An open letter to Lib Dem party president, Tim Farron: Concerns over our liberal identity and mission in government

The following letter, written by Martin Eakins a Lib Dem councillor in Manchester and co-signed by more than 150 fellow party members, has been sent to party president Tim Farron:

Dear Tim,

We understand that the leaked policy on RIPA internet surveillance is now being reviewed more thoroughly, rather than rushed into the Queen’s speech. As such we would like you, as our president, to convey the following thoughts to appropriate Liberal Democrat ministers.

The Home Secretary wrote in the Sun on Tuesday that “Only suspected terrorists, paedophiles or serious criminals will be investigated.” This is akin to saying “if you’ve done nothing wrong, you’ve got nothing to worry about.” If the hacking scandal and ongoing Leveson inquiry has taught us anything, it is that argument is demonstrably false.

At first hacking was tolerated by the public when it was only celebrities and politicians who were victims. It was only after it was exposed that private individuals were hacked that there was public outrage. Even the Queen’s own police protection sold information about her to the News of the World. If our head of state cannot be safeguarded from corrupt police officers, what chance has the rest of us got?

This is our fear over these leaked proposals; we believe that extending universal, rather than targeted internet surveillance powers to the police, exposes innocent citizens to corrupt sections of authority. We agree with Julian Huppert MP when he argues that the police should only be allowed to access private internet usage when they have obtained a “named, specific and time-limited warrant” from a judge or minister.

In a February 2011 interview with the Guardian Nick Clegg said: “You should not trust government – full stop. The natural inclination of government is to hoard power and information; to accrue power to itself in the name of the public good.” And later: Clegg says the restoration of liberty is ongoing, and urges campaigners to “hold the government’s feet to the fire”. We are attempting to do just that with this letter.

Surely an important part of our party’s mission is to defend and protect the civil rights of our fellow citizens, and if we fail, our party’s liberal identity will be put at grave risk. We urge our ministers to heed our call – block these illiberal proposals and lead the charge for reform of RIPA to ensure our citizens enjoy the fair, free and open society we seek to build and safeguard.

