We are all libertarians now?

A rather telling little piece on The Guardian‘s ‘Comment is Free’ site today by UK Labour MP, Diane Abbot. First she takes a cheap shot at the Conservative shadow-cabinet minister, Damien Green, for having been successful in getting his details removed from the UK police National DNA Database (NDNAD). She then says that, well, she is doing much more to help by holding clinics for her young, black, constituents to help them with their complaints against the NDNAD. This is excellent, of course.

However two things spring to mind immediately. Firstly, is this Diane Abbot the same New Labour loyalist who voted in favour of the original bill to set up the NDNAD and made no attempt to amend it to prevent the kind of racially-biased abuses of which she is no complaining? I think it is. And now, why is she not also condemning the former Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith’s rather pathetic and weaselly response the judgement of the European Court that condemned the NDNAD, which was essentially to try to avoid doing anything fundamental at all?

This is not an issue on which anyone in New Labour can really make any political capital unless they take a rather stronger moral stance. Basically, and in addition to the stance that there should be no state retention of DNA data at all, there are only two ‘fair’ ways to maintain a police DNA database, and those are to keep the DNA of the guilty, or to keep the DNA of everyone. Which you prefer depends largely on your attitude to surveillance and your trust in the accountability of the state, but politicians like Abbot are hedging and avoiding making any serious attempt to put pressure on their own government to reform the law we have.

Author: David

I'm David Murakami Wood. I live on Wolfe Island, in Ontario, and am Canada Research Chair (Tier II) in Surveillance Studies and an Associate Professor at Queen's University, Kingston.

2 thoughts on “We are all libertarians now?”

  1. Yeah, this seems rather disingenuous. She’s most probably trying to win votes rather than address the fundamental problems with the policies and practices of DNA collection and storage, which as you pointed out are her party’s doing. Let’s see if she comments openly on the programme once the results of the latest sham consultation are released. She must have missed Ben Goldacre’s piece in the very paper she chose to communicate her message…



  2. I love Bad Science. Ben is one of the most consistent commentators out there – he’s almost always right.

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