Comment | Why I started ‘cc all your e-mails to Theresa May’ day

Appalled at the UK government's plans to monitor our every text, phone call and email, Eric Finch decided to act by launching "National 'cc all your e-mails to Theresa May Day" due to take place on Tuesday, May 1st. He explains why he did it, and why we should all join him.

Ideas, New in Ceasefire - Posted on Monday, April 30, 2012 16:18 - 8 Comments

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The British Home Secretary, Theresa May

“If we know a thing to be wrong, and we have the means to prevent it, we have a duty to try and prevent it and damn the consequences”, said Lord Milner in 1916, and his words remain as true now as they were then. And yet, somehow, it is difficult to escape the feeling that apathy, disenchantment with our near identical political parties, and a general lack of hope among the electorate have conspired to drain resistance from us all.

The last decade or so has seen some of the most repressive legislation ever passed by a democracy, and it is a malaise which seems to affect not just us here in the UK, but most of the western world. The knee jerk reaction to the events of 9/11 and 7/7 have left the ‘free world’ in danger of becoming a police state, and yet the flood of legislation continues in the governments plans for the next couple of years, as highlighted in the House of Commons briefing paper on this years Queen’s Speech. The proposals include secret trials, interception of communications, enhanced terrorism and investigation measures: only the blind could fail to notice the irony of this happening in the west just as the near east continues the process begun by the Arab Spring.

Of course, the government will argue that it requires this legislation to protect public safety. Perhaps with an eye to Cicero, it seems determined to follow the principle of ‘let public safety be the supreme law’: given the absurdity of health and safety legislation, it is a logical conclusion.

And perhaps, had it not been for Walter Wolfgang, I may not have noticed. Wolfgang, in case you had forgotten, was the pensioner who was held under the Terrorism Act for daring to heckle then Foreign Secretary Jack Straw at the Labour Party conference in 2005 over the Iraq war.

Have there been other abuses? Almost certainly, but I can’t tell you what they are, because I don’t know. And nor does anybody else outside of government. And here lies the crux of the problem: the effects of the anti-terror legislation are hidden behind a veil of secrecy, while the legislation itself has been so expanded as to catch almost any act within it.

Consider this. The Terrorism Act 2000 states the following quite clearly:

(1) In this Act “terrorism” means the use or threat of action where-

(a) the action falls within subsection (2),
(b) the use or threat is designed to influence the government [or an international governmental organisation] or to intimidate the public or a section of the public, and
(c) the use or threat is made for the purpose of advancing a political, religious [, racial or ideological cause.

(2) Action falls within this subsection if it-

(d) creates a serious risk to the health or safety of the public or a section of the public, or
(e) is designed seriously to interfere with or seriously to disrupt an electronic system.

Now, I can’t say that I’d ever considered myself to be a terrorist before. I’m nobody special, just a middle-aged bloke bloke from Dartford. And yet, under a strict reading of the Act, National ‘cc all your e-mails to Theresa May’ Day has miraculously become, not an act of political protest or defiance, but a terrorist act: it seeks to influence the government for the purpose of advancing a political cause (our freedoms and civil liberties), and is designed to seriously interfere with an electronic system.

Will I be arrested? Who can tell: and in any case, that is not the point. It is not the act of arrest that is the problem, nor the threat, but the possibility.

In fairness, it is difficult – although not impossible – to imagine that the government would take action over an e-mail protest. But who knows what government we will have in 10 years time? Who knows what challenges they will face, and more importantly, what lengths they will go to? We are putting in place the structure of a police state, and all we lack are politicians with the will to use it. The Civil Contingencies Act, the Regulation of Investigative Powers Act, the Terrorism Acts: these should send a chill through all of us.

And yet, where is the political opposition? Where is the accountability? Where is the scrutiny? At the very time that we need a free press, the Leveson Inquiry is demonstrating that we don’t have one, or rather we have a press which is so closely intertwined with the parties of government that they have come perilously close to merging and becoming a single political entity. Cash for access, the expenses scandal: are there no depths to which our governing political class will not stoop? The old distinctions between right and left have disappeared, and we are left with a situation where, whoever we vote for, the government wins. Even on the right, there is agreement: Nadine Dorres MP hit the nail on the head when she spoke of the Prime Minister and Chancellor as ‘arrogant posh boys’, while Nigel Farage MEP said we have a ‘government run by college kids with no life experience’. I would quote somebody from the left, but they are conspicuous by their silence, perhaps as the instigators of the current trend to totalitarian legislation.

