Sacrificing liberty for security
The riots last week were an indicator of a society which has some things wrong with it. Not broken, as the Tories love to keep telling us, but there are some places where things could be a lot better.
Another indicator of our society’s dark heart can be found in the state’s response to the riots. Harsh and overly punitive sentencing handed out by the 21st Century equivalent of hanging judges seems to be designed to satisfy the blood lust we’ve seen in the media and on blogs. Even some self-proclaimed libertarians suspended their principles, making them subservient to impotent rage. This populist approach to the law will serve to further reduce the public’s faith in the judiciary and alienate further a section of society which feels it has already been poorly treated. A judiciary which follows the howls of the mob is not just and not fit for purpose in a liberal society.
Then there’s talk of the government suspending communications media in an attempt to hamper the organisation of looting sprees. That’s the kind of illiberal response we’d expect from China or the Yemen. If our government is taking tips from the cruellest regimes in the world then we should be worried.
Now Theresa May has announced that the coalition government is going to lavish the UK’s police forces with even more powers, including the right to declare curfews. If it goes ahead it represents a huge change and a terrifying shift of power to the police force. A government which came into power promising a great repeal of Labour’s illiberal laws has quickly got hooked back on the good old Tory addiction to authoritarian rule.
This isn’t a party political issue. If anything, the Labour opposition response has been little more than a water treading manoeuvre, allowing Labour front benchers media airtime without actually saying anything useful, or potentially risky. Despite Ed Miliband’s lacklustre and unconvincing appeal for a ‘tough on the causes of crime’ approach, if Labour had been in power and Jack Straw had been on that podium instead of Theresa May, I’m confident he would have talked in similarly tough terms and would have happily sacrificed more of our liberty for a half-baked notion of security. The Lib Dems, who consider themselves to be a moderating influence on government, are a failing to protect true liberal values, and just seem to be shoring up a Coalition where their influence is non-existent. They’re a pitiful joke.
At the minute, it looks like no-one in Parliament can be trusted with our liberty.