Individual freedom has always been a the center of British political tradition. Indeed many of our forbears laid down their lives to fight oppression, and arbitrary rule, to bequeath to us the fundamental freedoms and liberties we now posses.
In 1215, the barons entered London and forced King John to sign to Magna Carta to insure basic freedoms; Habeas corpus was created to protect the innocent from unlawful arrest and imprisonment; and people of England went into revolt, and revolution, and beheaded King James to protect themselves from absolutist and arbitrary rule. The Bill of Rights was enacted to protect our freedoms in the new constitutional system. Great Parliamentary battles have been fought to protect, or gain basic rights: we were one of the earlier nations the outlaw the slave trade and give woman’s suffrage.
Britain is a nation with a truly liberal history, and British people have traditionally been greatly attached to the freedoms and liberties.
However over the last few years, we have slowly allowed the state to question that legacy our forefathers handed down to us, through their toils, sweat and blood. In the name of security, anti-terrorism, prevention of crime, we have allowed governments to take away those freedoms, and more closer to a surveillance state.
Just to name a few projects, and ‘achievements’ of government:
-Attempted extension of the 28 day limit on holding terror suspects without charge, by Jacqui Smith to 42 days.
-Attempted extension of the 28 say limit on holding terror suspects without charge by Tony Blair to 90 days.
-The DNA database, which holds profiles of people who have been acquitted, and have done no wrongdoing, even in the face of the European Court of Human Rights declaring this unlawful.
-Projects to monitor and store the internet browsing habits, e-mail and telephone records of everyone in Britain.
Not only was this tendency a betrayal of our liberal ideals, and the legacy we have been given, t was also a dangerous path allowing the state ever more control of our lives, and access to our data. Data which they were not even competent to protect as evidences with officials leaving data on trains, getting lost in the post etc, etc, etc…
It would seem that this dangerous and pervasive extension of state control has met its doomsday and nemesis with the coalition agreement. Many parts of this document may be subjects of disappointment for both sides of the partnership; but this part is something this coalition can be proud of. A clear, unambiguous manifesto to shatter the chains that Labour have created, and to reenact our British liberal values. In no ways will this document equal in anyway those forged before our time like the Magna Carter, but it is at least one which those who fought for those rights would, I think it would be safe to say be proud of. Liberty is back on the agenda!