Friday, June 13, 2008

An Open Letter to David Davis MP

Dear Mr Davis,

I would like to applaud the statement you made outside Parliament yesterday.

When the history of Britain in the C21 comes to be written, the cost of petrol, fluctuations in house prices and the latest sports results will pale into insignificance compared with the fundamental issues concerning the relationship between the citizen and the state which are being played out at the present time.

I commend you for raising this issue against the backdrop of the divisive bill which has just been passed in Parliament by the narrowest of margins allowing terror suspects to be detained for up to 42 days before being charged.

There is an urgent need to articulate at a senior level that the civil liberties which this bill has eroded are not luxury items for those who are particularly interested in that sort of thing. Rather, they are the bedrock of democracy, justice and the rule of law. Their erosion will affect every ordinary citizen, in some cases turning the moderate into a radical, with terrible implications for all of us.

While I applaud the principled stand taken on this issue by such groups as Liberty and Amnesty, as well as the opposition to the bill by some members of the Labour Party, by your own party leader and by the Liberal Democrats, I believe that you have a unique opportunity through the coming by-election to raise the issue at a broader and more intensive level.

I commend you as well for setting the 42-day detention bill within its broader political and historic context. The relentless erosion of freedoms under the current government has been breathtaking. You are right, in explaining the reasons for your resignation, to highlight the other major areas in which our freedoms have been and are being challenged:

  • detention without charge of terrorist suspects for up to 42 days
  • the introduction of national identity cards for all British residents
  • the growth of the surveillance state through CCTV
  • the emerging national DNA database
  • the subtle erosion of jury trials in certain cases
  • the strengthening of security powers to stifle legitimate public protest
  • the restriction of freedom of speech through the creation of "hate laws"

These are all issues that have been of great concern to me and which, I'm sure you will agree, transcend party politics.

Your campaign deserves the support of people of all political backgrounds who are concerned about the ever intrusive power of the state and the corresponding loss of privacy and freedom.

This is an issue for all who value the principle of human liberty.

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