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Tuesday, March 04, 2014 

The more things change, the more tiresome this line staying the same becomes.

You wait ages for a frontbench politician to so much as address the continuing Snowden files saga, and then two do (almost) at once.  Oddly, the Cleggster (who he?) and Yvette Cooper both came up with proposals that were almost identical.  Both said the Intelligence and Security Committee needed to be further beefed up, and while Cooper prevaricated somewhat, raising the possibility of emulating the Australian system of oversight, Clegg made clear he and his party are committed to the creation of an Inspector General.

Clegg's speech especially made all the right noises, with Cooper predictably saying national security had been damaged in an attempt to be even-handed, it was just there was a lack of reality about both.  Ed Miliband's Labour has become a different party in some ways, but really hasn't in plenty of others.  It takes a lot of chutzpah for instance for a party which has shown no sign whatsoever of regretting trying to foist ID cards on the country to criticise the government over the botched introduction of the new NHS care.data database, even more so when Labour introduced its also controversial predecessor, Spine.  Up until now Labour had been almost as silent as the government itself on the Snowden revelations, with if anything less backbenchers speaking out.  The party has made the odd attempt to suggest it understands partially why it became so loathed for its disregard for civil liberties while in power, yet is no nearer now to modifying its approach than it was in 2010, as the response to the TPIMs absconders showed.

As for the Lib Dems, it's the same old story.  In power, and yet so clearly not at the same time.  In a position to do something about how the intelligence services, GCHQ especially, have been operating, and there isn't even the slightest signal that they've put any sort of pressure on their coalition partners to do anything about it.   Then again, this isn't surprising when Clegg himself seems caught in two minds, defending the arrest of David Miranda in almost exactly the same style as the Conservatives did, then saying err, actually, maybe we do need the sort of journalism Miranda was helping with after all.

It was always instructive how William Hague's first resort was the old "nothing to hide, nothing to fear" line, something brought into sharp relief by the Yahoo Webcam revelations, and there has not been the slightest indication since that anything has changed in either the minds of the securocrats or that of the government.  Nor is there any reason to believe Yvette Cooper would follow through on her fine words were Labour to return to power in just over a year's time.  Even as the technology and threats change, the spooks have an eerie way of preserving themselves.  Anyone would think they might have a few files on people.

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