Monday, April 24, 2006

Civil Liberties debate.

It is with some satisfaction that I notice that the mainstream media is finally beginning to focus on the UK government's assault on Civil liberties and Human Rights.

Individual commentators like Henry Porter, Mary Riddell, Jenni Russell and Marcel Berlins have of course focused on the civil liberties issues arising from Antisocial Behaviour Orders, detention of terrorist suspects without trial for, Control Orders, ID cards, the offence of 'glorification of terrorism' in the Terrorism Act 2006 and the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill, but the media as a whole has not.

Lately, however, the media has been willing to criticise the government on this front, as was done in The Observer yesterday and The Independent today. It was also the media's criticism of the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill (also known as the "Abolition of Parliament Bill"), that pressured the government 10 days ago into accepting an amendment limiting the effect of the Bill.

Even the Conservatives (that old enemy of civil liberties) have begun to criticise the government for limiting liberty. Although this is clearly political opportunism of the party that gave us the Criminal Justice Act 1994, it is welcomed none the less.

The problem is that the debate over civil liberties might have come too late. The government is intent on pushing a 'law and order' agenda for the upcoming local elections and Tony Blair has made it clear that he believes his critics are 'out of touch' with reality.

Whether Blair is right or not will be decided in the continuous political debate. This traditional Labour supporter is, however, very disappointed with the ‘New Labour’ government that began so promising by reforming the House of Lords in 1999 and incorporating the European Convention of Human Rights in UK law by passing the Human Rights Act 1998.


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