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The Last of England

By Mark Steyn

On Monday I wrote about a curious British reaction to theCharlie Hebdo massacre:

The other day Wiltshire Police went to a local newsagent and demanded that, in the interests of “community cohesion”, he hand over the names of every customer who bought a copy of Charlie Hebdo… This is Mother England in 2015: You can still read samizdat literature, but your name will be entered in a state database.

The Daily Mail‘s Amanda Williams reports today that this was not a one-off idiosyncracy by some bozo coppers in one county, but came from the very top:

National Anti-Terror Unit Handed List Of Charlie Hebdo Stockists To Local Forces Who Then Went Round Demanding To Know Who Bought Copies

The man responsible for this decision is Sir Peter Fahy, Chief Constable of Greater Manchester, who holds the additional responsibility of “national police lead for preventing extremism“. A Chief Commissar for Preventing Extremism is a title that not so long ago one would have had to go to Eastern Europe or a banana republic to find. But it is now held by a British policeman. Nevertheless, Sir Peter would like us to know that he thinks, somewhere way down the chain of command, some of the lads may have gotten a little carried away:

Anti-terror units handed local police officers the names of British newsagents who stocked the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in the wake of the Paris attacks.

But the decision by some forces to then visit the outlets and quiz shopkeepers about who bought the publication was ‘overzealous and unnecessary’, Britain’s anti-terror police chief has said.

Sir Peter Fahy, chief constable of Greater Manchester Police (GMP) and national police lead for preventing extremism, said he was now urgently clarifying guidance to all UK forces.

It comes after police were caught asking British newsagents which sold copies of the satirical magazine for details of the customers who bought it.

Shopkeepers in Wales, Wiltshire and Cheshire reported that police approached them and demanded personal information on readers of the magazine.

In a letter to the Guardian, Sir Peter said that the move to provide details of newsagents to local police was intended to ‘provide community reassurance’.

This is the same Sir Peter Fahy who, only two months ago, was warning that Britain could “drift into a police state” in which his officers wound up having to act as “thought police”. But why drift into a police state when you can put your foot on the gas and get there in the fast lane? My tireless compatriot Blazing Cat Fur comments:

This is how a Police State operates. The same police state that turned a blind eye to Muslim Rape Gangs.

I don’t think that’s an exaggeration. The wretched David Cameron was happy to march in Paris under the #JeSuisCharlie banner, but, if he were an honest man, he’d be parading under #JeSuisTheGuyWhoTakesDownTheNamesOfEveryoneWhoBuysACopyOfCharlie. Like most of the European political class, Mr Cameron recognizes he has a problem on his hands – a problem he and the rest of the Euro-elite have created: They have imported a huge population that, even discounting those who wish to join ISIS or slaughter British soldiers on the streets of Woolwich, has no great enthusiasm for English liberties. With the characteristic arrogance of an insulated ruling class, Cameron thinks the solution to the problem is an enhanced security state mediating relations between his fractious citizenry. And, if that means reigning in English liberties, such as the freedom to read a magazine without being monitored by the state, so be it….

….I was born in Canada, and just about everything that works in my own deranged Dominion (as Stephen Harper once suggested to his befuddled London hosts) came from the Mother Country. Germany, Italy, France et al gave us better art, music, food, women, but it is the English-speaking world that has seeded and grown liberty on every corner of the earth – property rights, self-government, fair courts, laws of contract, free speech… And through the last century it is the English-speaking world that has defended and fought for those liberties when the rest of the west has turned to dark and crude perversions.

So the death of England is not like the death of Sweden or Belgium. It represents the foulest betrayal of a glorious inheritance. I have quoted before my old National Post comrade George Jonas – that things aren’t wrong because they’re illegal, they’re illegal because they’re wrong. If an English policeman no longer knows it’s wrong to ask a newsagent for the names and addresses of those who purchased a particular magazine, no amount of “clarifying” “guidance” from Sir Peter Fahy can help him. And if an English Chief Constable no longer knows it’s wrong to demand the national distributor cough up the names of all the stockists he’s shipped it to, no amount of bland soft-totalitarian blather about “providing community reassurance” can alter the fact that an English public servant is subverting a core liberty – an English liberty. A society can survive losing this or that liberty as they ebb and flow across the centuries, but there are no easy roads back when it loses thespirit of liberty. And that is what Sir Peter Fahy and his ilk are missing.

When David Cameron appeared with David Letterman a couple of years back, he knew the date Magna Carta was signed, but didn’t know what it meant. In this 800th annniversary year, in the coercive hyper-security state over which he presides, that no longer seems so surprising.

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