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Mar
2015
Friday 27th
posted by Morning Star in Editorial

DENNIS SKINNER hit the nail on the head yesterday as Parliament discussed revelations that the Met Police had been spying on MPs - and even, it seems, at one point the Home Secretary.

"Why is it they only seem to pursue leftwingers and socialists?" the Beast of Bolsover asked Police Minister Mike Penning.

The Tory's response - that since he had once been an FBU member who stood on picket lines he may himself have been snooped on- was hardly reassuring.

From Edward Snowden unmasking in 2013 the vast international surveillance conducted by the US National Security Agency to this year's finding by the Investigatory Powers Tribunal that GCHQ's information sharing with the agency was illegal for seven years, British citizens have hot used to the idea that the state is always watching.

Few will be surprised that this surveillance extended to MPs, and years of expenses fiddling and corruption scandals have done such damage to Parliament's reputation that many may not care.

Certainly the news that Blairite warmonger Jack Straw, who as home secretary increased police powers and tried to restrict the right to trial by jury, was being spied on himself by an organisation he was supposedly in charge of has a touch of the comic.

But as Mr Skinner points out, this is not simply a case of MPs being subject to the same unjustified intrusion to which the rest of us are subjected. 

Special Branch was highly selective about who it spied on. Among the names revealed by whistleblower Peter Francis are well known socialists familiar to this paper's readers. Mr Skinner himself of course, Jeremy Corbyn, Ken Livingstone, Tony Benn - as well as veterans of the anti=apartheid and anti-racist movements such as Peter Hain and Diane Abbot and peace campaigner Dame Joan Ruddock.

By contrast, as the Bolsover MP eloquently puts it, "all those paedophiles managed to disappear into thin air."

The appalling abuse of children perpetuated by MPs such as Cyril Smith and allegedly also by members of Margaret Thatcher's Cabinet were evidently of less concern to the police than legitimate political campaigning.

The picture this paints of the British state is not an attractive one. But it is sadly familiar.

State power in this country is exercised by a ruling capitalist class. That doesn't change depending on election results.

Labour has often proved a tame servant of that ruling class in office, but the party does represent the aspirations of millions of ordinary workers and its MPs include socialists who do fight for a Britain governed in their interests.

Hence the Establishment's continued suspicion of the party, displayed in the fact that all the names released by Mr Francis were Labour MPs just as it is seen daily in hysterical attacks on Ed Miliband in the pages of newspapers owned by tax-dodging tycoons.

This alone is an indication that those on the left who see no difference between Britain's biggest parties are missing something. If Labour were just another bunch of neoliberals, the rich wouldn't care wheter it won May's election or not. 

So this scandal is not ultimately about the rights of MPs or the extent of parliamentary privilege.

As Mr Corbyn said yesterday, MPs can at least grill the Home Office about why they were spied on - "but many, many others unknown to us do not have that opportunity."

Clearly the state has been treating trade unionists, socialists, peace and anti-racism campaigners as "the enemy within," whether they're ordinary citizens, MPs or ministers. 

Lord Pitchford's inquiry into undercover policing must expose the whole rotten business. But only revolutionary change, for a Britain run by its people and not by a shadowy elite, can hope to end it.




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