There is a set pattern for speeches from mainstream politicians about the Internet. Start off with a few “isn't it amazing what the kids can do nowadays” generalities to show you are vaguely with it. Then do a nod in the direction of the economic benefits technology can bring, to keep business happy. That leaves you clear to get on to the meat of what you really want to talk about – how the Nettywebz are a Pandora's box of terror, abuse, threats to citizen's rights, and moral dissolution.
So it has proved with the much trailed speeches by the Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper and the LibDem Leader Nick Clegg respectively. In particular, Cooper's speech is so packed with web cliches that it is clear that the Labour top remains fundamentally anti-Internet in its outlook. There are too many lazy conflations to mention, Facebook and NHS data are lumped together for example. She refers to the “digital challenges of the last 12 months” regarding mass surveillance. I have no idea what this means specifically, and I suspect whoever wrote it doesn't either.
To cut through the padding, the heart of what they set out to address, was surveillance in the light of the Snowden revelations. I want to focus on the substance – such as it is – of what they said and proposed, rather than how it was sold to the media.
The fact that they are discussing this at all shows that it is beginning to filter through to politicians that they can't ignore the gravity of the serious breaches of trust that have taken place. That's in no small way thanks to all the work of grassroots digital rights and privacy activists over the months. And of course Edward Snowden himself, whatever Cooper might claim to the contrary. To be fair, this is some kind of progress.