Kind regards,
1. Cllr Lev Eakins, Manchester City Council
2. Cllr Janet Battye, Leader, Calderdale MBC
3. Cllr Guy Poultney, Cabinet Member, Bristol City Council
4. Cllr Anood Al-Samerai, Leader, Southwark Liberal Democrat council group
5. Cllr Iain Roberts, Cabinet member, Stockport MBC
6. Cllr Prue Bray, Leader, Wokingham Liberal Democrat council group
7. Cllr Tom Papworth, Leader, Bromley Liberal Democrat council group
8. Cllr Erica Kemp, Liverpool City Council
9. Cllr David Faulkner, Leader. Liberal Democrat Group, Newcastle City Council
10. Cllr Fiona White, Deputy Leader, Surrey County Council Lib Dems
11. Cllr Alex Folkes, Deputy Leader Cornwall Council Liberal Democrat group
12. Cllr. Tony Harwood, Deputy Leader Maidstone Council Liberal Democrat group
13. Cllr Tom Simon, Deputy Leader, Camden Council Liberal Democrat group
14. Cllr Tom Morrison, Chair Liverpool Wavetree
15. Cllr. Neil Taylor, Chair Altrincham and Sale West
16. Cllr Victor Chamberlain, Manchester City Council
17. Cllr James Baker, Calderdale
18. Cllr Nigel Ashton, Southport
19. Cllr Michelle Pearce, Wiltshire
20. Cllr Colin Rosenstiel, Cambridge
21. Cllr Darren Thornton, Richmond
22. Cllr Colin Strong, Spelthorne
23. Cllr Craig Woolmer, Hull CC
24. Cllr Jane Brophy, Trafford
25. Mark Pack, London, Co-Editor Lib-Dem Voice
26. Stephen Tall, Oxford, Co-Editor Lib-Dem Voice
27. Paul Walter, Newbury, Co-Editor Lib-Dem Voice
28. Mark Thompson, Bracknell, LD Blogger
29. Richard Morris, Richmond, LD Blogger
30. Zadok Day, Co-Chair Liberal Reform, Secretary Bury LDs
31. Linda Jack, Member of FPC and SLF Council and Chair Liberal Left
32. Kelly-Marie Blundell, Vice Chair of Ashford, Diversity Champion for the SE Region and South East SLF
33. Prateek Buch, Chingford & Woodford Green, SLF Policy and Research
34. Mark Blackburn, Westminster; Director, SLF
35. Mary Reid, Local party Chair Kingston upon Thames, SLF Events
36. Simon Titley, Lincoln (Liberator magazine)
37. Tom Wood, chair, liberal youth
38. Harriet Ainscough, Oxford, LY International Officer
39. Conor McKenzie, Harrogate, England Convenor Liberal Youth
40. Hannah Bettsworth, Liberal Youth Scotland Ordinary Executive Member-elect
41. Sara Lloyd Williams, Ieuenctid Rhyddfrydol Cymru | Liberal Youth Wales Chair
42. Tom Lister, Ieuenctid Rhyddfrydol Cymru | Liberal Youth Wales Vice Chair/Treasurer
43. Linden Parker, Ieuenctid Rhyddfrydol Cymru | Liberal Youth Wales Communication Officer
44. Cadan ap Tomos, Aberystwyth, Ieuenctid Rhyddfrydol Cymru | Liberal Youth Wales Young Members’ Officer
45. Rory Roberson, Ieuenctid Rhyddfrydol Cymru | Liberal Youth Wales Branch Officer
46. Natasha Chapman, East Midlands Regional Liberal Youth chair
47. David Cope, LD Youth South West Regional Chair
48. Lance Idiabor-Moses, Leeds Central, Chair of Yorkshire and the Humber LD Youth
49. Joe Donnelly, Rossendale, Chair of Durham Liberal Youth
50. Daniel Waterfield, Liverpool, Co-Chair Liverpool LD Youth
51. Will Noble, Treasurer, Leeds Liberal Youth
52. Neil Monnery – Southend Lib Dems – Youth Officer
53. Madeleine Spink, Chair York University LDs
54. Alan Belmore, Horsham (Former Chair, Liberal Youth)
55. Richard Gadsden, Manchester, Exec Member NW Region
56. Josh Allen, York Central (Press Secretary)
57. Tracy Connell, Newcastle, Regional Officer
58. Neil Derby, Chair of Preston Liberal Democrats
59. Gemma Roulston, Reigate, LDDA officer
60. Paul Wild, Walsall, MDO
61. William Jones, Chair, Wythenshawe and Sale East
62. Sandra Taylor Altrincham and Sale West MDO
63. Steve Middleton, Treasurer, Salford Lib Dems
64. Mat Bowles, Chair, Brighouse Lib Dems
65. Jennie Rigg, Branch secretary, Brighouse Lib Dems
66. Steven Haynes, Northfield Liberal Democrats, MDO
67. Mike Ward, Vice Chair of Mole Valley Lib Dems and Treasurer of ALDC
68. Stephen Glenn, Northern Ireland, MDO
69. Stuart Wheatcroft, Carlisle LD Data Officer
70. Andrew Waller, former Leader City of York Council
71. Joy Winder, Manchester
72. Karen Chilvers, Brentwood, Essex
73. Maria Pretzler, Swansea & Gower
74. Kevin White, Liverpool
75. Penny Burgess, Cotswolds
76. Peter Reisdorf, West Kirby
77. Graham Hopgood, Hastings & St Leonards
78. John Richardson, Newark
79. Iain Donaldson, Manchester
80. Tim Allan, Newcastle Central
81. Alan Neil Webb, Amber Valley
82. Kat Dadswell, Liverpool
83. Bevis Maun, Manchester
84. James Rowe, Barnsley
85. Gareth Peter Jones, Swansea
86. Graeme Cowie, Glasgow
87. Martin Veart, Edinburgh
88. Louise Shaw, Stockport
89. Leon Duveen, Bassetlaw & Sherwood
90. Ian Morris, Doncaster
91. Jason Kay, Folkestone
92. Stephen Clarke, Tower Hamlets
93. Jack Cartwright, Brighton
94. Andy Spracklen, Manchester
95. Jock Coats, Oxford
96. Andrew Hardwick, Manchester
97. George Potter, Guildford
98. Hywel Morgan, Calderdale
99. Harry Matthews, Sheffield
100. Callum Morton, Colchester
101. Robert Pitt, London
102. Colin Walklin, Canterbury
103. Rev Simon Wilson, Broadland
104. James Howitt, Salisbury
105. Jonathan Bates, Southampton
106. Andrew Tennant, Charnwood
107. Jonathan Lancaster, York Central
108. Gary McKenna, Salford
109. David Roberts-Jones, Cheadle
110. Riff Devin, Dudley
111. Lee Thacker, Rhondda Cynon Taff
112. Iain Coleman, Edinburgh
113. Martin Tod, Winchester
114. Shaun Young, Portsmouth
115. Martin Gentles, Battersea
116. Caron Lindsay, Dunfermline & West Fife
117. Valerie Talacko, Prague
118. Rob Parsons, Lewes
119. Ron Stafford, Warrington
120. Will Howells, London.
121. Richard Struck, North Bedfordshire
122. Lois Norton, Wealden
123. Frank Little, Aberavon & Neath Liberal Democrats
124. Andrew Hickey, Manchester
125. Ed Trelinski, Rugby
126. Leslie K. Clark, Aberdeen South
127. Sam Bennet, Greater Reading Lib Dems
128. Aidan McGuire, Southport Lib Dems
129. Bob Browning, Ealing
130. Alex Macfie, Kingston upon Thames.
131. Rob Lee, Surbiton
132. George Morris, Tatton
133. Peter Hirst, Middlewich, Congleton
134. Dale Cox, Redditch
135. Jonathan McCree, Haringey Lib Dems
136. Dimitri Seirlis, Worthing West
137. Adrian Collett, Aldershot
138. Ed Randall, Greenwich Borough
139. Andrew Suffield, Ealing
140. Tony Ferguson, Newbury
141. Peter Andrews. Leeds North West
142. Gareth Loveridge, West Bromwich and Warley
143. Nikki Thomson, Edinburgh
144. Nick O’Shea, Mole Valley Lib Dems
145. Ian Campion-Smith, Bristol
146. Sam Fisk – North Bedfordshire
147. Alex Wasyliw – Cambridge
148. Joshua Dixon, Hillingdon Lib Dems
149. Alun Griffiths chair city of Bradford
150. Chris Millington, Chair, Harlow Local Party
151. Harry J. Angers, Arundel & South Downs
152. Geoff Payne, Hackney
153. Nigel Roberts Bath

