Dark threats to liberty listed

To balance the ecclesiastical with the secular, Philip Pullman that scourge of Christianity in his wonderful allegories The Dark Materials has written a scorcher to mark the Convention on Modern Liberty on Saturday ( locally at Queen’s). The irony is that the freedom agenda looks like working well for the Tories. Pullman writes:

We are so fast asleep that we don’t know who we are any more. Are we English? Scottish? Welsh? British? More than one of them? ( Ed .Ahem, what about..er..?) One but not another? Are we a Christian nation – after all we have an Established Church – or are we something post-Christian? Are we a secular state? Are we a multifaith state? Are we anything we can all agree on and feel proud of?

Update Jack Straw’s defence is worth adding.. “I’m the first to accept that Labour since 1997 has not achieved a state of grace in terms of the crucial balance between security and liberty. But on any objective basis, this government has done more to reinforce and strengthen liberty than any since the war….The climate in a post-9/11 world is much harder than anyone imagined, even in the immediate aftermath of that outrage. I do not pretend we’ve got everything right. We haven’t.”

Isn’t it obvious that – even leaving Iraq aside – the post 9/11 threat was much exaggerated?


* £34bn cost of state-run surveillance databases

* Former spy chief says UK is now a police state

* First ID cards are to be issued within weeks

The new laws whisper:

You don’t know who you are

You’re mistaken about yourself

We know better than you do what you consist of, what labels apply to you, which facts about you are important and which are worthless

We do not believe you can be trusted to know these things, so we shall know them for you

And if we take against you, we shall remove from your possession the only proof we shall allow to be recognised

It is inconceivable to me that a waking nation in the full consciousness of its freedom would have allowed its government to pass such laws as the Protection from Harassment Act (1997), the Crime and Disorder Act (1998), the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (2000), the Terrorism Act (2000), the Criminal Justice and Police Act (2001), the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act (2001), the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Extension Act (2002), the Criminal Justice Act (2003), the Extradition Act (2003), the Anti-Social Behaviour Act (2003), the Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act (2004), the Civil Contingencies Act (2004), the Prevention of Terrorism Act (2005), the Inquiries Act (2005), the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act (2005), not to mention a host of pending legislation such as the Identity Cards Bill, the Coroners and Justice Bill, and the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill.

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London

  • Brian

    Thanks for highlighting what I think will prove to be an important event in bringing together a broad coalition of people to stand up for the defence of liberties and the protection of human rights.

    Registration for the linked Amnesty / QUB event in Belfast is going very well but some places are still available (show up at Queen’s – Peter Froggatt Centre – from 9am tomorrow).

    Otherwise check out Amnesty Blogs during the day, where all the sessions of national and local interest will be blogged.

    Video interviews from Belfast will be posted at Amnesty’s multimedia campaign site, ProtectTheHuman.com

  • Devil Eire

    “..his wonderful allegories The Dark Materials..”

    But not so wonderful you can remember their name?

  • Harry Flashman

    Jack Straw’s defence is worth adding.. “I’m the first to accept that Labour since 1997 has not achieved a state of grace in terms of the crucial balance between security and liberty…”

    Straw like so many leading lights of New Labour were members of the far Left in their youth, they had no scruples whatsoever in dumping the ideology of the far Left in order to get into power.

    What they could never shake off however was that abiding facet of far Left politics; the need for control.

    The Left is deeply distrustful of individuals and liberty (with very good reason, it is always the desire for individual liberty that eventually destroys Socialism), to people on the Left the desire to spy on, monitor, restrict, ban, exile, censor, incarcerate and ultimately kill their fellow citizens is something that is imbibed with their mothers’ milk.

    So it is that this New Labour government comprised of so many ex-Trotskyites and Communists could not resist the temptation when given the opportunity to turn the UK into a modern day version of East Germany.

    People may think I am exaggerating when I say that but you must realise that by 1989 East Germans weren’t being shipped off in their thousands to the gulags or being secretly murdered in Lubyanka style basements. No, what East Germany had become by then was a dreary nation of snoopers and the snooped upon. The state intervened and monitored its population 24 hours a day, there were certain political viewpoints that were “unacceptable” and which could not be aired on the state media nor could any holder of public office be allowed to express them. If you wanted to receive state assistance be it housing, welfare or health care then you had to accept certain restrictions on your way of life in order to conform to state approved standards.

    The government officials who formed the bulk of the workforce were everywhere and they were permitted access to almost all aspects of personal and family life. The police kept extensive files on all the citizens, teachers, doctors and even neighbours were expected to report on anyone who behaved outside acceptable government norms.

    The only outlet for the citizens to express dissent from pre-ordained political mantras was in private where provided they could be sure no-one in their company was going to report them to the authorities they could actually say things that they really believed but which would be punished if spoken openly. The only relief was bland tv and getting hopelessly drunk.

    And all the time the CCTV cameras were watching, watching, watching…

    Does that sound like a familiar society to you?

  • 0b101010

    CCTV cameras in East Germany? That doesn’t sound familiar, that sounds like massaging bollocks to fit your narrative.

  • Hunter

    Are we human?