Opinion: We must resist illiberal responses to the Woolwich murder

web snoopers charterThe Social Liberal Forum is urging Nick Clegg to continue resisting the pressure from Conservative and Labour Parliamentarians for a “Snooper’s Charter” as a result of the murder of Lee Rigby in Woolwich.

At our recent Annual General Meeting, the SLF passed a motion urging the Liberal Democrat leadership to “resist all intimidation and blandishments by the Conservatives and others to support such legislation and to retain our outright and… to campaign vigorously against all threats to restrict our long-held liberties and rights from unauthorised State surveillance.”

Condemning the murder in the strongest terms, the SLF motion praised the community cohesion shown by the community in Woolwich, adding criticism of the opportunistic “actions of violent racists including those from the EDL and BNP”

Noting the “Pressure for the enactment of the so-called Data Communications Bill, better known as the Snooper’s Charter,” and “attempts to censor expression of views that fall short of incitement to hatred and violence,” SLF member Jonathan Hunt moved the motion, criticising “the union of former Labour home secretaries [who] are still intent on introducing more and more oppressive legislation, such as the ID card fiasco, stop and search, imprisoning innocent people for 90 days and allowing surveillance on every citizen of the country.”

Hunt, a former parliamentary candidate, said he “did not want to be spied on by government spooks who have demonstrated their incompetence time and time again. They pretend they are only looking at terrorists, but in reality it is your and my privacy that is being invaded.”

In welcoming the motion, SLF Co-Chair Gareth Epps said, “‘Faced with an outrage such as the Woolwich murder, the only response is a Liberal one, with community cohesion at its heart. We have learnt that initiatives that divide communities, such as Labour’s PREVENT agenda, and the restriction of individual freedom, do not work.”

We have been here before – Prime Minister Cameron suggested illiberal attempts to censor social media in the aftermath of the 2011 riots, which the Liberal Democrats strongly and rightly opposed. Our party is united in opposing a clampdown on freedoms in the wake of violent acts – whether murderous ones like in Woolwich, or the regrettable arson attacks that appear to have followed – and we welcome Nick Clegg’s continued resistance of the Snooper’s Charter and associated violations of our civil liberties.

* Prateek Buch is Director of the Social Liberal Forum and serves on the Liberal Democrat Federal Policy Committee

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Prateek : Are you really sure about this?
    I mean, the LDV moderators can be tough, but just wait till the National Security Agency (NSA), moderators get an upload of your subversive views and I.P. address.
    P.S. ~ This comment was uploaded, using an old secondhand laptop, via free Wi fi in a McDonalds. So if you hear of a drone strike, where the collateral damage was a few hundred egg Mc muffins, …you’ll know why.

  • Stuart Mitchell 11th Jun '13 - 9:52pm

    May 2010: The Tories and Lib Dems claim that one of the key characterstics of their coalition, in contrast to Labour, will be a higher regard for civil liberties.

    June 2010: The government starts obtaining data from Prism – aka “the snooper’s charter through the back door”.

    I’d be very interested to know if any Lib Dem politicians knew about this before it hit the papers.

  • Jonathan Hunt 12th Jun '13 - 7:18pm

    Having nailed my colours to the mast, hope I don’t follow them. Lack of response could may suggest that what John writes may be a little too close to the truth for many members. Alternatively, that everyone agrees.

    For many of us who intend standing up to the spooks of Cheltemham and Washington, how the party treats this issue helps decide our continued support.

    PS: How do you make calls from a wi-fi in Macdonalds. And do you have a eat one of their products….?

  • Richard Underhill 18th Feb '16 - 6:59pm

    When Roy Jenkins legistated to abolish capital punishment “a sentence known as life” was made mandatory for murder.
    A “sentence known as life” can also be passed by the discretion the trial judge for other offences:
    manslaughter, violent assault, grievious bodily harm, rape,, homosexual rape, arson, causing explosions.
    For mandatory and discretionary sentences of life the trial judge also sets a minimum period of imprisonment in closed conditions, often known as “the tariff”, following which there is a review by the Parole Board.
    I would humbly and respectfully agree that the ruling by the UK Supreme Court on “joint enterprise” is correct and suggest that it should be supported.
    For instance a conviction for murder might, in some cases. be replaced with a sentence for manslaughter and attract a discretionary life sentence.
    Some people have been convicted of murder in circumstances where a conviction for rape might have been appropriate but was not prosecuted because the victim died.
    The Court of Appeal will be busy.

  • Richard Underhill 19th Feb '16 - 8:03am

    The list of lifer offences should include kidnapping.

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