The Convention on Modern Liberty took place today. Shami Chakrabarti’s introductory speech was passionate, as it should be in the circumstances.

The complaints against liberty in Britain today included:

  • British complicity in extraordinary rendition
  • The long period of pre-charge detention
  • Control orders
  • Extradition to the United States without equal reciprocal arrangements
  • The National Identity Register and ID card scheme
  • Intrusive surveillance powers
  • The DNA database, which fundamentally blurs the line between guilt and innocence
  • Erosion of the right to protest
  • Erosion of the right to public assembly — the police can now impose conditions on a meeting of as few as two people
  • The criminalisation of trespass
  • Erosion of the right to silence
  • Erosion of trial by jury
  • Withdrawal of the public interest defence for whistleblowers
  • Allowing evidence of bad character
  • Changes to double jeopardy
  • The use of force by bailiffs

Dominic Grieve QC MP spoke with passion and commitment, a great encouragement which was consolidated later by his Chief of Staff, Dominic Raab, author of The Assault on Liberty. David Davis MP spoke powerfully, of course, in defence of freedom.

Despite some skepticism in the hall, I believe we can rely on the Conservatives to restore our historic freedoms.

The left, however, are in disarray. I attended a session on the left and liberty, at which an early and striking observation was the absence of participation by the government, despite the active contributions of Conservative front benchers.  The speakers rapidly acknowledged a charge sheet on which authoritarianism and a benign view of the state are levelled against them, but in no time at all, they had skipped lightly past the long list of dangerous infractions against liberty to decry the free market, on which they focussed.

At least New Labour were roundly condemned.

I understand the police nicely rounded off the day by using anti-terrorist powers on two men standing quietly outside the venue with a banner.

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