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« Convention on Modern Liberty | Main | More evidence of the the "tartan taliban" »

Crowds gather for "liberal" love fest

Tomorrow the Convention on Modern Liberty meets in London having sold in the region of 1300 tickets for a wide range of events. Other co-ordinated meetings will take place across the UK, linking up via video broadcast for a variety of keynote addresses. The aim is to promote the defence of civil liberties in Britain - so my natural instinct is to wish it well. I'm reserving judgement however until I can identify clearly what its true objectives are.

The reason I am cautious is because the main sponsors include the Guardian newspaper group, the Rowntree Trust, and Open Democracy, and I'm not convinced that an event sponsored by what might be called the "progressive Left" will address those areas of civil liberties that are of special interest to Forest and The Free Society.

A lot will be said with which I agree. Many speakers will talk about the threat to our freedoms from the excessive use of CCTV and the introduction of biometric passports and ID cards and so on. But will they address other issues that matter to me and many readers of this blog - attempts, for example, to control our driving, our drinking, our eating and our smoking. I may be wrong, but looking at the programme I can't see it.

A number of libertarian-leaning Conservatives are involved in the Convention, including the likes of Iain Dale who asks HERE "How committed is the Right to civil liberties?". Good question, and one that can be applied equally to the Left. The truth is, most people are extremely selective about which civil liberties they support. (At the Conservative conference last year I was shocked to hear smokers applaud attempts to ban drinking in public parks. What were they thinking?!)

Is the involvement of people like Iain a good thing - giving the Convention some balance - or is it mere window dressing to give the event respectability (what my old boss Julian Lewis MP used to call the "figleaf syndrome")?

I'll return to the subject once the fog has lifted and we can see the outcome of the Convention more clearly. Brian Monteith is also writing an article for The Free Society website.

I genuinely hope that the event will be a force for advancing a more liberal approach to civil liberties in general ... but I have my doubts. What I fear is that we are about to witness a "liberal" love fest, a political Woodstock high on rhetoric, with Shami Chakrabarti as the carnival queen. I hope I'm wrong.

Reader Comments (6)

Valid points, Simon, but I think it's better than nothing. The fact is a lot of people are simply too apathetic about these issues, particularly in universities -- which you think would be hotbeds of dissent, but aren't.

February 27, 2009 at 22:12 | Unregistered CommenterLazy Student

I entirely share your concerns. That's why I am going. If enough real libertarians show up, maybe we can do a spot of "entryism?"

February 27, 2009 at 23:54 | Unregistered CommenterTom Paine

"What I fear is that we are about to witness a "liberal" love fest, a political Woodstock high on rhetoric, with Shami Chakrabarti as the carnival queen."

Looked like that to me too. I was a little torn, because I've donated to the NO2ID campaign in the past, and I want government policy to change, but I just don't believe it.

Labour are the British left in government. They're statist, authoritarian, and not my cup of tea. I suspect all these lefty 'civil liberty' campaigners will end up supporting Labour at the next election, whatever they say today.

February 28, 2009 at 15:30 | Unregistered CommenterDave B

Those debates on discussion at the No2ID convention have given me the shivers. What central govt are proposing to do with the citizens through even more planned big brother tactics under the guise of making it user friendly to talk to govt on line, is truly frightening.
This is even worse than what George Orwell thought possible I think.

February 28, 2009 at 20:18 | Unregistered Commenterann

A little birdie told me that a genuine libertarian turned up and was due to give a speech. They are well known in serious political blog circles but on seeing that it was a neo Marxist love in declined to profer their pearls of wisdom.

In cockney rhyming slang he thought the content was a Chieftan Tank and they were a bunch of Berkshire Hunts. The translation he used to the organisers apparently was literall.

March 1, 2009 at 0:18 | Unregistered CommenterDave Atherton

(At the Conservative conference last year I was shocked to hear smokers applaud attempts to ban drinking in public parks. What were they thinking?!)

Perhaps it was a bunch of smokers cheering on the fact that most drinkers didn't give a stuff that smokers were being denormalised, and told smokers ' to deal with it' after the smoking ban experiment was introduced.

The sad thing is they were warned they would be next, and they totally ignored the warning. So have I any sympathy for them, NO. And would I help them, NO, because if smokers did join with them and drinkers won the day they'd drop smokers as sure as night turns to day, the same as the anglers did.

The Guardian, speaking up for our freedom & liberty, haha, this from the paper that actively promoted the SBE. As for Shami Chakrabarti, she cherry picks what liberties she supports and smokers don't fit into her agenda. I know I've contacted her about it, the no reply gave me a clue. The whole lot of them are charlatan libertarians, they're only interested in their own personal agendas.

April 24, 2010 at 18:15 | Unregistered CommenterJoan

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