Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Why I'm voting Liberal Democrat. Reason 6: Civil Liberties

I've decided to vote Liberal Democrat in the forthcoming 2010 British General Election.

I'm giving my reasons in six posts. The first one was here. Here's the final one of the six...

6. Civil Liberties

Henry Porter in today's Guardian writes "What is worrying is the chill that has descended on civil liberties, as though freedom was some minority issue for eccentrics, rather than the oxygen of democracy."

I find it amazing that there is so little interest among ordinary people in examining whether the authoritarianism of government is justified.

Porter continues:
"The [Labour] party has created a country where half a million people come under some kind of official surveillance every year; where emergency terror laws have become part of the normal policing arsenal; and where jury trial is under attack, total surveillance of communications and movement is proposed and secret courts meet to decide house arrest, without subjects ever being told what the evidence against them is."
To this I would add storing innocent people's DNA, introducing ID cards, covering up torture by allies, treating asylum seekers abominably, allowing "fast-track" extradition without proper scrutiny by a court, and passing new laws to curtail free speech.

The Conservatives haven't and won't oppose these measures. And they will exploit them to the fullest when they regain power. Labour has made a mistake in putting these powers on the statute book.

There seems to be an assumption that there are around us such grave threats from criminals - and from terrorists in particular - that only these tyrannical methods are effective. Maybe. Maybe not. It is only by putting careful legal safeguards in place that ministers' claims about particular threats can be tested. It is only the Liberal Democrats that seem to think we should worry about such things.