As Steve Beauchampé writes in the Birmingham Press and Political Concern, generations of an elite have ruled this nation (with a few intermissions) for as long as anyone can remember, due to a rigged electoral system.
Their dual achievements:
- comfortable tax arrangements for the few, a political/corporate nexus which ensures highly paid and nominal duties for all in the inner circle
- vast military expenditure bestowed on the arms industry, as rising numbers of the population survive in relative poverty, wait in hospital corridors, receive a sub-standard education and depend on handouts to eke out their existence.
Direction of travel
Beauchampé: “(The) economy is increasingly kept afloat by the economic support of China . . . The modern high-rise residential blocks that have sprung up throughout the capital may give the impression of a modern, flourishing economy, but look closely and you will see that many are all but empty, whilst homelessness and a reliance on subsistence level housing grows . . . “He notes that surveillance is at an historic high with spy cameras, and even microphones installed in many public places -describing the state’s ability to track the population and follow their activities and conversations as ‘frightening’. . .
The elite stranglehold could be broken
OB’s editor agrees with many that electoral reform is a priority for beneficial change – but even under the rigged ‘first past the post’ system, if the weary mass of people (Brenda of Bristol) saw the true situation they would vote for the candidate with a credible track record who would be most likely to work for the common good.
As tensions rise over North Korea, Steve Beauchampé writes in the Birmingham Press about the parallels between Britain and North Korea.
Generations of an elite have ruled this nation for as long as anyone can remember. Such is their power that if there is dissent it is effectively hidden from us, denied the oxygen of publicity. The Dear Leader and ministers live in numerous large, extravagantly furnished, decorative palaces, enjoying the trappings of vast wealth. Walk the streets of the capital and you will soon see monuments, statues and other references to the Dear Leader, their family and the country’s most heroic military endeavours adorning public squares, streets and buildings.
In recent years the country has taken an increasingly bellicose and belligerent tone, threatening to launch unprovoked attacks on other sovereign states, driving them back into the middle ages and forcing their governments from power in the process. it has been busy developing increasingly sophisticated long range missiles and a nuclear weapons capability designed to strike fear into its enemies and anyone else whom it perceives as a threat, vast military expenditure whilst rising numbers of the population survive in poverty, dependent on daily food handouts to eek out an existence
Its economy is increasingly kept afloat by the economic support of China. The modern high-rise residential blocks that have sprung up throughout the capital may give the impression of a modern, flourishing economy, but look closely and you will see that many are all but empty, whilst homelessness and a reliance on subsistence level housing grows.
Surveillance is at an historic high with spy cameras, and increasingly even microphones, installed in nearly all public places and with the state’s ability to track the population and follow their activities and conversations now at frighteningly sophisticated levels.
Tensions are rising across the border, where the neighbouring government has been pursuing a much more internationalist direction. Indeed, heightened divisions have been evident with most neighbouring countries since last summer, and talk of war with one of them over a territorial dispute briefly surfaced as recently as a fortnight ago.
Yes, welcome to Britain.
“How much more power will the secret services accumulate before we begin a serious debate about the usurping of democracy by a national security state?
The detailed revelations on the United States National Security Agency’s Prism programme are shocking on many levels – from the sheer scale of domestic and international surveillance, through the years of official denials that such capabilities were being put in place, to the total lack of accountability at a congressional and parliamentary level, as legal protections and basic human rights to privacy are trampled into the ground . . .
The objective is to move beyond their traditional military, commercial and diplomatic espionage functions and to build a fully integrated network, combining the interception of all forms of electronic communications with highly detailed satellite imagery.
Ultimately, this will provide real-time intelligence to identify targets and to carry out attacks anywhere in the world without the need for conventional ground forces.
Britain plays a vital role through Menwith Hill, one of the largest of the NSA’s regional electronic spy bases. Located in North Yorkshire, it has undergone a vast expansion of its surveillance capabilities, combining satellite and fibre-optic telecommunications interceptions, with extraordinary computing power and analytical support, in one of the largest and most sophisticated technological programmes ever seen in Britain. Nominally an RAF base, the majority of the staff are US personnel from the NSA and commercial contractors like Lockheed Martin. Britain is represented through GCHQ operatives but access to satellite communications and computer analysis is reserved exclusively for senior US staff. Intelligence assessments are directly fed to the NSA headquarters at Fort Meade, along with those from other major regional centres in Hawaii and Australia, to ensure global coverage.
