I don't know the extent to which this story has crossed the shores to America, but our local friendly far-right political party the British National Party has had details of its members published on the Internet.

I'm not going to rehearse their arguments for them - you know the sort of thing, compulsory repatriation for immigrants, jobs for the British at the expense of anyone else who lives on our shores no matter how long their family has been here - we all know the types. I'd have loved to have seen their faces when Obama was elected as the most powerful person in the world.

OK, you get the picture. There is now a list of members including their occupations floating around on the Internet somewhere, and there are teachers, clergypeople, lots of responsible community folks all voting to get rid of their neighbours.

One can argue that this sort of list, which will tell a black family that their child's teacher harbours a desire to get rid of them, is almost a necessary leak. A lot of journalists are apparently going to have a field day with it.

I'm less comfortable. I hold no brief whatsoever for the BNP but the fact is that it's a legal entity to which people may belong in the UK without breaking the law. I'd love to see it wither and fade away because everyone's grown out of it, but until that time they have their rights. Privacy is one of them - I don't have to disclose my politics (I'll volunteer that I was punching the air with everyone else when Barack won, but that's my choice - nobody discloses it for me) and neither should they.

The thing about a democracy, and particularly one that has been preserved by the laying down of lives on both sides of the Atlantic, is that you have to defend the rights of people whose views you detest as much as the people with whom you agree. This is a data loss story like any other, and although there's a lot of snickering going on this side of the Pond, I'll be disappointed if it results in some sort of witch-hunt.

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