Torture? Spying? The freedoms Britain prides itself on are illusory. We live in a secret state

Millions of Brits still believe that they live in a land of the free and that their betters know best

Share

There is little privacy in Britain these days. People are followed, photographed, trolled, and the most intimate images put online by friends and ex-lovers. Some men and women expose themselves deliberately for the thrill of it, and write frankly about their sexual adventures and family matters. Thanks to Julian Assange and Edward Snowden, we know about widespread government surveillance and spying games. So these do feel like extraordinarily open times where knowledge and information cannot be kept from the public. But they can, and are. Especially in the UK, one of the world’s most tightly-controlled and guarded nations. Admittedly we are not oppressed and silenced like folk in China, Iran and North Korea, but many of our freedoms are imaginary, our rights illusory.

Where to start? Look at just the last four weeks. This paper reported that our Government was not properly regulating British defence manufacturers who are sending military equipment and parts to Israel. How can we criticise Israel’s appalling killing record in Gaza, if the weapons used were part made by British companies? We, the little people, didn’t know this level of involvement, and weren’t supposed to.

Next the Government was accused of trying to conceal Britain’s role in “extraordinary rendition”. Obama has finally admitted: “We tortured some folks. We did some things that were contrary to our values,” and a US report promises to divulge more information. William Hague is trying to block full disclosure of what was done by Britain to “folks” on the tropical island of Diego Garcia. The full and frank findings of the Chilcot inquiry are similarly being sabotaged – but in a very gentlemanly fashion, of course.

Eight years after the ex-KGB Russian dissident Alexander Litvinenko was poisoned in London, a judge-led public inquiry was announced last month by Theresa May. Only, parts of this inquiry will now be heard in secret. Why? Because that is what happens in our country. Secret courts have been established. We may only know what they wish us to know. According to Adam Curtis in Secret Affairs: Britain’s Collusion with Radical Islam (2010), our intelligence agencies work with “a variety of outright terrorist groups. These groups have promoted the most reactionary of religious and political agendas and routinely committed atrocities against civilians”.

There is more. Knighthoods, peerages and other privileges are still neither transparent nor honest. This week, several Tory donors will be made Lords and Baronesses, a form of patronage doled out by the other parties, too. We are kept in the dark about royal finances and shady connections. Questions are either never asked or never answered. It is the system. It has survived since the Magna Carta and kept this country stable. That is the myth. Those who remain sceptical or seek the truth are dismissed as loony conspiracy theorists, or regarded with suspicion. One friendly peer recently said this to me: “You would have got into the Lords by now, we need independent-minded women like you, but you aren’t careful about what you say and don’t play the game”. Quite right. What is the point of having an independent mind if it can be co-opted?

Very worrying too have been the revelations – partial and cagey, as they are – of how the police spied on the families of those killed or injured by police or, in the case of Stephen Lawrence, suspected racist killers. In July, Mick Creedon, Derbyshire’s chief constable, shared some of his findings and concerns after carrying out an internal investigation into the Met’s Special Demonstration Squad. Creed concluded this squad had not followed set rules and regulations for covert work and that much of the information collected “served no purpose in preventing crime or disorder”.

These were important admissions. But what was not said was much more worrying. Why were family support groups being watched? And if we have a fundamental right to demonstrate, why was this squad needed? We know the police infiltrate all sorts of blameless networks – environmental, anti-racist, anti-capitalist and others. They have never explained why being part of a campaigning group imperils Great Britain. Do they infiltrate big banks and watch rabid financial operators? If only. We would not have had to go through the catastrophes of the last five years if they had.

In his powerful book The Enemy Within, journalist Seumas Milne warned:  “Britain’s secret state remains a dangerous political and bureaucratic cesspit, uniquely undisturbed by any meaningful form of political accountability”.  This book concerned the fate of the miners , who were savaged and eventually brought down by Mrs Thatcher and the establishment. What happened to those hard workers happens to others today.

Millions of Brits still believe that they live in a land of the free and that their betters know best. Ignorance is indeed bliss. Those who can’t or won’t accept they are only “subjects” in this mysterious kingdom will find out the hard way that the order is fixed and forever. They say  the state in Egypt is deep and impenetrable. Ours isn’t that bad, but it’s not so far off, either.

 

A modern hero who pursues a different jihad

What does the English Defence League (EDL) think of Moeen Ali, the British Muslim cricketer who could be the next superstar of the English game? EDL members want England washed clean white and here he is, a swarthy man in whites, sporting a Taliban beard, playing for their beloved nation. The “patriots” must be furious and stamping their jackboots. What a pleasing thought. 

Off-spin bowler Ali is gifted, smiley and unflappable. Cricket boffins have been stunned by the skills and strengths of the cricketer- he was able to play matches through Ramadan in July, without drinking or eating anything from sunrise to sunset. In the dressing room he has a place where he can pray. He doesn’t drink alcohol. When the demands of the game get him down, he turns to his faith to find purpose and perspective. It can’t be easy being a devout Muslim who is committed to the game, to his club and fellow players. But he shows it can be done. Ali is an exemplary jihadi.

“Jihad” has become a rallying cry for mad, bad and dangerous Muslims who blow themselves and others up to further an extremist cause. But the supreme Jihad is struggle directed within oneself. Muslims are expected to fight against weakness and temptations, and  to become the best they can be.  Just as Ali does. And through his achievements, he shows there is no inevitable clash of civilizations between England’s people and the people of Islam. A true hero for these dark and violent times.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Area Sales Manager - Midlands

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer - 3-4 Month Fixed Contract - £30-£35k pro rata

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a 3-4 month pro rata fi...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive - OTE £26,000+

£16000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Telesales Executive is requir...

Recruitment Genius: Area Sales Manager

£25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Don’t pity me for eating alone, just give me a better table

Rosie Millard
Aerial view of planned third runway at Heathrow  

Heathrow expansion: This final 'conclusion' has simply fanned the airport flames

Chris Blackhurst
Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

Something wicked?

Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
10 best sun creams for body

10 best sun creams for body

Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with cynicism and greed
How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map