A blog by Luke Akehurst about politics, elections, and the Labour Party - With subtitles for the Hard of Left. Just for the record: all the views expressed here are entirely personal and do not necessarily represent the positions of any organisations I am a member of.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Our ancient liberties - Tory style

One of the things that has most wound me up over the last few days is the sight of a Tory lecturing us about civil liberties and "ancient rights" .

This would be an MP from the Party who just a few years ago gave us:

- The ban on trade union membership at GCHQ.
- The stopping and searching of cars during the 1984 Miners' Strike to block pickets from travelling round the country.
- Section 28
- Abolition of a whole tier of metropolitan government because the democratic results upset the PM
etc. , etc.

and a bit further back, the same old Tories showed their respect for ancient rights by:

- creating a huge network of police spies to infiltrate and undermine the Chartists and Radicals and anyone else promoting democracy or wanting to improve the lot of working people
- suspending Habeas Corpus
- passing the Six Acts which made holding meetings to call for democratic reform ""an overt act of treasonable conspiracy"
- slaughtering innocent protesters at the Peterloo Massacre
- opposing the Great Reform Bill
- opposing Catholic emancipation
- passing the Combination Laws which banned trade unions
- bankrolling despotic reactionary monarchies across Europe in the Napoleonic wars

I assume David Davis is quite a fan of our most authoritarian Tory PMs such as Baroness Thatcher and Lord Liverpool.

The Whigs, forerunner of the Lib Dems weren't much better. They had the Tolpuddle Maryrs transported to Australia for setting up a union branch, and less than a hundred years ago the Liberals sent troops to break the strike at Tonypandy.

Personally I can't quite see that the golden age of Magna Carta lauded by Davis ever existed unless you were a baron. For the rest of us the rights in it weren't much use in a society where for a good few hundred years after the Magna Carta was written the bulk of the population were serfs literally owned by their masters, where until 200 years ago you could be hung for stealing a handkerchief or a bit of bread to feed your starving family, or less than a hundred years ago you could be shot after a summary court martial for suffering from shell shock in the trenches and your right to vote depended on how much property you had and your gender.

I don't think anyone Labour needs to take any lessons about civil liberties from anyone who stands in the Tory tradition - the tradition of reaction, oppression and privilege down the ages. To misquote Orwell, "the jackboot stamping on the face of democrats and ordinary working people down the ages has usually been worn by a Tory foot".


Blogger Merseymike said...

Happen to share your suspicion of Tory clean hands on these matters.

But that doesn't excuse the current measures being put forward by the government. Its a shame, how , with a good record, authoritarianism has gained such a foothold.

1:20 am, June 16, 2008

Anonymous Matt said...

"- bankrolling despotic reactionary monarchies across Europe in the Napoleonic wars"

Same old Tories eh!

1:30 am, June 16, 2008

Blogger Exile said...

Guess what! Colonel Tim Collins has joined the by-election campaigning - are you happy?

The bad news is that he is campaigning for Davis...

6:57 am, June 16, 2008

Anonymous Aminda Shah (aged 7) said...

Er... I'm a bit thick, so let's see if I've got it.

Once upon a time there was a bunch of total bastards called The Tories. Then times changed and they became a bit softer and more human. At the same time, NuLabour became a bunch of total bastards. So we should all support NuLabour in order to avoid a return to The Tories.

I think I've got it now.

8:48 am, June 16, 2008

Anonymous occasional ranter said...

You seem confused. It is precisely because the Labour party has such a proud tradition of protecting the weak against the strong, that you should be revolted by its mob-pleasing stance on terrorism.

50 innocent people were killed by the 7/7 bombs, but in the same year ten times as many were killed by drunk drivers, and forty times as many were killed by clostridium difficile. What basic human rights would you like to suspend in order to tackle those ? Or do they not have quite the same political appeal ?

9:22 am, June 16, 2008

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

Exactly - "protecting the weak against the strong". In this case the weak are the general public and the strong are those seeking to kill them.

