Transformational Government is what the Civil Service calls its grand design for surveillance, dossiers on citizens and data trafficking. Good name that, guaranteed to flick the attention switch off.
Resistance is currently mustering around the truly shocking Clause 152 of the Coroners and Justice Bill, that gets its first reading on Monday. A younger LibDem activist asked me this morning if I thought Transformationl Guvmnt (TG) would have happened with Conservatives in power.
No doubt about it. TG is a Civil Service project, fronted by the Cabinet of the day. It springs from opportunity. The organs of the state always want such power. It is only recently that technology has brought it close to their grasp at a cost that, with a bit of dodging, might be swung on the taxpayer.
The excuses offered for barging into our private lives are the hysterias-de-jour: terrorism, paedophilia, computer fraud, immigrants. If the cameras and databases had been affordable earlier, it would have been the IRA and the Soviets. Whatever. Their vision is clear. We are to be less free and better governed. Our liberty is not their target, it is mere collateral damage.
It follows that if the next government is Conservative and keeps its promise to drag the National Identity Register out back and kill it, TG will lay more eggs in legislation closer to Tory hearts. Like the alien queen, TG and its spawn will keep coming unless and until the labyrinth is penetrated and her nest scorched.
Hence the importance of the Convention on Modern Liberty next month – to show that the nasty things scuttling from the woodwork all come from the same labyrinth, spawn of the same nest. Until we locate it and torch it, the nest remains intact. They will keep coming.
We have to get our bearings in this matter. Here’s Enzensberger.
Every orientation presupposes a disorientation. Only someone who has experienced bewilderment can free himself of it. But these games of orientation are in turn games of disorientation. Therein lies their fascination and their risk. The labyrinth is made so that whoever enters it will stray and get lost. But the labyrinth also poses the visitor a challenge: that he reconstruct the plan of it and dissolve its power. If he succeeds, he will have destroyed the labyrinth; for one who has passed through it, no labyrinth exists.
Hans Magnus Enzensberger, “Topological Structures in Modern Literature”, Sur, Buenos Aires, May-Jun 1966, quoted in Italo Calvino’s “Cybernetics and Ghosts” in The Uses of Literature
Get your ticket to the Convention.