THE LAST DITCH An Englishman returned after twenty years abroad blogs about liberty in Britain
The blame shifters
The quote (and the smear) of the campaign

The Dog That Didn't Bark

The Magistrate's Blog: The Dog That Didn't Bark In The Night.

I rarely agree with Bystander at The Magistrate's Blog. He has those moral calluses that policemen, magistrates and judges acquire from long labour at the coal face of justice. He tends to see everyone as a potential offender and is particularly unfond of motorists. Yesterday, however, he made a good point; one also made by Henry Porter in his foxhole behind enemy lines at The Guardian;

What is worrying is the chill that has descended on civil liberties, as though freedom was some minority issue for eccentrics, rather than the oxygen of democracy. The failure of the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats to raise the attack on liberties by the Labour party and so signal its vital importance to the electorate is one of the more depressing aspects of the last few weeks.

Poor dear Henry underestimates the issue. Freedom is not subordinate to democracy. Democracy is of no value unless it serves to protect freedom. It can sometimes be better to be a subject of a tyrannical but limited monarchy than a citizen of a big State kleptocratic democracy.

Labour's worst crime has been its onslaught on Liberty. Five long years and thousands of words ago, that onslaught inspired me to start this blog. This election is a disappointment to me in so many ways, but the key one is this. For all that Labour has done, Liberty is not an election issue.

Our infantilised electorate has been under the clumsy care of Mother State for so long that the bars of its play pen have become its horizon. As Bystander says, echoing Porter;

As the General Election campaign enters its last week there has been little or no mention of one of the most significant legacies of the New Labour years; the erosion of liberty and the increasingly authoritarian way in which we are governed.

He goes on to make the interesting point, of which I was only vaguely aware, that thousands of new crimes are largely enforced not by the courts but by legions of public servants;

Only about half of the so-called 'Offences Brought to Justice' ever get to court, as a succession of hardline Home Secretaries have preferred to allow the police the CPS and other bodies to impose sanctions out of the public gaze, behind closed doors. Now, incredibly, even night club doormen are being allowed to hand out fixed penalties. Civil Enforcement of parking regulations means that your only appeal against a decision is to an adjudicator, and if he is not on your side, that's it - no further avenues are open. Proportionality has gone out of the window. Jumping a red traffic light, an offence that can in some circumstances kill people, carries a fixed penalty of £60. Overfilling your dustbin will attract a fine of £100 or more from some councils; where's the logic in that?

The logic is simple, Bystander. It's not about the command given, but the response. These offences are not about restraining wrongs at all. They are about training citizens to instant obedience, and state servants to command. The more illogical, for that purpose, the better. When you call your dog to heel, do you want him to consider why? Labour only knows that the state, when guided by it, knows best. In its view, that's all we need to know. To question is to be insubordinate.

I began to blog as a disillusioned Conservative. I could not understand why my then party was no longer making the case for freedom. Blogging introduced me to a band of others who believe the state should be subordinate to the citizen, but we are few, far apart and often more inclined to bicker than to unite against tyranny. I fear we may have achieved nothing but to give some future Stasi a convenient list of doors upon which to knock in the night.

Consider the language of election coverage. According to our press (and Bystander) we are choosing who will "govern" or even "rule" us. Consider the key issues; they are all to do with the performance of the State, not its size or scope. The children want a newer, stronger playpen and more and brighter toys. They don't care how mummy affords them and they certainly have no desire or inclination to grow up and buy their own. I may yet have the satisfaction of outliving the Labour Party, but I despair of outliving its evils.


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Colin Campbell

I just watch The Bill and see how easy it is for police to track people with what seems to be CCTV in every lane. It would make me want to live on a deserted island.


Tom Paine, you have the right of it. And blind steve, well said indeed.

And tom, thank you for confirming my feelings about Bystanders writings and many of the comments there. I see much right, but I am very uncomfortable with the blind and enthusiastic enforcement of the writ, rather than the upholding of the law.

Do you think long spells spent in foreign climes under different jurisdictions and compulsions contribute to this?


Thank you for posting that.

blind steve

I fear we may have achieved nothing but to give some future Stasi a convenient list of doors upon which to knock in the night.

Were it not for blogs like yours I would still be sitting fecklessly in front of newsnight screaming at the idiots that are supposed to represent me in nameless rage.

Knowing that the rage has a name, and that it is not mine alone to bear has cheered me up no end. Truly.

Young Mr. Brown

Thanks, Tom for that.

I suspect the answer to the question "Why do the Tories and the LibDems not attack the Labour Party on its record on civil liberties?" is not just "Because the electorate are not that bothered" - though that is part of it.

The other part of it is that "The Conservative Party and Liberal Democrats don't think that Labour's record is that bad - because they aren't really bothered about civil liberties either."


When a society becomes corrupt, immoral and incompetent it is possible to measure how degenerate that society has become by the amount of legislation that is on the statute books. Every law whatever it is erodes an individual's liberty but for the common good individuals give up some their liberties willingly. Libertarians want to go back to that position and wonder why they cannot and why the bulk of society wont endorse that position. The answer is fear, society when it has arrived at state of degeneracy can only protect itself by enacting more and more laws and draconian enforcement of those laws. The fear is any relaxation or repealing of those laws will lead to unrestrained aggression to the individual or the individual's property. They are right of course, so to regain individual freedoms it is necessary to correct the ills that assail society first. When that is done laws can be relaxed or repealed and individual freedoms will follow automatically.


Talking with a Lib Dem campaigner, he said that Civil Liberties just doesn't resonate with the average voter on the doorstep (and nor do Environmental issues either by the way). So, despite them having the clearest principles on civil liberties in their manifesto, the Lib Dems have never chosen to try and make it a central issue - because they believe that people would just switch off. How sad is it that the results of 13 years of Labour authoritarianism (following 18 years of Tory authoritarianism) have become so accepted by the majority?

Mark Hendy

Powerful words indeed. Know this. You are not alone.

Dick Puddlecote

You're on top form this week, Tom.

Spot on here, again. The other day the BBC touted in the morning that Cameron would be majoring on civil liberties, but there was barely a mention of the subject. Like you, I find myself baffled as to why objection isn't stronger. All around me I see people totally blase about the fact that one liberty after another is being taken from them. They notice it is happening but either feel the state is too powerful to challenge or are too lazy to bother.

Prior to the election campaign, Tory supporters were saying that Cameron couldn't mention such issues until the election had been called as Labour would steal the policies. Here we are with just a week left and still no word. Now they tell me Cameron will address the situation once he gets in and that saying anything now would harm his election chances.

The fact is that no party plans to do anything more than tinkering around the edges. It's a very scary situation.

Kevyn Bodman

The response by the Conservatives and the Liberal Demiocrats to the erosion of civil liberties has been pitiful indeed.

You are right, it's about who gives orders and who obeys. It's about compliance.

And it's not just the state in its overt forms:government,local authorities,police etc.
Security theatre at airports, conducted by 'private' companies is partly about getting people used to being lined up and told when and where to stand and move.

I say 'private' with the modifying inverted commas because although they might be private they are not free to change their practices; if they didn't fit in they'd soon lose their contracts.

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