We know that the original plan for 9/11 was the fly aircraft into nuclear power stations, so talking about this threat in terms of the casualty numbers from 7/7 is wishful thinking.

9:49 am, June 16, 2008

Anonymous Anonymous said...

More nonsense. Coming from a tradition of upholding human rights does not grant you leave to ignore valid criticism when you stray from that tradition.

At least you had the grace to tag the misquote as such; however it is so mis as to be laughable.

Was it intentional irony or more stupidity - I'm pretty sure Orwell would have loathed you and everything you stand for.

11:01 am, June 16, 2008

Anonymous Alexander said...

Your post is worthy of your spoofster - the Great Reform Bill!?!? It was 176 years ago. Don't you think you're scraping the barrel a bit?

11:48 am, June 16, 2008

Blogger Merseymike said...

But it won't protect anyone, because it will be counter-productive.

I do not think that authoritarian means can be justified to defend liberty. Nothing the Government has said has convinced me - and I seriously don't see how I can vote labour next time. This just isn't the sort of politics I agree with.

11:55 am, June 16, 2008

Anonymous Oxbridge Prat said...

Luke wrote: We know that the original plan for 9/11 was the fly aircraft into nuclear power stations, so talking about this threat in terms of the casualty numbers from 7/7 is wishful thinking.

You are, of course, aware that nuclear power stations are designed to survive an impact by a fully laden jet airliner?

12:10 pm, June 16, 2008

Anonymous lyrical tourist said...

You are, of course, aware that nuclear power stations are designed to survive an impact by a fully laden jet airliner?

Yes, but are they designed to survive an impact by a Bin Laden jet airliner?! ;)

12:45 pm, June 16, 2008

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

Oxbridge prat,

Are you saying we should just let them do it then?

12:48 pm, June 16, 2008

Anonymous occasional ranter said...

I suspect members of this government of lying to Parliament and to the country in order to take us into an illegal war which has cost many thousands of lives. Can I detain cabinet members without charge indefinitely until I can come up with the evidence to prosecute them ? Why not ? What's that you say ? Because they're innocent until proven guilty ? No !

1:20 pm, June 16, 2008

Blogger Miller 2.0 said...

"Are you saying we should just let them do it then?"

The sad truth is that, just like the Blitz, and the troubles in NI, someone is bound to do it anyway, 42, or 420 days, or not.

In the meantime...

I agree on Davis.

I notices you ommitted his vote against the Human Rights Act. A fine achievement if there ever was one.

1:26 pm, June 16, 2008

Anonymous matt severn said...

This is a ridiculous argument. There is no historical or social equivalence between Victorian or Georgian parties from two centuries ago. Fact.

You are just proposing this as a pathetic excuse to get out from the fact that this Labour government represents the greatest attack on civil liberties since the DORA act of 1914.

2:45 pm, June 16, 2008

Anonymous Oxbridge Prat said...

Luke said: Are you saying we should just let them do it then?

That's a pretty bizarre interpretation of my words. What I'm saying is that your implicit claim that we are facing a threat far more serious that old-fashioned IRA and INLA style terrorism (roughly 1800 dead and 20000 injured, an almost successful attempt to murder the entire cabinet in the Grand Hotel, a mortar attack on 10 Downing Street, the bombing of Westminster Hall, the murder of the Queen's uncle, the murder of the Shadow Northern Ireland Secretary, the murder of the British Ambassador to Holland, and countless bomb attacks on commercial targets such as the £1 billion (1993 money) damage in a single attack on the Baltic Exchange) is basically scare mongering.

You're old enough to remember at least some of this; I lived through most of it and frankly current islamist terrorists are amateurs by comparison.

3:12 pm, June 16, 2008

Blogger Tristan said...

Labour and the Tories are essentially the same in core philosophy.
Yes, rhetoric differs, they support different classes of people, but both are reactionary, illiberal and support the use of the state to suppress their enemies and feather the beds of their friends.

