What’s special about it?

The decision by parliament not to support immediate military action against Syria has led to much speculation about how this will affect the so-called “special relationship” we have with the US. Most of which is utter guff.

The special relationship between the UK and the US isn’t based on politics. It’s based on history, culture and geography. The US was founded by settlers leaving England. When the US fought for independence, it was the UK that they fought against. England gave the US its language, its legal system and its concepts of democracy.

The UK’s history as a leading maritime nation also resulted in trans-Atlantic trade and communication links between the UK and the US that easily surpassed any links between the US and other European nations. The UK and the US between them are the world’s leading suppliers of popular culture: movies, music and TV. There are, quite simply, more common ties between the UK and the US than between either of them and any other country in the old or new world respectively.

All of that is established fact. You can’t change history just by disagreeing about the present. So why should it matter that the UK has decided not to join the US in a military adventure? Did it damage the special relationship when the US initially stood back from getting involved in WWI? Or WWII? Or that the UK didn’t get involved in Vietnam?

So why all the hand-wringing over the fact that, for once, the UK has decided not to do what the US wants? If some politicians (on both sides of the Atlantic) are under the impression that the special relationship means that when the US says “jump” we ask “how high?” then, frankly, the sooner they are disabused of that idiotic notion the better. The special relationship will be a whole lot more special without being used as an excuse for riding roughshod over democracy.

Those Facebook government requests, in full

As reported in the media, Facebook has published data on the number of requests it has had for user information by government agencies around the world.

The full list is online at Facebook, but it’s on a page that you need to be logged in to view. So, for the benefit of people without a Facebook account, here’s the list in full:

Data Requests

Country

Total Requests

Users / Accounts requested

Percentage of requests where some data produced

Albania 6 12

83 %

Argentina 152 218

27 %

Australia 546 601

64 %

Austria 35 41

17 %

Bangladesh 1 12

0 %

Barbados 3 3

0 %

Belgium 150 169

70 %

Bosnia and Herzegovina 4 11

25 %

Botswana 3 7

0 %

Brazil 715 857

33 %

Bulgaria 1 1

0 %

Cambodia 1 1

0 %

Canada 192 219

44 %

Chile 215 340

68 %

Colombia 27 41

15 %

Costa Rica 4 6

0 %

Croatia 2 2

0 %

Cyprus 3 4

33 %

Czech Republic 10 13

60 %

Denmark 11 11

55 %

Ecuador 2 3

0 %

Egypt 8 11

0 %

El Salvador 2 2

0 %

Finland 12 15

75 %

France 1,547 1,598

39 %

Germany 1,886 2,068

37 %

Greece 122 141

54 %

Hong Kong 1 1

100 %

Hungary 25 24

36 %

Iceland 1 1

100 %

India 3,245 4,144

50 %

Ireland 34 40

71 %

Israel 113 132

50 %

Italy 1,705 2,306

53 %

Ivory Coast 4 4

0 %

Japan 1 1

0 %

Kosovo 2 11

0 %

Lithuania 6 7

17 %

Macedonia 9 11

33 %

Malaysia 7 197

0 %

Malta 89 97

60 %

Mexico 78 127

37 %

Mongolia 2 2

0 %

Montenegro 2 2

0 %

Nepal 3 3

33 %

Netherlands 11 15

36 %

New Zealand 106 119

58 %

Norway 16 16

31 %

Pakistan 35 47

77 %

Panama 2 2

0 %

Peru 13 14

15 %

Philippines 4 4

25 %

Poland 233 158

9 %

Portugal 177 213

42 %

Qatar 3 3

0 %

Romania 16 36

63 %

Russia 1 1

0 %

Serbia 1 1

0 %

Singapore 107 117

70 %

Slovenia 6 8

50 %

South Africa 14 9

0 %

South Korea 7 15

14 %

Spain 479 715

51 %

Sweden 54 66

54 %

Switzerland 32 36

13 %

Taiwan 229 329

84 %

Thailand 2 5

0 %

Turkey 96 170

47 %

Uganda 1 1

0 %

United Kingdom 1,975 2,337

68 %

United States 11,000 – 12,000 20,000 – 21,000

79 %

This is pretty much how it appears on the Facebook page, except that their table is prettier.

What the government should have said in response to David Miranda’s detention

There’s been a lot of comment on the web about the detention at Heathrow of David Miranda, the partner of Guardian columnist Glenn Greenwald. Whether questioning him was necessary or not is still a matter of debate, but it seems to me that the government has been caught a bit on the back foot by events. If I was writing the press release on behalf of the coalition, here’s what I’d say:

The decision to detain and question Mr Miranda was an operational matter for the police, and the government had no input into that process. We were kept informed throughout Mr Miranda’s detention, but we did not seek to influence the actions of the police in any way.

Clearly, it would be inappropriate to comment on an operational matter while aspects of it are still in progress. However, the incident has led to widespread public concern over this legislation introduced by the previous Labour administration. We will, therefore, be reviewing the law as soon as possible in order to ensure that it better serves freedom and justice for both British citizens and visitors to the UK.