UK Liberty

Liberty dies by a thousand cuts

Posted in law and order by ukliberty on February 19, 2009

Timothy Garton-Ash in the Guardian:

For 30 years I have been travelling to unfree places, from East Germany to Burma, and writing about them in the belief that I was coming from one of the freest countries in the world. I wanted people in those places to enjoy more of what we had. In the last few years, I have woken up – late in the day, but better late than never – to the way in which individual liberty, privacy and human rights have been sliced away in Britain, like salami, under New Labour governments that profess to find in liberty the central theme of British history. …

Let’s be clear: though the Stasi headline is irresistible, such Stasi-nark methods do not yet make a Stasi state. The political context is very different. We don’t live in a one-party dictatorship. But nor is this just “an isolated case”, as ministers always protest. Almost every week brings some new revelation of the way in which our government has taken a further small slice of our liberty, always in the name of another real or alleged good: national security, safety from crime, community cohesion, efficiency (ha ha), or our “special relationship” with the United States. …

What’s more, the certain loss of liberty will often not result in the alleged gain in security or efficiency. So, for example, Gordon Brown and his ministers went on pressing for 42 days’ detention without trial, despite the fact that two former heads of the country’s security service, the director of public prosecutions, the former lord chancellor, attorney general and lord chief justice – in short, almost everyone in a position to know – said it was wrong, unnecessary and counterproductive. How can a government of intelligent and often liberal-minded persons behave so illiberally, arrogantly and stupidly? What screw have they got loose? What nerve is missing? …

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