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99 of 104 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read for all UK voters
I bought this book having heard of Heather Brooke through her instrumental role in breaking the MPs expenses scandal and I'm so very glad I did.

Heather lifts the lid on the rotten heart of British democracy and exposes just how little real information the electorate actually have to work with when judging the performance of their elected officials, police...
Published on 6 April 2010 by K. Bairstow

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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Tabloid polemic, possibly true, but unsupported by evidence. Disappointing
Heather Brooks has established her reputation by exposing the MP's expenses scandal, and she makes serious and worrying criticisms of the way we are governed, and the way politicians and civil servants misuse and manipulate information. She argues that the public are entitled to transparency and openness about how money is spent, and how decisions are made, and that the...
Published on 23 Jun 2011 by sceptic


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99 of 104 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read for all UK voters, 6 April 2010
By 
K. Bairstow (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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I bought this book having heard of Heather Brooke through her instrumental role in breaking the MPs expenses scandal and I'm so very glad I did.

Heather lifts the lid on the rotten heart of British democracy and exposes just how little real information the electorate actually have to work with when judging the performance of their elected officials, police services and judiciary.

We pay for huge amounts of data to be gathered on our behalf and about us, and yet we are (in many cases explicitly) denied access to that data. Sometimes we get to pay for it many times over before being presented with a figure-fiddled, dumbed-down press release that bears little or no resemblance to the facts.

In many ways a lot of UK voters already suspect many of the issues raised in this book, but to see the hard facts is something of a smack-in-the-face. If you are suffering from voter apathy, this is one book that is guaranteed to stir you out of it.

Heather has a wonderfully fluid and accessible writing style that carries you through what could easily have been a dry subject with ease and humour. Her ability, and persistance, to get at the truth places her at the pinnacle of modern investigative journalism and, for me, the name Heather Brooke belongs amongst those of game-changes like Bob Woodward,Carl Bernstein and Amira Hass.
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44 of 46 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Depressing and shocking, 4 May 2010
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J. C. Day (U.K.) - See all my reviews
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I have spent 30 odd years of teaching History, and attempting to answer questions from students such as "How could they do that", "How did they get away with that", "Why did people believe them" about various historical events of the last 2000 years. Any ideas I might have had that we now live in more democratic and enlightened times are blown away by this book. Some of the stories are not new, but collected together they are a dismal and depressing chronicle of present-day Britain. In many ways we have as little freedom as medieval peasants.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent survey of the state's attacks on our democracy, 12 Aug 2010
By 
William Podmore (London United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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Investigative journalist Heather Brooke, who exposed Parliament's systemic corruption, has written a splendid broadside in defence of our liberties. Chapters cover the rise of surveillance, government public relations, government spin, power without responsibility, charging for information, secret justice, the presumption of guilt, and the story of her exposure of the expenses scandal.

She shows how surveillance is wrong in principle, is costly and doesn't work. In 2002, the EU at Lisbon backed government subsidies to the IT industry, after the dot.com bust.

Our 445 local authorities spent 430 million on self-publicity in 2008. The government's Central Office of Information spent 540 million in 2008-9, the Foreign Office spent 497 million, the MoD 44 million in 2007-8, and the Department of Health 107 million.

She argues that we need to register all those entering or leaving the country and where they settle, to help local and national government to plan services.

She writes, "It's easier to lie when no one knows your name. It's easier to do all sorts of unethical, if not criminal things when you are promised anonymity. Only by acting as a named individual and relating to others as such can there be justice and integrity in bureaucracies."

She praises two very useful websites, [...] and [...] which let us see how our MP votes. We also have a right to know what interests are seeking to influence MPs. The state is putting more curbs on court reporting and more often using secret evidence in closed hearings.

Democracy under capitalism remains restricted, truncated, false and hypocritical, because capitalism does not trust the people.

She proposes reforms - name all public officials, end the copyrighting of official information, end privacy profiteering, open up the courts. We need transparency for the state and privacy for the citizen; instead it is the wrong way round. We need access to information and the right to hold officials to account. Without being informed, we can't be a democracy.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Long Live Freedom?, 20 Aug 2010
By 
Ian Millard - See all my reviews
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This book is by the American (I think) lady journalist who blew open the UK Parliament's expenses scandal and one had to wonder where were all those highly-paid "political experts" on BBC, press etc, who seemed to be willing to cooncur with the freeloading and outright fraud of our so-called "democratic representatives". Heather Brooke is heroic and deserves more recognition.

This book goes into the extent to which the citizen has been gradually subdued and forced prone by the State, particularly (many might say) during the years from 1997 when The Party Formerly Known As Labour was in power. Not only in power at Westminster but in councils across the UK, which is where many of the worst abuses have happened. We have all learned about how ordinary local councils have (thanks to Blair-Brown) had the power to spy on people using methods previously used mainly by MI5 or special branches of the police: wiretaps, electronic bugging, tailing people for months...and often only to find out whether or not they should have put their children in a local school and not another one, etc.

