Some long-awaited cheer for liberal hearts

According to the Independent’s leading article:

In politics, context is all important. At the Liberal Democrat conference in Brighton in 2006 Nick Clegg, then the party’s home affairs spokesman, made a speech in which he promised a “great repeal act” to sweep away all of Labour’s illiberal legislation. Though the address went down well in the conference hall, it made little wider impact. Yesterday, Mr Clegg made a remarkably similar speech to an audience in London and successfully grabbed the national spotlight. The difference, of course, is that this time Mr Clegg is in a position to deliver on his promises.

There is much to cheer liberal hearts in the Deputy Prime Minister’s programme. He sounded the death knell for ID cards, the national identity register, biometric passports and the database of 11 million children. None of these will be missed. The pledges to review the libel laws and defend trial by jury were encouraging; so were the promises to stem the growth of CCTV, curtail the DNA database, restore the right to non-violent protest, outlaw the finger-printing of children in schools without parental permission and end the state’s storage of private internet and email records without good reason.

Such innovations represented the very worst of the former Labour government. Successive Home Secretaries introduced criminal justice bill after criminal justice bill – creating some 3,500 new offences – not to serve the public interest but to broadcast their “toughness” on crime. Labour believed that technology offered a quick solution to just about every social problem. They behaved as if the threat of terrorism justified taking a wrecking ball to ancient civil liberties. Whatever else the previous government achieved, it was not a friend to freedom.