There has been a lot of discussion recently about the new ISA regulations that are due to come into force next year and that could mean millions more adults having to undergo checks to ensure they are deemed fit to run other people's children to and from clubs and sporting events.
There have been contributions to the debate from various bloggers including Caron, Costigan, James Graham and Iain Dale amongst others.
Charlotte Gore seems to have stayed up half of last night doing an excellent post which is a rallying cry for all who value liberty to boycott the new scheme - she is not kidding. She does is a fisk of the regulations and they are so far encompasing and vaguely worded as to be frankly terrifying. It looks to me like almost anyone could end up being rejected even through hearsay or rumour and thus end up at risk of being ostracised in their community.
I briefly laid out my initial views on this here on Friday. Also, yesterday I jumped into a debate that was going on about this on Twitter. The main person I debated with was a chap who goes by the handle of @GedRobinson and describes himself in his bio as "Democratic socialist, social activist, all round good egg." I have been following him for a while and am pretty sure I have had the odd tweet chat with him previously. However the tenor of the "debate" we had about this yesterday I think gave me a flavour of what those of us who are very worried about the further encroachment on our liberties that these latest measures represent can expect when we try to explain our position.
I have reproduced the entire tweet debate we had below. Apologies for length but I wanted to include the discussion from start to finish. I have highlighted points from Ged of particular note in red and ones from me in blue. Also please note that because we are restricted to 140 characters sometimes we either had to abbreviate points or split them across lines. I have made some further comments at the end.
My tweets are preceded by M: and are in italics, Ged's are proceeded by G: and are in bold:
M: Sorry to step in here. Ged, at what point does this all stop? You can never make kids 100% safe.
G: so you shouldnt bother trying? how very apathetic of you
M: But at what price to society do we put these measures in? There is literally no limit to how far you can go.
M: All adults are now assumed to be paedophiles until they can "prove" otherwise with a bit of paper. Why?
G: check into people's criminal past is not excessive, it's a shame you don't take safeguarding seriously
M: It's a shame you're trying to smear me rather than engage with me. The measures announced yesterday are basically unworkable.
M: Not to mention horribly illiberal and foster a deep feeling of mistrust within our society. Listening to 5 live yesterday...
M:... there are a lot of people who agree with me and are very angry. I am NOT apathetic, I am furious about this.
G: why should people prove that they are safe to be left with others children, is that a serious question?
M: YES! Why are you trying to make it sound so ridiculous. What happened to basic common sense and trust?
M: Why do you consider it so sensible to assume every stranger is a pot. child abuser? Most child abuse takes place in the home.
G: Why should strangers who people leave their kids with be checked?
M: How, many times? YES! For gens we did not feel the need to do this. Suddenly you can't move for checks. It's way over the top.
G: I'm sorry you find keeping children and young people safe excessive.
M: And this is the arg I hear all the time. Any opposition to your position is painted as somehow being in favour of child abuse.
M: Do you think having a quarter of the adult population having to be checked to give kids lifts is a proportionate response?
G: I can imagine @MarkReckons in the 17th C - why should we make child labour illegal, we've been doing it for generations
M: Don't try and paint your position as progressive. It's very very illiberal and the attitude it fosters is poisoning our society
G: show me the data that a quarter of the adult population will be checked just to give kids lifts.
M: It's early days yet. The measure was announced yesterday. Let's see. It will be a lot of people and you know it.
G: so your claim of a quarter of the adult pop was BS?
M: My internets keep going down and I keep having to reset my router. might have to continue this debate later.
M: It is the estimate I saw yesterday repeated in several places. I agree it is too early to be sure but the figure will be large.
G: i don't tend to think about made up statistics
M: If it is a quarter, do you think that is too large?
G: I think those that oppose protecting kids should be able to evidence their argument that's all
M: I am trying to find out where you would draw the line. At what point would you concede we had gone too far?
G: why do you think filling in a form is too high an inconvenience for protecting children?
M: So you won't debate the principle of what would be going too far until you know the exact figures?
G: i am not assuming everyone is a paeadophile but recognise those that are are unlikely to publicise the fact
G: how many child deaths would it take for you to support the scheme?
M: There you go again, the turn of phrase of the righteous! How far would be too far? An eighth? A quarter? A half? 100%?
M: Why do you think assuming every adult in the country is a paedophile by default is making society better?
M: So in order to try and catch a very, very tiny minority you make everyone a suspect and thus make children wary of all adults.
M: You really can't see how damaging this is to our society can you. I wouldn't go near a child who had fallen over now for fear..
M:.. of being accused of something. Your attitude is poisoning society. We are becoming atomised and untrusting of everyone.
M: How much increased child obesity and antisocial behaviour due to unintended consequences would it take for u not to support it?
G: i have to complete a CRB yet don't feel a suspect.
M: Good for you! Now try to put yourself in the position of someone who does and hence will no longer run kids to clubs.
G: how many child deaths would it take for you to support the scheme?
