Labour must become the party of freedom

Michael Morgan Giles argues that Labour needs to do more to support the cause of freedom.

Polly put the kettle on, Labour take it off again

On Saturday afternoon we saw the irony of the police using kettling against peaceful protesters on our streets, whilst at the same time the Government presses ahead with the ‘Protection of Freedoms Bill’.

Kettling – a tactic which police use to control crowds – occurs by restricting the movement of people and often preventing their access to food, water and toilets for long periods of time.

Currently there is a case in the European courts, which is likely to confirm kettling is illegal – as it appears to contradict the Right to Liberty (Article 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights) and the Right to Freedom of Assembly (Article 11).

Furthermore, according to Observer journalist Mark Townsend, who was at the protests against the global financial system, the Police were also preventing legal observers from monitoring their activities under the guise of “preventing breach of peace”.

This practice, if proven is deeply concerning, as it undermines the concepts of natural justice and the right to a fair trial – two pillars of our democracy.

However, perhaps all of this should not come as a surprise. A slow erosion of freedoms has been ongoing for a number of years – with the latest being the Home Office proposals to introduce curfew powers which would give the Police the ability to arrest people for simply being in public places.

In fairness, the Government is currently pressing ahead with the Protection of Freedoms Bill, and many of the proposals are welcome. It was introduced to the House of Lords on October 12th, with the date of the next stage to be announced shortly.

However, the Coalition has wrongly characterised the Bill as a necessary response to Labour’s so called ‘attack on civil liberties’ – in reality, the burden of responsibility should be shared widely.

For instance, as home secretary, Michael (now Lord) Howard, introduced the 1994 Criminal Justice and Public Order Act, which contained a number of illiberal policies. In particular, the changing the meaning of the ‘right to remain silent’; extending police powers to shut down ‘raves’; and increasing stop and search powers, which over the years have been found to have been used disproportionately on young people from ethnic minorities.

Furthermore Labour introduced the Human Rights Act, which is a genuine charter for promoting human rights and civil liberties. Those in favour of abandoning this are the real opponents of freedom.

However, perceptions persist and therefore in the long run it would be damaging for Labour to be viewed as a party not concerned with people’s liberty.

To address this, firstly Labour should reassert the economic freedom for all is not possible without greater equality. Options to do so could include looking at mechanisms to drive through greater parity between workers salaries, and re-emphasizing support for shared maternity-paternity leave for parents.

However, Labour must also develop their approach towards individual freedom – and the Protection of Freedoms Bill presents an opportunity to do so. By tabling amendments to enhance liberty – on restricting kettling, but perhaps looking widely at issues such as the voting age, assisted suicide and drug laws – they can reclaim the agenda from the Coalition.

See also:

Will Clegg let civil liberties go the same way as electoral reform?Bradley Day, May 15th 2011

Liberty: Kettling is a “fatally flawed” tacticIsabella Sankey, April 20th 2011

The Protection of Freedoms Bill: A new era in WestminsterDaniel Elton, February 12th 2011

Labour needs to take a look in the mirror on civil libertiesMike Harris, January 7th 2011

Ed’s detoxification of Blair-Brown authoritarianism welcome newsMichael Harris, September 29th 2010

19 Responses to “Labour must become the party of freedom”

  1. Mark

    RT @leftfootfwd: Labour must become the party of freedom http://t.co/kMOxPKfu < – About as likely as the BNP becoming the party of reggae.

  2. Bob_T14

    RT @leftfootfwd: Labour must become the party of freedom http://t.co/kMOxPKfu < – About as likely as the BNP becoming the party of reggae.

  3. johnsmith995

    RT @leftfootfwd: Labour must become the party of freedom http://t.co/kMOxPKfu < – About as likely as the BNP becoming the party of reggae.

  4. Jones

    RT @leftfootfwd: Labour must become the party of freedom http://t.co/kMOxPKfu < – About as likely as the BNP becoming the party of reggae.

  5. Peter Welch

    RT @leftfootfwd: Labour must become the party of freedom http://t.co/kMOxPKfu < – About as likely as the BNP becoming the party of reggae.

  6. The Talking Clock

    RT @leftfootfwd: Labour must become the party of freedom http://t.co/kMOxPKfu < – About as likely as the BNP becoming the party of reggae.

  7. Stewart Cotterill

    RT @leftfootfwd: Labour must become the party of freedom http://t.co/kMOxPKfu < – About as likely as the BNP becoming the party of reggae.

  8. Trakgalvis

    RT @leftfootfwd: Labour must become the party of freedom, writes @mgonthemike: http://t.co/SujUgwZA #NewsClub

  9. nightfever

    RT @leftfootfwd: Labour must become the party of freedom http://t.co/kMOxPKfu < – About as likely as the BNP becoming the party of reggae.

  10. Paul Westlake

    RT @leftfootfwd: Labour must become the party of freedom http://t.co/kMOxPKfu < – About as likely as the BNP becoming the party of reggae.

  11. Rob the crip

    But of course it was Labour that brought this type of policing in and gave the police the rights to beat the shit out of people and walk free.

    So telling us now what labour should be is a bit right.

  12. Robert CP

    Labour must become the party of freedom, writes @mgonthemike: http://t.co/anVkieU1

  13. brianwollet

    RT @leftfootfwd: Labour must become the party of freedom http://t.co/kMOxPKfu < – About as likely as the BNP becoming the party of reggae.

  14. Selohesra

    If protesters chose quieter places to make their points so that it did not inconvenience the vast majority of people who just want to get on with their own lives/business etc then we would not need kettling. However these protestors always chose high profile locations which interes with my rights to go about my own business – furthermore this time they may have been peaceful but we have all witnessed the mindless vandalism of so many protests in recent years that kettling seems a reasonable precaution.

  15. Mike M-G

    Article from yesterday for @leftfootfwd on @LabourParty and #freedom – http://t.co/8F45UDyH #kettling #occupylse #liberties

  16. Dick Puddlecote

    Only just seen this – read the headline and fell off my chair laughing! http://t.co/JHP6y0Fh

  17. Phillip

    RT @leftfootfwd: Labour must become the party of freedom http://t.co/kMOxPKfu < – About as likely as the BNP becoming the party of reggae.

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    […] detention. They have supervised a creeping militarisation of the police, been silent on the use of kettling during peaceful protest, and voted for removing the right to see a solicitor for free after […]

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