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  • Four late comers who just missed the signature deadline:

    154. Matt Gallagher, Manchester
    155. Matt Drewett, Milton Keynes Lib Dems
    156. Ashley R. Bullard, Leeds
    157. James Hackett, Chair of Rhondda Cynon Taff Welsh Liberal Democrats

    Please feel free to add your name in the comments here.

  • paul barker 6th Apr '12 - 2:13pm

    You can add my name .

  • I’m happy to add my name to the list, if possible.

  • Sophie Bridger 6th Apr '12 - 2:16pm

    Add my name! (President of Liberal Youth Scotland)

  • Robert Hardware 6th Apr '12 - 2:26pm

    I would also like my name added if possible! – Chair of Aberystwyth University Liberal Democrats

  • Tony Greaves 6th Apr '12 - 2:28pm

    Are parliamentarians allowed to sign? (If the answer is yes add my name).

    Tony Greaves

  • Nick T Nick Thornsby 6th Apr '12 - 2:39pm

    Happy to add my name, too. (Heywood and Middleton)

  • Ian Stewart 6th Apr '12 - 2:40pm

    if I’d been asked to sign, it is something that I would happliy have done.

    Ian Stewart………Leader of LibDem Group on Cumbria County Council & SLDC cabinet member.

  • Robin Meltzer 6th Apr '12 - 2:52pm

    Very happy to add my name to this if still time.

    Robin Meltzer, Vice Chair, London Liberal Democrats

  • John Commons 6th Apr '12 - 2:53pm

    I am happy for you to add my name as a member of Manchester Gorton Lib Dems

  • Nigel Quinton 6th Apr '12 - 2:54pm

    Would happily sign too – Nigel Quinton, Chair Welwyn Hatfield LibDems, 2010 Candidate for Hitchin & Harpenden.

    And whilst RIPA is not something I am at all expert on, it was clear from various posts in the past week that our position should be clear that RIPA needs significant reform and reduction in the powers of state organisations to routinely snoop without a warrant . See Greg Callus’ blog article here – I don’t know enough to know if all his concerns are valid, but his comments about ‘pinging’ and RIPA Part 1 Chapter II seem well researched.

  • Chris Mills 6th Apr '12 - 2:59pm

    Please add my name

    Cllr Chris Mills (Chair East Hants Lib Dems)

  • Please add my name (Former Chair Kingston Borough)

  • Jennie Rigg 6th Apr '12 - 3:13pm

    Nigel, if you want more informed comments and to frighten yourself further about the scope of this, Zoe O’Connel has collected a series of links to blogposts by people in the know (which I think deserves wider publicity and/or republishing hinthint LDV):

  • Please add my name:
    Sid Cumberland (former chair, Castle Point, Rayleigh & Wickford Lib Dems)

  • Stephen Mullen 6th Apr '12 - 4:58pm

    Please add my name:
    Stephen Mullen, Membership Officer of Preston Liberal Democrats

  • Please ad mine too:

    Gregory Smyth, Merton

  • I wquld like to add my name, Roger Shade Chair of Wyre Forest Liberal Democrats.