They are both opposed to individual freedom, and see society as a means to obtain their own ends rather than freeing people to make the most of their lives.

Live as we say, not as we do, is their mantra.

Labour do not wish to protect the weak, they are exploiting and suffocating the weak, under the pretense of protecting them. They weaken the working classes to ensure their patronage. In this they collude with the Tories.

3:17 pm, June 16, 2008

Anonymous albert shanker said...

matt severn should think about what Miller 2.0 has said - instead of hyperbole, the greatest attack on our civil liberties was the refusal of Tory governments not to incorporate the ECHR into our law. Subseqent legislation (even this) must be seen as in conformity with it.

Labour ensured that the ECHR could be action in our courts - Labour has also proposed 42 days: an example of a government concerned both about our rights (extending them) and our security.

3:17 pm, June 16, 2008

Anonymous Hooray Henry said...

The Tories' stance as champions of civil liberties and freedom of speech sounds laughable coming from the party that gagged Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness every time they opened their mouths in public.

3:18 pm, June 16, 2008

Blogger snowflake5 said...

The Conservative Manifesto of 1997 promised more CCTV and was boasting about the DNA database that John major had set up - and Davis ran on this manifesto and was elected - which means presumably his constituents agreed with it?

PS Note that Davis still hasn't applied for the Chiltern Hundreds, without which a writ can't be moved for the by-election. Not sure why he is dithering. But as things stand, he is still an MP.

3:39 pm, June 16, 2008

Anonymous Podolanski said...

I would take no lectures from the Tories on civil liberties.

Dont even need to go back more than 40 years to see The Tories and interment..... how they delt with the miners in the 80s


The list goes on

I will take no advice from a cloth cap Tory who claims to be ex-SAS, but then again Jack London was right - David Davis is the perfect example of the scab!

David Davis - A definition

After God had finished the rattlesnake, the toad, and the vampire, he had some awful substance left with which he made a scab.

A scab is a two-legged animal with a corkscrew soul, a water brain, a combination backbone of jelly and glue.

Where others have hearts, he carries a tumor of rotten principles.

When a scab comes down the street, men turn their backs and angels weep in heaven, and the devil shuts the gates of hell to keep him out.

No man (or woman) has a right to scab so long as there is a pool of water to drown his carcass in, or a rope long enough to hang his body with.

Judas was a gentleman compared with a scab. For betraying his master, he had character enough to hang himself. A scab has not.

Esau sold his birthright for a mess of pottage.

Judas sold his Savior for thirty pieces of silver.

Benedict Arnold sold his country for a promise of a commision in the british army.

The scab sells his birthright, country, his wife, his children and his fellowmen for an unfulfilled promise from his employer.

Esau was a traitor to himself; Judas was a traitor to his God; Benedict Arnold was a traitor to his country.

A scab is a traitor to his God, his country, his family and his class

4:10 pm, June 16, 2008

Blogger Duncan Hall said...

Interesting thoughts on scabs (I've read them before somewhere, though I forget where) - but what makes David Davis a scab? I can think of lots of other words for him...

4:46 pm, June 16, 2008

Anonymous matt severn said...

podolanski- maybe, just maybe, a 'scab' is just someone who wants to work and earn money.

And that's fairly off topic anyway.

I'm glad that Labour gave us the the ECHR, but that doesn't excuse or explain their plan to lock up members of the public, many of whom will be innocent or guilty only of thought crime, for a lengthy period of time. That is an unjustifiable assault on traditional English liberties.

5:56 pm, June 16, 2008

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Benedict Arnold sold his country for a promise of a commision in the british army.


Benedict Arnold was a patriot who believed and acted in the best interests of his fellow countrymen.

In view of the engrained hatred of all things american by the loadmouthed left I am sure my alternative is much more aceptable.


