Melanie Phillips with some ill-informed, incoherent rubbish and derogatory comments about people who support civil liberties (“the chattering classes“).
Phillips holds the “civil liberties lobby” to blame for “Big Brother Britain”. She mentions the Convention of Modern Liberty bringing together people from across the political spectrum, but “Like all bandwagons, however, this one needs a beady eye cast over it, not least because of its occasional note of hysteria … Its claim that Britain is turning into a police state is clearly over the top”.
It is perhaps worth noting that there is not one mention of “police state” on the Convention’s site.
There is the well-worn claim of “alarmism” over CCTV and DNA profiling, and how this pays “scant regard to their usefulness in catching criminals”. This is odd because it seems to me the “civil liberties lobby” in fact appreciates that CCTV and DNA profiling helps catch criminals. Indeed what I want is better CCTV and DNA profiling, and less inappropriate usage – and it isn’t made better by putting CCTV everywhere and putting everyone on the DNA database. There are principled and pragmatic reasons not to do so.
Phillips does recognise that we should “be concerned about some of the ways in which freedom is being compromised”, giving the examples of local councils and other public bodies using RIPA inappropriately, and she seems to object to CCTV watching us buy alcohol in pubs and supermarkets.
She also seems to object to the secret inquests provisions in the Coroners and Justice Bill, and the Intercept Modernisation Programme.
Phillips says, “These are very real concerns.”
But of course these aren’t, in her view, the fault of Parliamentarians passing objectionable legislation and the willingness of others to use and abuse the legislation. No, it’s the “fault of the civil liberties lobby” for “this state of affairs”.
Under [human rights] law, judges have been handed the power to balance rights against each other. And time and again, they have come down in favour of the rights of terror suspects, illegal immigrants and common criminals against the rights of indigenous, law-abiding people. So it’s a bit rich for the liberty campaigners to claim that fear of terrorism has eroded human rights.
I’m not sure who has claimed that fear of terrorism has eroded human rights. As far as I can see we have been blaming the Labour Government and its supporters for the last eleven years. Now, they may have been motivated by fear of terrorism, or stoked the fear of terrorism in the public and thereby seen public support for erosions and infringements. But ultimately it is Parliamentarians who voted aye who are to blame.
This bit is weird:
But the human rights law these campaigners foisted upon us has taken a judicial axe to that principle by making judges the arbiters of our freedoms.
In doing so, they deliberately transferred power from Parliament to the courts. And the inevitable consequence of that has been that MPs lost power to the judges. This weakening of Parliament has enabled the Labour Government to use Parliamentary procedure to short-circuit debate and force through legislation without proper scrutiny.
Parliament isn’t at all weak. The problem with Parliament at the moment is that there are too many Parliamentarians willing to vote aye to objectionable proposals, and a Government that keeps churning out legislation but not allowing (again via its supporters) enough time to properly scrutinise it. Indeed it is quite extraordinary that legislation can get to the statute book without those who voted on it being required to actually read it first.
This has nothing to do with civil liberties campaigners or judges at all.
A more robust Parliament would have prevented the Government passing those laws which threaten our fundamental freedoms. But over the past few years, Westminster has had the stuffing knocked out of it by a series of measures, including human rights law, whose purpose was to destroy this country’s constitutional settlement and powers of democratic self-government.
Civil liberties campaigners and judges have no power to prevent Parliamentarians from passing objectionable laws.