While we still live in a democracy, we all enjoy certain rights. But many in our society seem to have forgotten that the corollary to that is we all have certain duties as well, and chief amongst those is the duty to take part, to care, to protect the very freedoms we enjoy. We live in an age of bland, identikit politicians who lack not only a political vision, but any form of political ideal beyond the acquisition of power. We live under this dismal coalition government because despite the previous government being one of the most unpopular in living memory, neither of the alternatives could inspire the electorate sufficiently to take a majority: and this is largely because the alternatives were more of the same, but with a different rosette.

They say we get the type of government we deserve, and there may be some truth in this. Anodyne news reporting focusing on feelings, emotions and interpretation is just propaganda by another name: it was Joseph Goebbels who said that ‘the media is the organ on which the government plays its music’, and who can doubt that with Leveson underway? Where is the satire, the biting wit, the opposition – genuine opposition, not opposition for opposition’s sake – which will hold this government, indeed this parliament, to account? Where is the positive vision, the inspiration, the leadership? Are we really so beholden to the media maintained status quo that individuality, wit, flair and intelligence are being stamped out of politics to be replaced by the bland, the anodyne and the dull?

Life does not have to be like this. We can make a stand, and we should do so. We should resist. Subvert. Campaign. Protest. If our democracy is to mean anything, if our freedoms and civil liberties – for which earlier generations paid a heavy price – are to be maintained, then now is the time to stand up and defend them.

We don’t have to man the barricades to do this: for now, just cc’ing all your e-mails to Theresa May will do. If she wants the legislation to read all of our e-mails, lets save her the trouble and send them to her directly, and see how keen on the idea she is on Tuesday 1st May.

If this legislation passes, then read it in conjunction with what is meant by terrorism as defined in the quote from the Terrorism Act above. Sections 1(b) and 1(c) essentially create a new type of ‘thoughtcrime’ which criminalizes opposition to the government: they are not about maintaining a free society, but protecting the political parties who define a free society. Even if this government and the last had demonstrated their integrity, honesty and openness, this is a chilling attack upon the rights of citizens to oppose and hold to account the elected: it effectively makes campaigns such as this subject to government approval. Do we want to live in a modern day Soviet Russia?

Naturally, the government will argue that, by taking such powers, it is protecting our freedoms in the ‘war against terror’. As I understand it, the ‘war against terror’ is designed to protect our freedoms from those who oppose them, primarily ‘Al Qaeda’, which may or may not exist as the government portrays it. It is not the first time this country has made a collective stand against something which threatens our freedoms, but the governments approach is novel, to say the least. In order to protect those freedoms, it is steadily eroding them: this would have been akin to fighting communism in the Cold War by becoming a Soviet Republic, or fighting Fascism by becoming fascist.

So please, I implore you. Stand up and be counted: let us make tomorrow, Tuesday 1st May, “cc all your e-mails to Theresa May” Day’. The next time the government says it is guarding your freedoms, ask only this of any who will listen: “who guards the guards themselves”?

Here are the emails, get ‘CCing:

parliamentaryteam@homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk
Ministers.HO@homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk
privateoffice.external@homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk
mayt@parliament.uk
sharkeyj@parliament.uk
office@maidenheadconservatives.com
public.enquiries@homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk

Eric Finch has worked in politics in both Westminster and Brussels for many years, becoming steadily more disenchanted with both government and the media. He is 46 and divorced with 5 children, and always bears in mind the wise words of the Manic Street Preachers: "If you tolerate this, your children will be next". Follow him on Twitter @ccurmailtoTMay.

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8 Comments

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Steve
Apr 30, 2012 17:39

This hold be extended to include a cc to your own MP too – maker sure they get the message – and forward your spam

Reblogged: Why we should make tomorrow ‘cc all your e-mails to Theresa May’ day « Voice of A Citizen
Apr 30, 2012 20:46

[...] from Ceasefire magazine ; Article by Eric [...]

