Why Labour is Bad for Your Freedom

What distinguishes the Lib Dem Party over the other major parties is our firm commitment to civil liberties. Last year the Lib Dems proposed a detailed Freedom Bill which sought to restore many of our rights which have been taken away by successive governments.

But my purpose is not to focus on the national level. I will not write of the countless people who have had their privacy invaded by being spied on; the individuals detained without trial at Belmarsh maximum security prison under immigration laws; the detainees tortured with the connivance of MI5 and MI6. I am instead writing of how Haringey Council has infringed its inhabitant's civil liberties and why we need the Lib Dem Freedom Bill to be adopted to redress the terrible erosion of civil liberties in this country. Haringey Council has signed up to two programs - one funding stream and the other legislative.

Haringey Council has signed up to the Prevent program which aims to deal with radicalised youths usually of Muslim persuasion. There is nothing wrong with trying to defeat "terrorism" - the killing of civilians for political purposes but you need to address the causes which give rise to people wanting to commit acts of terrorism. In none of the Prevent literature do I read anything about British involvement in the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan, their continued occupation or the support of the Israeli government in their oppression of Palestinians. No, what we get is a classic counterintelligence operation which threatens anybody who believes in Freedom of Speech. It is a pity that Haringey Council has signed up for this project as it co-opts councillors into "a war of terror" agenda with all its negative aspects.

At a recent meeting of the Haringey Prevent Panel in September 2009 steps were put in motion to begin surveillance of young Muslims and to cooperate with the police by informing on those who are liable to be radicalised. As the Guardian stated on 17 October 2009 - "The government program aimed at preventing Muslims from being lured into violent extremism is being used to gather intelligence about innocent people who are not suspected of involvement in terrorism"; Shami Chakrabati director of Libert}' branded it the biggest spying programme in Britain in modern times and an affront to civil liberties.

This Prevent program can only undermine all the valiant efforts at community development put in by neighbourhood and community development workers. The money spent on Prevent could be better spent on putting police on the beat.

But Prevent is not the only guise on which Haringey Council spies on its inhabitants. Haringey Council has made use of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act. This Act when it was first passed only allowed 9 organizations such as the Police and Security Services to utilise its powers. Now nearly 800 public bodies including councils utilise its provisions to spy - it has become known as the "snooper's charter." Instead of been used for serious offences such as murder it instead has been used for trivial offences such as fly tipping etc.

Freedom of Information Act requests by me in 2008 have revealed that Haringey Council had used RIPA at least 85 times since 2001. If you examine what the Act had been used for we find that the council had not used it for serious offences akin to murder but instead had utilised it for identifying unlicensed traders and counterfeit goods as well as persons engaging in anti-social behaviour. Some other councils have while continuing to use RIPA introduced new levels of scrutiny and accountability by involving their overview and scrutiny committees something which Haringey Council has failed to do.

Haringey voters have an opportunity on May 6th to elect a Party which places their faith in our basic human rights which have been so trampled on over the last decade. Terror will not be defeated if we give up our values.