Thursday, 26 February 2009

Freedom Bill - a move in the right direction

Chris Hune, Liberal Democrat Shadow Home Secretary, today published the party's Freedom Bill, designed to kick-start a debate on the extent to which personal liberty has been sacrificed over the last two decades in the name of security.

Writing on The Guardian's website Comment is Free, Hune launched the bill by simply listing some of the various freedoms now lost to the British public in the wake of extensive legislation supposedly aimed at curbing the threat of terrorism. This in itself is a devastating tactic; just reading the bullet points is enough to make one realise quite how far down the road to totalitarianism this country sometimes gets.

If I'm honest, this blogger is hardly a personal-liberty-trumps-all libertarian - I strongly believe that there are limits to one's own personal liberty, limits to be invoked for the greater good of society and which in general follow Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr's maxim that
"The right to swing my fist ends where the other man's nose begins."
But for a pervasive State to prevent protest outside the very seat of its democracy, for anti-terrorism legislation to be used to pry on the activities of ordinary people, and for immoral and undemocratic exemptions to exist as barriers to the freedom of information vital to the running of a democracy - these are limits on personal and collective liberty that encroach on the principles of civilised society. Moreover, these are limits and curbs on people's liberty that, regardless of one's philosophical or political standpoint, are likely to add fuel to the fire of those who consider themselves under suspicion or persecution - so from a purely utilitarian perspective these freedoms ought to be restored to avoid the very angst that their removal was designed to prevent.

In the run up to the next General Election in the UK, it will be interesting to see quite how the current administration reacts to this new bill - an administration that has to all intents and purposes ridden roughshod over so many fundamental rights and freedoms that Hune himself laments of his list:This is not intended to be an exhaustive list of all the freedoms that have been lost in recent years. Sadly, there are too many.

Sad indeed. Perhaps now would be a good time to have another debate alongside this one on freedoms - a debate about whether the UK should have a formal written constitution, which enshrines the freedoms to be defended by and from the state.

1 comment:

NM said...

we need a freedom bill in the US as well, and a shield law for journalists