To claim that the personal life of public individuals matters smacks of hypocrisy, questions on sexuality signalled a prudish concern for a sexual morality of a bygone era. Questions relating to the private dimension of one’s life violate the right to privacy. It is our right to privacy that protects us from being asked similar questions at a job interview, for example. I wonder how my journalist friends would answer such questions, after all journalists too are public figures.
So, while the media were busying themselves revealing the scandalous lives of Lib Dem MPs, a Bill passed with very little clamour. It was the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill (the most controversial legislation is generally hidden behind harmless and boring sounding titles).
The Bill makes possible for a Minister to reform any legislation by making an order and without going through Parliament. The Bill allows the Minister to amend, repeal or replace any legislation as the Minister ‘considers appropriate’. The only limitations are that new crimes cannot be created if the penalty is greater than two years in prison and that it cannot increase taxation, although the bill itself can be subject to reform.
The Government, at first, reassured the Commons that they would not use orders for ‘controversial’ laws; however this has already been restricted to ‘highly controversial’ laws.
Being a matter of constitutional law, most MPs didn’t bother and neither did the press. Very few raised their voices, such as Lib Dem MP David Howarth and Daniel Finkelstein of The Times, and made it to the papers, although concerns had been expressed as in the paper from the Constitution Committee of the House of Lords (although perhaps not the most exciting reading).
After all, there has always been a belief, among the general public and the media, that the Government are acting for our own good, for our protection, and that they would not abuse their powers. That is why many find no fault in the current plans for ID cards (that have no constitutional safeguards), or terrorism legislation. The media are generally very tame and often cower under the blanket of ‘impartiality’. They play the government’s game, because terrorism makes good TV and anyway they are too busy ‘scrutinising’ the sex life of our MPs.
Has the Government convinced us all that we are under threat and that we need protection? A writing on the wall of a POW camp read:
Freedom is the feeling the protected will never know.