7:38 pm, June 16, 2008

Anonymous Rich said...

I agree I think in the same situation the conservatives would also be looking to extend detention period. But this highlights what I have been saying all along. There are other people pulling the strings of power.

But this is no reason for the electorate to accept this type of authoritarian government. If a government won't listen then the only other option is to remove them. The Conservatives are clearly the only party that can do this.

The problem with party loyalists is that they are blinded by their loyality. Because it's Labour then it must be ok syndrome. Luke if this conservatives were in power you saying just this. I'm sorry I don't care how you package this I don't want my civil liberties being changed because of a minority of nut cases wanting to blow them selves up.

If we start changing our laws or the way we live then the terrorists have won. This is exactly what they want us to do. I'm more than willing to live with the risk of terrorism to show the world I'm not scared or intimated by such acts. I'm British and this is a very British way of dealing with this.

Have a nice cup of tea and don't worry about it.

9:49 pm, June 16, 2008

Blogger tory boys never grow up said...

And you forgot their hero talking about the "enemy within" and "is he one of us", their initial opposition to votes for women, their appeasement of Hitler. In fact, I struggle to think of single significant advance in British liberties which the Tories did not initially oppose - and the fact that you can go back for hundreds of years is neither hear or there.

If anyone seriously believes that a Tory government would turn down requests from the authorities for additional powers, let alone go through the agonising process that the Government is now going through in order to try and find a balance, then perhaps they should look at the recent history with the PTA or even with small measures like money laundering when they offered no resistance whatsoever to what was requested.

That said, I still don't think that it is right to measure ourselves by the deplorably low standards set by the Tories. I accept that something may have to be done to provide the authorities with more time to bring a case against suspected terrorists (the word of Alec Carlile is enough for me)- but I am not sure that increasing the amount of time we lock people should be the only answer - if you look at the rest of the world there are all sorts of otehr ways of addressing the problem (although I somehow doubt that the 4 year detantion without trial period favoured by the French will be much of a runner). Given the House of Lords 42 days isn't going to happen and perhaps now is the time to looking to see if there are other ways of achieving the same goal. And wouldn't such a compromise with the House of Lords also make DD look rather silly.

10:44 pm, June 16, 2008

Anonymous Anonymous said...

FFS Lord Liverpool and appeasement?

On the same basis we could argue that Luke is a socialist because he's a member of a party that was socialist in the 40s.

But as we all know he, and the party leadership, are all Thatcherites.

Ah well that's that down the swanee.

10:57 pm, June 16, 2008

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

David Davis, David Cameron, every one of them, when they were deciding what their politics were took a concious decision, confronted with "do I join the party that has always stood for the bosses and the ruling classes or the one fighting for a health service and a welfare state and founded by the unions", to go with the former. That tells you everything you need to know about what motivates both of them - particularly as both were enthusiastic followers of Margaret Thatcher in her pomp when, less than 20 years ago, she was more or less destroying working class communities in this country.

I don't know how anyone can be an MP for a party with the disgusting history of the Tories and sleep at night.

11:13 pm, June 16, 2008

Blogger Merseymike said...

But that's all very well as a bit of tub-thumping, Luke, and I certainly think, as do most workerists, that you have a strong emotional link to Labour and its origins.

The problem is that in terms of actual policy, despite its history, Labour have now moved across the political spectrum and doing many things which would have previously been associated with the Tories.

Being workerist is not in itself left-wing. Peronism and Fianna Fail are both workerist in their orientation. Essentially, I think your politics are populist, not social democratic.

10:17 am, June 17, 2008

Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a wonderful effusion of the historical case for the indefinite continuation of the conduct of this Government. Truly, our benevolent leaders are worthy of such kind comparison to their political ancestors! Long may we stay within their paternalist protection.

And this blog post! It really is the stuff of academic dreams! It not only betrays the writer's knowledge of historical fact, but his understanding of the reading of history itself. Surely, he has engaged in a long and noble study of a huge range of historiographical writing.

