Opik: MPs need a privacy law

By Ian Dunt

MPs may need a privacy law to protect them from public, Liberal Democrat housing spokesman Lembit Opik has said.

The infamous MP, who became a household name after dating a Cheeky Girl, broached the subject while responding to accusations about MPs’ holidays.

A group called 38 Degrees has been calling on the public to send in photos of MPs enjoying themselves on holiday, rather than conducting constituency work, during the summer holidays. The request angered the Montgomeryshire MP sufficiently for him to write a comment piece for Wales Online.

“There’s something deeply distasteful about what this bunch are attempting to do in human rights terms,” he wrote.

“They may think there’s nothing wrong with encouraging the public to photograph MPs wherever they go, but any right thinking person will see the moral flaw here.”

He continued: “For a long time I believed the cost of public life was public attention, which at times does not please the subject of the coverage, but which nevertheless goes with the territory.

“For the first time, and with some regret, I am now beginning to realise the limits of such self-regulation.

“With communication technology eroding the boundaries of personal privacy, perhaps the time has at last come for a privacy law.

“Despite the dangers of censorship which accompany such a measure, this may be the only way we preserve enough private space in the parliamentary – and public – world to enable the preservation of some semblance of a hinterland, away from the lurid gaze of websites masquerading as organisations.”

MPs have undergone considerable scrutiny of their summer breaks, after the expenses scandal tipped public opinion of Westminster to its lowest level in generations.

The attention has focused on the length of the summer recess, but MPs argue the recess is designed to let them concentrate on constituency work, not holidays.

A recent straw poll for politics.co.uk found 83 per cent of respondents thought the summer recess was too long, while 85 per cent said they did not think their MP was more noticeable in the constituency during the recess.

Parliament last sat on July 21st and will not return until October 12th.