  • Sam Barnett 6th Apr '12 - 5:23pm

    I would very much like my name to be added. Sam Barnett, Chair, London School of Economics Liberal Democrats

  • Roger Crouch 6th Apr '12 - 6:16pm

    I add my name and am pleased with Tim Farron’s response; too many red lines have been crossed:
    Roger Crouch, Membership Officer – Richmond & Twickenham/Feltham & Heston by-election candidate

  • Gary Wilson 6th Apr '12 - 6:17pm

    Gary Wilson. Member. Bournemouth.

  • Martin Pierce 6th Apr '12 - 6:44pm

    You’ll soon be at 200 from extras posting here who just didn’t know about the letter before it was published. Please add me too – Martin Pierce, Cambridge, membership number 2626128, Parliamentary candidate West Ham 2010

  • The more the merrier Martin! And can I apologise to all who never had the opportunity sign pre-publication. Difficult to track everyone down via email so I mainly used Lib-Dem Facebook groups. The most popular one with almost 700 members is the Alliance of Liberal Democrat Members (run by Paul Wild). If you add me (Lev Eakins) as a friend on FB, I’ll invite you to the group so you can keep abreast of any other activity like this.



  • Morgan Phillips 6th Apr '12 - 7:16pm

    One more! Great letter. Morgan Phillips (Winchester)

  • Richard Dean 6th Apr '12 - 8:01pm

    I imagine that there may be situations where the name of an individual suspected of a serious offence, such as terrorism, is not known. There could also be situations where the individual’s name is known but not e-addresses. The government have a duty to protect the population, and a legal framework that assists investigation while protecting civil liberties is necessary, The present proposals do not seem to satisfy those twin requirements,

    Further, the Home Secretary is mistaken in believing that a statement in the Sun constitutes a binding statement in law. Would a police person or a judge use it in statutory interpretation? If there are to be restrictions on the type of offence to be investigated in this way, then those restrictions would need to be stated in the bill itself, and with definitions such as what is mean by “suspected” and “serious”.

    For these reasons, I agree that the proposals need to be re-assessed. I am just an ordinary person, but would be happy to have my name added if this would be helpful.

  • Stephen Psallidas 6th Apr '12 - 10:07pm

    I asked yesterday for my name to be added but it didn’t make it to the list, I would be happy for it to be added. Thanks, Stephen Psallidas (Newcastle councillor)

  • Steve Comer 6th Apr '12 - 11:09pm

    Please add my name too:
    Cllr. Steve Comer, Bristol City Council

  • Dave Eastham 7th Apr '12 - 1:12am

    Please add my name to the list
    Dave Eastham member of Monmouth Party

  • Me too.

    Jason Good, just a party member.

  • Nicola Prigg 7th Apr '12 - 9:31am

    I’m happy to add my name to this list as well.

  • Add mine. John Doran, former Surrey County Councillor.

  • I’m in support. Extend the group of technologies accessed, certainly, but at the same time clamp down on the people allowed to request the information and the approval process required to sanction it.

    Some of the technologies to be monitored may be hard to access, and service providers may have to write or commission software for the purpose. Would the legislation really indemnify service providers and third-party software houses asked to do this?

  • Neil McGovern 8th Apr '12 - 12:00pm

    Happy to be included too: Cllr Neil McGovern, Cambridge City Council

  • Chris Stanbra 8th Apr '12 - 12:41pm

    Good letter.
    Please add my name.
    Chris Stanbra
    Leader Lib Dem Group Corby Borough Council
    Deputy Leader Lib Dem Group Northamptonshire County Council

  • Mike Falchikov 10th Apr '12 - 12:40am

    Please add my name to the list of signatories to this excellent letter
    (As Chair of Scottish Liberal Club and member of South Edinburgh local party)

  • Cllr Jenny Dawe 10th Apr '12 - 12:42am

    Please add my name.
    Cllr Jenny Dawe,
    Leader, Liberal Democrat Group, City of Edinburgh Council
    Leader, City of Edinburgh Council

  • Please add my name – I didn’t see any request for support.
    Tim Dumper Vice Chair EastDevon Lib Dems.

  • An excellent letter – I agree wholeheartedly.

    I may be only an ordinary member but would gladly put my support to this.

    Matthew Lambert, Bath

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