G: why would there be increased obesity, even the largest young persons vol movement has no problem with it http://bit.ly/RXwJS
M: Well they must be right then! I am sure that less kids will end up at clubs because of this, hence more obesity.
G: I repeat how many child deaths would it take for you to support it?
M: You could use that argument to go on introducing measures ad infinitum until all kids are watched 24/7 and all freedom is gone.
G: why do you want peodophiles to remain undetected?
M: I don't! But this is not the right way to do it. Can't you debate this without posting tabloid headlines at me?
G: this scheme helps detect peadophiles, to oppose it is to oppose such detection...
M: By that token, any measure to try and detect paedophiles is fair enough and anyone opposing it does not want to catch them.
M: How about cameras in every home in the country monitoring everyone 24/7 to catch paedophiles. Are you in favour of that?
M: It would probably reduce child abuse a lot and if you say you are against it, you are against catching paedophiles.
G: what is your alternative to this scheme?
M: Why do I need to come up with an alternative?
G: so your alternative is to do nothing, to leave kids at risk?
G: however you did say....
G: RT : @gedrobinson I don't! But this is not the right way to do it.
M: Kids will be at risk. These measures won't stop that.
M: Yes, this is not the way to do it because of all the reasons I have given. This is a complex area and any attempt by me to
M: I am not going to try and come up with alternative workable proposals right now on Twitter. I stand by everything I have said.
G: typical libel dem, criticise but nothing to offer
M: Typical Labourite, resorting to ad hominem attacks and distorting their opponents position. See, I can do it too.
M: Of course I would like to see more paedophiles caught but the measures you support will exact a very high cost on society.
G: so you do think something does need to be done?
G: i am only saying what all can see, criticise this proposal but have no alternative
G: i cant see an alternative to checks for strangers who people leave their kids with
G: Maybe we should scrap all CRB checks they are highly illiberal after all....
G: would you agree with the scrapping of all CRB checks?
M: Right, I'm off to do some offline stuff now. Thanks for the debate. We clearly aren't going to agree!
M: This piece by @caronmlindsay sums up my view. I agree with every word of this: http://twi.cc/J8UV
G: do you think all CRB checks should be scrapped?
M: I do not think the current situation should be reversed but I do not want it to go further as I said.
M: That will be my last tweet on this for now though. I have other things I need to do. Read Caron's post - it is excellent.
G: so children are at risk from paid staff but not volunteers?
M: I am not getting further drawn into this now Ged. I knew that would be your next point. No further on CRB checks is my view.
G: ok i'll leave with your arguments in tatters, have a good day sir
I guess there will be those who agree with me and those who agree with Ged. However I just wanted to highlight a few things to illustrate what those debating against this need to be ready for:
1) Several times Ged tries to paint me as being opposed to protecting kids. This measure is supposed to protect kids, I am not in favour of it, therefore I am not in favour of protecting kids according to him. I have seen this debating tactic used many times at the national level by Labour ministers on many issues.
2) He uses the phrase "your solution is to do nothing, to leave kids at risk". In several other places he demands to know what my measures are. The certain idea that "something must be done" is threaded throughout everything that he says. Exactly where the drive for this sudden blanket vetting of millions more adults comes from is really not clear to me. Ian Huntley would not have been caught by this scheme - he was not giving lifts to anyone. Has there been an epidemic of adults who give children lifts abusing them? Also, the way Ged phrases the above comment implies that his solution will result in kids not being left at risk at all (that is the corrolary of what he is saying). I am sure he didn't mean it like that but the impression is left from the phrasing.
3) He asks me why I want paedophiles to remain undetected. I must admit at this point I started getting quite angry with him. He was trying to align me with a category of the most reviled section of society. My response was to take his argument to its logical conclusion (highlighted in blue above) asking if we should put cameras in every home, after all that's where most of the abuse in our society takes place. It is the natural end point of where these measures are taking us.
4) His final tactic was to ask if I wanted the existing CRB checks scrapped. The truth is I am deeply unhappy about the way in which those measures have been brought in. I am not in favour of outright scrapping them but they are very illiberal and I think we have to be very, very careful. I fear that there are too many people at the moment who because of a minor infraction years ago that has nothing to do with child safety are being barred from working with children. I think it needs reform but I reluctantly accept that for people who work with children very, very regularly that some measures like the CRB are warranted. However to then use this as an argument for extending it to volunteers trying to do a favour for clubs and helping out with their local community is a big step too far for me. I could not easily express this at the time as I had other stuff to do. Of course Ged took this as an indication that I had lost the argument with his last comment.
I don't doubt that the people who are bringing this measure in and those who support it have good motivations. They want to help protect our children and I am sure Ged is as he says a "good egg". However I hope as this debate goes on that both sides do not descend into smears and distortions of the other side's position.
Those on the other side of the debate should at least concede that we also have the best of motives.
I strongly and sincerely believe that our liberty is very precious and we give it up at our peril.