Cube
Apr 30, 2012 21:10

“I would quote somebody from the left, but they are conspicuous by their silence, perhaps as the instigators of the current trend to totalitarian legislation.”

if you haven’t heard anything from the left about this, you haven’t been listening, or know where “the left” actually is. hint; it’s not labour, they are centre-right neoliberalism too. if you mean labour when you say that have the decency to drop some quotation marks around “the left”

If you want to hear what the left think about this sort of thing, ask an occupy kid, ask the ladies of the left who have been on menwith hill for *decades*, ask a TUSC candidate (also ask them why the BBC will interview people from the BNP but not them). The Left, the actual left that is on the left, has a lot to say against this.

Matt Walker
May 1, 2012 11:18

Zeta backs the CC all your emails to Theresa May Day campaign and has written a blog post which highlights the 7 seven deadliest enemies of the internet. Let us know what you think! http://www.zeta.net/industry-news/the-7-deadliest-enemies-of-the-internet.html

Karl
May 1, 2012 12:33

This is the most ridiculous thing I have ever read. I receive on average about 80-100 e-mails a day and probably write about 20. I find it boring enough reading them myself when I’m the person they are addressed to.

If you have a problem with some office worker at MI5 reading your e-mails you are either 1) a terrorist 2) paranoid.

Have a look through your message inbox and read the messages to yourself imagining that they were addressed to someone you have never met before. Would you really care about what time they have a meeting at the office, or what’s on the agenda, or when your next training session with their sports team is, or just some stupid video they found on youtube? Of course not.

No-one cares about what you are e-mailing or texting! Get over yourself.

Your description of how people should enact political change is pretty laughable too. The only reason we have these cuts is because our economy has contracted. The more people strike, protest and generally cause economic disruption the worse it gets and the more cuts the government is forced to make. Of course they would spend more on public services if they could; WHY WOULDN’T THEY WANT MORE POPULARITY!?

Raj
May 1, 2012 21:05

Innocent people have nothing to fear? That theory only works if the state is benevolent, which it is not. And if you think the politicians are cutting public spending because our economy has (by itself) contracted, then it might be useful to take a look at who funds the political parties (and therefore effects policy), and you’ll find that it’s the same institutions that caused the crisis, demanded the bail out and demand that ordinary people suffer the consequences of their actions.

You seem to think this is an ineffective way of bringing political change, but being as ignorant of the facts as you are will make progressive change all the more difficult

bpetrie
Apr 29, 2013 1:01

The British people are big on blame and small on responsibility, they blame the politicians, but they vote for and tar them according to what the papers nd the BBC tell them to. How many people even know what the policies of the party they support are, or know how they will be implemented, or have thought of or understand or care what the long term affect might be – they vote for “the party who will look after you” or “the party who will make everything fair”, or “the party that will catch evil criminals” etc. I can’t tell you how many seemingly intelligent people who have told me they vote labour because their dad did, or because they don’t want to be a “traitor to their roots” or because they “care” about people.
This country will never improve directly because the politicians HAVE to lie to the electorate to get a vote. e.g. I would never get a vote if I went into politics because I would have to say to my brother, you will have to work for your dole because its only fair that someone working shouldn’t keep you for doing nothing for thirty years – or to my sister, sorry, you can’t have a sixth child, why should you have all those children and be kept by the state because you want a big family but can’t afford to have them if you work – she/he just thinks, “all those rich people can keep me and I can live the way I please”
Give them thier due, the conservatives have said they are going to cut benefits but I don’t think they will get too far with that – the labour will let them get so far that it make it easier for them to get back into power and then they will have some of their foot soldiers (the unemployed, the unwitting students) rioting – and the BBC et al will blow it all up out of proportion and wheel their pet class thing out at an appropriate point and the UK will be back to square one – pointless. Or, when it hits the fan, labour will come strolling back in telling everyone that they will look after them and if we ever get back to any kind of decent condition, they will do the same thing again.
In either case, the bureaucrats (civil servants and security services ) will be wheeling in ever more burdensome taxes and surveillance – we’re stuffed.

Don’t forget! Tomorrow is ‘cc all your e-mails to Theresa May’ day.
Jan 20, 2014 8:53

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