Britain is sleepwalking into an era of state surveillance

Comment

Opinion digest: Email monitoring, Japan's rebirth and the Bradford byelection

LAST UPDATED AT 13:00 ON Mon 2 Apr 2012

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BRITAIN FACES GOVERNMENT SNOOPING NIGHTMARE
NICHOLAS LEZARD ON PROPOSALS TO MONITOR EMAILS
Britain faces an era of state surveillance, says Nicholas Lezard in The Independent. The Government's proposal to monitor our email and web browsing records may seem innocuous in theory - it insists emails won't be read without a warrant - but the reality will be hugely sinister. Britain is "sleepwalking into a potentially very nasty state of affairs". If the new legislation comes into force, GCHQ, the Government's electronic 'listening' agency, will be allowed to monitor the email exchanges and website visits of every person in the UK. This would be worse than the nightmare world of philosopher Jeremy Bentham's Panopticon, a prison in which every inmate could scrutinise every other inmate: "The idea was to generate automatic good behaviour, but it sounds like Hell." In some ways the news is unsurprising - we are already snooped on by millions of CCTV cameras. The additional scrutiny of emails may not be malign, concludes Lezard, but "there is no way to legislate against a government's malign intentions".

GOOD CAPITALISM WINS IN THE 21ST CENTURY
WILL HUTTON ON JAPAN'S REBIRTH
Debt-laden Britain could learn a lot from Japan, says Will Hutton in The Observer. Post-war, this island's economy flourished thanks to a passion for science, technology and innovation. But, during the 1980s and 1990s, Japan became "stricken by stagnation [and] suffered a financial crisis nearly as severe as our own". Despite this setback, Japan remains the world's third-largest economy, worth $5 trillion. But last year's devastating earthquake and the resulting nuclear disaster at Fukushima highlighted the government's tendency to protect corporate interests. Since then, however, the Japanese electorate has spoken: forcing Prime Minister Kan to resign and calling for a new era of accountability and entrepreneurship. "It is Japanese good capitalism, driven by citizen demands from below." Such debates are foreign in Britain, a primitive business culture by comparison. "Although Japan has a long way to go, it is becoming obvious, confirmed by last week's British budget, which of the two countries is most likely to create the 21st-century framework for growth and prosperity. "
 
THE BEAUTIFUL BLAME GAME
GRAHAM POLL ON WHY FOOTBALLERS ARE ALWAYS RIGHT
Premier League players will always insist they are right, says Graham Poll in the Daily Mail. The fact that both footballers and referees are trained to fight their corner will inevitably lead to stand-offs - as shown by two incidents this weekend. Sunderland's Craig Gardner was "incredulous" when Phil Dowd correctly awarded Manchester City a penalty for his foul on Edin Dzeko. The other apparently contentious decision came at Molineux when Roger Johnson tripped Bolton's Mark Davies. "Again the reaction was extreme and Johnson was convinced he had not made contact. Jon Moss, the referee, was equally convinced that he was right and so stood firm." Football, like all sports, is about confidence and players are encouraged to believe in themselves. Yet referees, too, need "unerring self-belief… Even when [a ref] is right he is surrounded by players absolutely convinced that he's wrong and telling him he's wrong, in very convincing fashion."

BRADFORD GIVES WESTMINSTER A TWO-FINGER SALUTE
ANDREW RAWNSLEY ON GEORGE GALLOWAY'S SHOCK WIN
The shock Bradford West result is a warning to Westminster, says Andrew Rawnsley in The Observer. George Galloway tweeted that his byelection win was the most sensational in British political history and the herald of a Bradford Spring. In reality it is "a very advanced form of narcissism" to compare a democratic byelection upset with the moral courage displayed by those who risked their lives to rise up against entrenched dictatorships. Nevertheless, Galloway has delivered a major blow to the main parties. The Conservative vote crashed. Meanwhile, Labour is humiliated after the landslide loss. Bradford voters have given Westminster a two-finger salute the like of which we are likely to see much more of. "The polls suggest that many voters continue to blame the last Labour government for the state of the economy and at the same time are sceptical that the coalition will return Britain to prosperity." · 

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