remembered that.