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Understanding the nature of the state

Democracy is a remarkable thing. It gives an illusion of a state being governed ‘by the people and for the people’ whilst at the same time entrenching a ‘public service’ class (with ‘service’ being very much used in the farming sense of the word) that operates almost entirely for its own benefit. That this can go on in nation after nation in much the same manner is a testament to the dementing and infantilising effect that democratic politics has on a large proportion of the population of the planet.

And so when we get an article in The Times called Purge of e-mails will deny the right to know (people outside the UK may not be able to access this link due to the idiotic policy of the Times), which alerts us that it just so happens that 11 days before freedom of information laws come into force, millions of e-mails will be deleted from government servers, it should be clear to all but the most wilfully blind that the state will always place its institutional interests before those who are comically led to believe ‘own’ the state: that mythical thing called ‘the people’.

The Cabinet Office, which supports the Prime Minister and co-ordinates policy across government, has ruled that e-mails more than three months old must be deleted from December 20, The Times has learnt.


It will be up to the individual which e-mails are printed, with no monitoring from heads of department. Many officials, who receive about 100 e-mails a day, will have at least 3,000 items in their mailboxes. These include officials in the Prime Minister’s Strategy Unit, the Delivery Unit, and the offices of Alan Milburn and Sir Andrew Turnbull, the Cabinet Secretary. Although the deleted e-mails will be stored on back-up systems, these have been declared off limits to freedom of information requests because of the cost of accessing them.


Constitutional experts called the introduction of an “opt-in” system, where civil servants are proactive in preserving information, a blatant contradiction of the Act’s “presumption of disclosure”.

And that is why it cannot be pointed out too often that the state is not your friend.

10 comments to Understanding the nature of the state

  • Rob

    Now this point I do agree with Perry on.

    What this country needs is true freedom of information, not New Labour’s joke of a FOA bill. And as Perry points out, civil servants are even evading that!

    I’m no fan of the litigation culture, but things like this make me wish we could actually hold our government to account in the courts more effectively. It’s plain for anyone to see that the government is acting dishonestly, yet there is nothing we can really do about it (or am I wrong? Someone with more legal knowledge may correct me here).

  • I am pleased to report that the Times has finally mended its ways; from the comfort of my Australian residence, I can finally access The Times.

  • Dishman

    Even nerfed, this provides an opening for Samizdata to take solid action. From my perspective, that is something that has been lacking.

  • So far as holding the state accountable, there is some potentially heartening news from trudeapia. The Ontario government recently unveiled a new health ‘premium’ (not a ‘tax’, of course, though the distinction escapes me: it comes straight out of our paycheques and is progressive.) They did so despite an election promise not to raise taxes (no shocker there) but also without consulting the population via referendum, something they were legally obligated to do thanks to a law passed by the previous government. The new tax is being challenged in court, though I’m not holding my breath for a positive result.

  • Effra

    All we need is a judicial presumption that whenever a servant of the State (or rather of us) cannot produce email evidence, he was up to no good and will not be given the benefit of the doubt.

    The Inland Revenue forces me to keep documentary evidence for claims for SIX YEARS. Ditto Customs & Excise re VAT. Why should our obedient servants be any different?

  • Verity

    Perry – (with ‘service’ being very much used in the farming sense of the word) V good!!

    And now I see that the Chief Deputy Sleazebag (aka Alastair Campbell) will be returning to help the socialists slither back under the door of No 10. No doubt with able support from such other respected figures and loyal fighters for the People’s Republic as Peter Mandelson and David Blunkett. Probably also ably assisted by Stephen Byers and every other piece of Labour shit whose cold, grasping fingers were finally pried off the handles of their red boxes in disgrace.

    In the loo of Tony Blair’s government, the scummy water swirls round the plug’ole, but it never quite goes down the drain.

  • Adhib

    I can’t see how Jo Moore’s 9.11 ‘good day to bury bad news’ email would qualify under the “must be retained” guidelines reported in the piece. But who ever expected authority deliberately to assist in undermining itself? The juiciest information always has required whistleblowers, and will continue to do so. The value of an FoI act of this sort is that we get access to what appears to be dull information, but which, in the right hands, can be used to track incompetence, spin and failings of which the executive are ignorant (as frequently occurs in the USA). I personally relish the thought of applying it to the pork ranchers of local government.

  • noone

    Chill,the political state as we know it is ending,going,going,gone,well,soon.

    What will replace it?
    Hell if I know,but ethnic/cultural(including religious)nationalism seems to be the coming thing.It’s your country,but it seems to me,from what I’ve read,that Blair’s attempt to Abolish Britain has led to a return to an English identity rather than prompting people to adopt a Euro nationalist identity(Goodbye Union Jack,Hello St. George’s Cross,Screw The Frogs,Why Are The Scots Taxing Us?).The Guardian is still pissed that so many of you turned out to the wish the Dear Old Queen Mum goodbye after they told you not to.

  • Matt

    Noone: And it’s not just the UK breaking into its constituent parts. Since 1945 we have seen the end of the British, French, Dutch and Italian Empires, the dissolution of the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia, major devolution in Germany and Spain and the crackup of Czecho-Slovakia. Despite all the prattle about globalism and convergence, the reality is that there are more independent sovereignties, flags and national anthems in the world than ever. Next candidate: the USA. It used to be only Southerners who worried about states’ rights and secession, but since the presidential election the lefties of Vermont have rediscovered the potentialities of autonomy, and there’s a campaign afoot to split California in two.

  • panic


    Although the deleted e-mails will be stored on back-up systems, these have been declared off limits to freedom of information requests because of the cost of accessing them.

    Cost of writable media – $1
    Salary/day – records clerk – $120 (taxed to $95)
    Blocking information from the public sphere due to “costs” that the public pays for through taxes anyway – priceless.

    *all figures in Cdn $ – “Making pretty worthless money since 1975”