The Politics of Cowards

You might not know about the bill that’s going before Parliament next week to force telecoms companies and ISPs to retain data so that the security services can look through it at a later date.

This is because it’s being rushed through as emergency legislation.

The leaders of all three parties are claiming that there’s an emergency because, due to a recent ruling from the European Court of Justice, it turns out that hoovering up everyone’s data was actually illegal.


The ECJ ruling was on 8 April, three months ago. This is the lightest session of Parliamentary business in living memory. MPs were sent back a week early to their constituencies in May because, apparently, there wasn’t enough legislation that needed scrutinising. And any legal challenges to the current state of affairs will be six months away.

And yet, this bill needs pushing through in three days?

This is, frankly, bollocks of the highest order.

Pushing this legislation through stops the House of Commons from properly examining laws before they are passed and making certain that they are fit for purpose. The three main parties are literally stopping MPs from doing their job.

And that’s before we even get to Clause 1 (3). “The Secretary of State may by regulations make further provision about the retention of relevant communications data.”

Or in other words: After this, the government can make as many new regulations about data retention as they like without reference to anyone else.

This, my friends, is a god-damned stitch-up.

I’m not necessarily against the bill. I am against it being pushed through on the word of the three main party leaders without a proper debate. Because that’s not how politics in this country works. 

You take the laws you want to pass, and you put them before Parliament, and Parliament does its job.

You don’t push them through quickly so that nobody gets a chance to look at them.  That’s not believing that the laws you’re trying to introduce will stand up to scrutiny.

That’s cowardice.

If you’re as angry about this as I am, rather than clicking on a petition, why not do something that actually might make a difference, and write to your MP?

In our parliamentary democracy, the MP knows that something their constituents care about is more powerful than what their party thinks.

Because you are the person that will vote them in or out of office.

Not their party, not their party leader.


Thanks to organisations such as They Work For You, contacting your MP is easy.

  • Go to Write To Them and enter your postcode.
  • Click on your MP’s name.
  • Write your letter

Here’s the letter I wrote to mine.

Hi Kate

Some years ago I wrote to you about the planned introduction of ID
cards by the then-Labour government. You replied with assurances that
you had voted against your own party on the measures, and would again
in the future should it become necessary.

I treasure that letter, and often refer to it when speaking in favour
of our parliamentary democracy.

I was very concerned to learn yesterday that the government plans to
pass emergency legislation regarding data retention which will be put
before the house next week.

We are not in a national emergency.

Legislation written in haste is bad legislation.

The idea that this government will attempt to use emergency legislation
to push through controversial laws without the due scrutiny of the
House appals and disgusts me.

I would be grateful if you could assure me that you will do your best
to ensure that this bill gets the attention from Parliament that it


I hope that you’ll take this opportunity to write to yours as well.

Parliament can, and has, made some bad collective decisions in the past. No doubt they will again. But if they’ve all had the time to look at the proposed laws, consider them, amend them, and vote on them, fair enough. That’s the way a parliamentary democracy works.

But this, trying to push through ill-thought-out laws that cede power to the Government in just three days?

This is wrong.

There’s still time to let your MP know it’s wrong. And remember, they’re not the one with the power in this relationship.

That would be you.

(Amended 12/7 to clarify the difference between legislation and regulations)