And there you have it – the basic structure of a national-security state . . .
Terrorists can and do carry out despicable acts of individual violence, as at the Boston marathon and Woolwich, but this does not constitute an existential threat to our way of life from a global enemy.
Far from protecting us against terrorism, the national-security state is enslaving us with secret courts, new powers of arrest and detention and restrictions on assembly for political protest that can only lead to further invasive surveillance in a spiral of authoritarianism . . .
Can we reclaim democracy when faced with such unaccountable power?
A modern Bill of Rights would re-establish the primacy of the people’s interest over the state. At its heart would be the right to privacy and a highly restricted role for the security agencies built around criminal law. Any individual would have the right to access data held on them by those agencies, to appeal to an independent commissioner against that information being held if access were denied and to have such records destroyed if that appeal proved successful . . .
The stakes now are too high, the accumulation of power even greater and the threat to democracy so acute that we cannot accept anything other than root-and-branch reform.As far as Britain is concerned, the issue is very clear. A national campaign must build an unignorable demand that NSA Menwith Hill is closed down before it becomes a fully operational, regional intelligence hub in 2015. This would signal to the rest of the world that British territory is no longer being used for NSA operations and that we are ready and willing to work with others in Europe to rebuild our democratic institutions, enhance our civil rights and dismantle the national security state.
Let’s live in a democracy of hope rather than a tyranny of fear.
Read the whole article here.
Many readers will remember that MI5 held files on MPs and members of the public (‘60s-80s), opening correspondence and tapping phones – in some cases without going through the correct channels.
A book called – ironically? – The Defence of the Realm, by Christopher Andrew, covers this subject, referring to MI5’s description of Bruce Kent, one-time CND chairman, as a “possible anarchist”. He records that Labour party leaders passed MI5 a list of MPs they suspected of being influenced by Moscow, so the Security Service could check up on them. Two Quaker groups told the writer that they routinely received opened parcels.
Andrew’s book also refers to the surveillance of (now MP) Joan Ruddock, later chair of CND, because she met Mikhail Bogdanov, who – unknown to her – was a KGB agent, the surveillance of Harriet Harman, Labour’s deputy leader, and former cabinet colleague Patricia Hewitt, when they were officers of the National Council of Civil Liberties.
MI5 also opened a permanent file on the Greenham Common women’s peace camp on the grounds that it was “subject to penetration by subversive groups”. The writer, who visited Greenham once, placing a photo of her baby son on the fence (left) and went on several CND marches, found her foreign mail and any packages were opened and the phone was tapped. An extension upstairs would ring about ten times before the main phone downstairs.
A complaint to the postman about their opened and unsealed post was met with dismay, “They should have sealed them up” but also understanding: “Ah yes, I know what that will be. Just leave it to me and you’ll have no more trouble. And that was correct, the phones worked properly from that day and no more correspondence was damaged . . . until this year.
Round 2 – the new targets, the old tactics?
Andrew continues: “MI5 virtually gave up these activities in the mid-1980s, after the miners’ strike, to concentrate first on Northern Ireland and, later, on countering Islamist-inspired terrorism”.
However, once more the writer’s airletters from Mumbai are being opened – but this time at least correctly placed in a plastic envelope with an apology.
They were slit open into jigsaw pieces ad several lines cut through making it either difficult or impossible to understand part of the family news contained therein.
We also read in March that the GMB union discovered that a blacklist, kept by the Consulting Association, used by employers to flag up workers involved in union or political activity or whistleblowers who raised health and safety issues, also included about 240 environmental activists.
This time the postman who was consulted said that he was unable to put matters right – but gave the correct address after some prompting.
A complaint will be made to Royal Mail. Other readers who are facing this problem could do this – with a copy to their MP.