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?

Background

* £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