Shami Chakrabarti has undoubtedly done her best, but I share her disappointment at the losses "on her watch."
I think Liberty (which she leads and of which I am a member) went astray when it went into the "rights" business. The only "right" I ask for as a citizen is to be left alone, unless I interfere with that right on the part of others. I am far less interested in my rights than in my liberties. In particular, I am very interested in my civil liberties; those that protect me from the State.
Many of the things now characterised as "rights" in Britain are mere entitlements, privileges or benefits. Some are actual restrictions of other people's liberties (e.g. to protect minority groups against discrimination). They may be justified and they may be valuable, but they are not on a par with fundamental freedoms.
By trendily mixing such things with truly basic civil rights like the presumption of innocence, Liberty's members (and many others in Britain) have muddied the waters. In trying to broaden people's rights, we have unintentionally paved the way for Blair's astonishing attack on our free society.
Shami does sterling work and is a good, calm spokeswoman both for Liberty and for liberty. There is no doubt though that the organisation she leads is currently, by any objective measure, a failure. It has failed to get its message across even as New Labour has set about our fundamental liberties with utter ferocity.
Brits in America are now always asked about Blair. A colleague at my conference in Las Vegas was surprised when I simply said "I hate him." However, it took less than a minute to explain why. Any educated American understands habeas corpus. They are taught about their Constitution at school and it provides that habeas corpus shall not be repealed. When I explained that, by introducing a house arrest regime paralleled only in Cuba, North Korea and Burma, Blair had essentially abolished habeas corpus in the country that invented it, my colleague saw my point immediately.
Shami can't restrain a British Government unhindered by a Constitution. She can, however, direct more of Liberty's resources to education. Somehow we have to get the message of liberty into the propaganda factories that pass for our State schools. Until Brits understand what they have lost, there is little hope of their fighting back. Having given up what our ancestors fought for, we may have condemned our children to fight for it again.