The idea that this will change under the government of David Scameron would be at least optimistic. He seems to want to give back some rights to affluent citizens, while using thhat as a cover to cut useful/necessary services to the public....meanwhile, thhe 16 million people on benefits (particularly the 10 million poorest, who are unemployed, disabled, or spouses thereof) are going to be subject to an even more East German Stasi type of regime of coontrol and surveillance (and interrogations etc disguised as "helping people back to ---usually non-existent-- work").

A frightening book, with some gaps (I find that big business is at least as scary as Big Government and the two often work hand in hand anyway...) and some naiveties, but alll the same, one which every citizen ought to read (except those who, like Blair, as we now know --see Paul Johnson's memoirs-- find reading difficult).

Excellent on the whole.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Democracy is not all it appears to be, 28 Jun 2010
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It is good to have a different point of view to the majority view expressed in the general media. The media does tend to be hostile to what is considered an eccentric view of how democracy works in this country. However because it can be considered a minority view it does not make it right and a balance must be struck between what is accepted by the majority as the norm and ones own view of the political process as seen from life's experiences. I bought the book on the basis of articles I have read written by the author. I now feel justified in making that choice.
The book is written in very clear precise language and easily readable. It also gives an insight into how secretive the state institution can be. It is informative with examples given of how obstructive individuals with particular roles in the state system can be. Also how one can be led up blind alley's.
I recommend the book as a means of looking over the other side of the fence and broadening ones mind as an aid to question the so called majority view that we live in a true and open democracy. A type of democracy we are told is the best in the world.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thought Provoking, 18 May 2010
By 
C. Kelley "frank" (Cornwall, UK) - See all my reviews
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Being someone who is very interested in the way our governments manipulate us to their own devices, I found this book extremely well informed and written in a palatable manner. It is highly thought provoking and enbables the reader to get a clearer picture of their 'liberty'.

I recommend this book highly, but be prepared to get angry!

I have Heather Brooke's previous book "your Right to Know" Which I bought at a conference about freedom in journalism, having heard her speak. She is a brave and exciting author and I recommend reading her work.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Every one should read this book, 17 May 2010
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Every one in Britain should read this book, it raises issues that many of us have thought about but not realised fully how undemocratic Britain is. From the legal system which only works for the rich or those endowed with public money, the all pervasive use of 'spin' often called PR, used by public bodies to con us into believing they are doing a good job, how we are charged to access data that has already been paid for by us (the taxpayers) and the state snooping on us using a multiplicity of databases which have largely been introduced furtively.

Heather Brooke was also largley responsible for bringing into the open the MPs expenses scandal, which eventually the Telegraph took a lot of the credit for.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars ?gone native, 6 Jun 2010
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I used to work in the public sector so I have seen the other side. The book makes lots of good comments and is well worth reading. The general principles I agree with but implementation needs to be economic and practical. For example the recent government announcement that local authjorities will have to publish details of all items over 500 (all in line with the book) seems way over the top as a starting point and likely to increase costs. Why not start at - say 5000 - and then extend it from there?

The author - rightly - draws attention to the (existing) rights of public access to local authorities' financial transactions but makes no mention of the abuses that occur and public money wasted as a result of some 'questions and objections' from members of the public - all of which have to be responded to. It would have been useful if the author had pointed out that this (existing) provision applies only to local authorities - ?as will the new 500 requirement - what about the rest of the public sector - especially central government and quangos.

However these are relatively small gripes - still strongly recommended.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thought provoking, 16 May 2010
By 
Yolande (Cambridge UK) - See all my reviews
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If anyone doubted that we needed a change of the electoral system and a clean up of parliament - this book should be required reading.
We have been treated as subjects not citizens for too long. Pity it has had to take an American to sound the wake-up call.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Tabloid polemic, possibly true, but unsupported by evidence. Disappointing, 23 Jun 2011
This review is from: The Silent State: Secrets, Surveillance and the Myth of British Democracy (Paperback)
Heather Brooks has established her reputation by exposing the MP's expenses scandal, and she makes serious and worrying criticisms of the way we are governed, and the way politicians and civil servants misuse and manipulate information. She argues that the public are entitled to transparency and openness about how money is spent, and how decisions are made, and that the growing secrecy of the British political establishment is a major threat to civil liberty and effective governance.

I think I probably agree, but I'd like to judge the evidence for myself, and here is the difficulty, because The Silent State reads like a tabloid, making bold claims, without citing its evidence. She quotes politicians, civil servants, official reports, and statistics, without referencing her sources or providing footnotes, so the reader is in no position to check the facts, weigh the credibility of the evidence, or pursue the arguments she advances.

This is exactly the kind of shoddy use of `evidence' that she repeatedly criticises from government and state agencies. If this were an undergraduate essay it would fail, and I expected better from someone who expects to be taken seriously.
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