“Coming down hard on our freedoms of speech and privacy is a no go for any self-respecting government” – Harry Spindler

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By Harry Spindler

It felt quite unnatural as a left-wing writer to wait for the Conservative Manifesto to be released with some sense of excitement; not necessarily for what was actually in it, but merely because it’s been quite funny to see Theresa May make more U-turns than a tourist lost in London and I was certainly hoping for a few more. Unfortunately for me, it wasn’t another U-turn that caught my eye, but instead a pledge to wage war on your voice.

A key policy that I came across was May’s intent to create a new, heavily regulated internet. If the Conservatives are to win the next election, they fully intend to implement control on what can be posted, shared and viewed online; unless they deem it acceptable and safe for viewing then we will no longer be able to access what we want. The policy to restrict our internet freedom coincides with the introduction of the new UK Investigatory Powers Act, which allows May’s government to keep full records of our browsing history, gathering and retaining data on citizens through new powers that will force companies to hand over information to our intelligence agencies. These are only the first of many parts to that Act, with a further aim to garner information on every connection to every website made from a citizen’s device.

Our Government promise that, by gathering this information, they only seek to keep us safe and crack down on cybercrime, cyberbullying and even more devious acts. Whilst this may be fair and, in many aspects, something needed to be done to help stabilise the internet after the insanity that has ensued since Trump’s inauguration, surely coming down hard on our freedoms of speech and privacy is a no go for any democratic self-respecting government?

This uniquely falls in line with Theresa May’s war on Liberalism; whilst preaching that she wants support to be able to represent everyone, her actions speak far louder than her words. Whilst promoting free speech in public, her policies to be able to break WhatsApp with intention to pry on messages and steal our information from companies we have shopped, socialised or studied with surely contradicts her in private. The initial part of the policy aims at counteracting crime and extremism, but May then plans to further her alienation of the youth by demanding social media companies delete anything posted on their platform by a citizen under the age of 18, which is only the tip of the iceberg on how May intends to wipe out one of the only platforms of the younger generation.

This all works within the Tories’ belief that our online world needs to be as regulated as the offline one, which in many aspects is true. Cyberbullying needs to be cracked down on, as well as cybercrime, but even if you wipe it out, you’ve still wiped out one issue by creating another. May’s policy then aims to filter the news article that we usually see shared across the internet and expects internet companies to pay what the government sees fit to their allies in the media industry. We wouldn’t want Theresa’s pals at the Daily Mail, The Sun and The Daily Express not to be fairly compensated to spew what she sees at right.

The 18-24 and under-18 age groups are the ones who are going to be hit the most. These two age groups rely on the internet as a voice, a platform to learn and to debate. With how little our government does to educate the populace on how Parliament truly runs, the internet is one of the only places to inform ourselves and make our own decisions on who we support. May is clearly at war with the younger vote, who are predominantly Labour or Left-wing voters. Even those who haven’t voted say they would be inclined to vote Labour in this coming election if they were to go to the Ballots. May wants to cut this voice down in some way or another, and if she wins by the landslide that many are expecting, then she might just be able to.

It can be spun in any way shape or form that the Tories fancy; May can explain that she believes these tighter regulations are necessary in protecting the younger vote from the “atrocities” on the internet or the rampant cyberbullying which many seem to forget, or even attempt to make us believe that, by oppressing our right to freedom of speech, she is helping crack down on extremists. Just remember, this is the woman who nearly six months ago intended on repealing the European Convention of Human Rights in Britain. With the announcement within the Conservative Manifesto to remain within the ECHR, another infamous Theresa May U-turn, it is unclear if she is actually convinced that any of these regulations she intends to pass will actually avoid infringing on our Human Rights. If she wins the election, it may not be a realistic policy to stick to, surely it would face heavy resistance from the European body?

Theresa May is slowly falling into the archetypal role of a Modern Day Populist Nationalist: promising in public that her policies are with your best intentions in her heart, and aiming to break the establishment of the so called Liberal Elite, whilst behind closed doors furthering the gap between those who truly deserve the rewards for their hard work and her corporate elite she has surrounded herself with. In a parallel to the Populist Socialists of Che, Fidel and Stalin, who promised that your unwavering support and loyalty would wipe out the elite, it is ironic that May publicly asks for your support in her strong and stable leadership, “fighting against the selfish individualism of a untrammelled free market”, asking us to “know that our responsibility to one another is greater than the rights we hold as individuals.” You could be mistaken for believing those quotes are from Comrade Castro himself, but instead they are from the mouth of our Political Premier Theresa May. Comrade May has altered the tactics from those which her party used to wage war against, but, when these figures asked for your unquestioning trust, you knew they were never going to reject their ideological aim. May diverts and breaks rank, creating doubt and leaving you questioning what happens next; why does she want to pass this act? And more so, what can she achieve with this power if she gets her way?

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