I feel sure that this brief piece will form the genesis of perhaps the greatest single study of history. I also think such a work would bring the absolutely unprecedented revelation of is right and who is wrong in public life, now and forever more.

I would humbly like to make one suggestion to the greatest historian of the future for his masterpiece. He could legitimately, reasonably and justifiably smear current members of the two largest current British opposition parties with the charge of supporting the African slave trade as well!

Following some other comments which I have browsed, I would also like to register the observation that if you fly any plane near a nuclear power station in Britain it will be shot down.

11:43 am, June 17, 2008

Blogger transfattyacid said...

You could have come up with a better list than that surely - Catholic emanciaption, Napoleanic wars (yeah like the French republic was a forward thinking regime - didn't they imprison Thomas Paine?)

The fact is that it is a plague on both your houses, and since Labour is the governing party and it is railroading through anti-libertarin legislation it is not enough to resort to yah-boo politics in the hope that mud sticks and Labour can somehow claim the high ground of oppositional interpretation.

1:27 pm, June 17, 2008

Blogger Ravi Gopaul said...

Sorry just to go back onto the Benedict Arnold point; yanks believe he is the epitome of a traitor (although his leadership of the continental army during the war of independence prior to West Point was exemplary), so I don't understand Gareth's point about bellicose left wing rhetoric.

If we compare Arnold to Davis there really is no comparison as he still holds himself to be a Tory.

With regard duplicity and why folk join the Tories I have to say I am sympathetic with Luke point of view on this; however as Mike states is Luke really a social democrat? Some of his views certainly don't mirror mainstream democratic socialism to me, although I have seen some chinks of red which he occasionally flashes, so maybe he is in denial.

By the way I think Mrs Thatcher was wrong (among other things) over right to buy and also over the assisted place scheme (of which I too benefited). My view is everyone should have the same decent education Luke and I had.

My view is that taxpayer’s money might have been better spent on improving state schools rather than subsidising private ones.

1:51 pm, June 17, 2008

Blogger robr said...

I know Luke lists Orwell as his favorite writer, but please understand that when he wrote "War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength" it was not something he was advocating.

2:15 pm, June 17, 2008

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very good post - spot on.

9:54 pm, June 17, 2008

Blogger Left Lib said...

I am amazed that you blame the modern day Lib Dems for the treatment of the Tolpuddle Martyrs!
We all know you hate the Lib Dems but to attack them in these grounds is comical. It is like blaming Labour for Stalinism because that is what the Webbs supported.
I wouldn't be surprised if the Tolpuddle Martyrs would not fall foul of New Labour's anti-terrorism laws in much the same way that Walter Wolfgang chap got arrested at a Labour conference for shouting the word rubbish!
It is hard to imagine that in Tony Blair's bedroom between the posters of his idols Rupert Murdoch and president Bush he would hang up a painting of the Tolpuddle Martyrs!
I think the reference to the Tolpuddle Martyrs simply shows the desperation by which you want to attack the Lib Dems. On civil liberties they are the only post war political party to consistently stick to their principles and support them.

5:05 pm, June 18, 2008

Anonymous bill said...

@Left lib

I disagree. I think this post is a timely reminder of the Lib Dems' link with their Whiggish past.

When can we expect to hear Nick Clegg coming clean about his party's role in the Popish Plot? Also - given that the Whigs emerged in the 1660s, out of the puritan and republican political milieux of the previous two decades - what are Clegg's true opinions about maypoles, playhouses and the celebration of Christmas?

We want answers, and we want them now.

11:36 pm, June 18, 2008

Anonymous John A Thomson said...

Someone needs to tell Gordie and his croonies that "1984" was a work of fiction. It isn't an instruction manual for government.

As for your argument about recent history... it is the Labour Government that has taken the exact legacy you so despise and cranked the volume up to ten!

12:29 am, June 24, 2008


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