De-toxifying the Labour brand on civil liberties

June 22, 2011 6:30 pm

dnaBy Darrell Goodliffe

Speaking just as he had been elected leader, Ed Miliband had this to say:

“We must always remember that British liberties were hard fought and hard won over hundreds of years. We should always take the greatest care in protecting them. And too often we seemed casual about them.”

Today, at Prime Minister’s Question, Ed demanded of David Cameron that innocent people’s DNA be kept on the DNA database in the mistaken belief this would lead to an increase in convictions for rape. I say innocent, because these people have been tested but not been charged – now, under our legal system since they have not even been charged (let alone convicted) they are without a shadow of a doubt considered innocent. In actual fact, even those charged are innocent, until proven guilty.This is as it should be, a legal system should presume innocence, not guilt. I can’t think of any way a legal system that presumes guilt would not be a totalitarian, dictatorial one which would be a cruel mockery of justice. So, Ed is fundamentally wrong and setting himself up against a fundamental principle that governs our legal system. In arguing for these people’s DNA to be stored, he is by logical implication arguing that guilt, not innocence should be presumed.

Of course, he is quite right that it is a scandal that any rape goes unpunished but he is simply not thinking about other possible causes of this problem such as social stigma, lack of proper support from the authorities and others in society for victims. Unsurprisingly then that in a completely knee-jerk fashion he reaches for a solution which would make the problem worse – which would see the innocent stigmatised and those who are victims pressured even further to actually keep quiet lest they damage innocent people.

Civil liberties is one of those issues that helped make the Labour brand toxic, especially amongst those who de-camped to the Liberal Democrats. It said to people that rather than a balanced view of how we use the state, we thought the state should have unlimited power in every area. It showed that we couldn’t think innovatively about problems and that the solution was always mindless state activism and unlimited state imposition on peoples lives.

Therefore, it follows that part of the detoxification process when it comes to Labour’s brand identity is a overhaul of our attitude to civil liberty issues. This is something that was promised by the current leadership but, if today is anything to go by, is unlikely to materialise.

Maybe Ed should go through some of his old speeches because on this, like other issues, it seems he has caught the u-turning bug off of David Cameron.

If we are serious about detoxifying the Labour brand, this is as good an issue as any to start with.

Comments are closed

Latest

  • Featured Scotland “I’m standing for First Minister of Scotland and I intend to win”: Jim Murphy joins Scottish Labour leadership race

    “I’m standing for First Minister of Scotland and I intend to win”: Jim Murphy joins Scottish Labour leadership race

    We now have three candidates for Scottish Labour leader, as Jim Murphy’s long-awaited candidacy has been confirmed. The Shadow International Development Secretary and former Scotland Secretary released a statement this evening, saying that his intention is to be Scottish Labour leader and First Minister: “I’m standing for First Minister of Scotland and I intend to win. I want to bring Scotland back together after the referendum. There is so much to be proud of in Scotland but so much we […]

    Read more →
  • Comment I’m not upset about Cameron’s refusal to wear a t-shirt – it’s everything else that gets me

    I’m not upset about Cameron’s refusal to wear a t-shirt – it’s everything else that gets me

    On Monday the news broke that David Cameron has repeatedly refused a request by Elle magazine to be photographed wearing a t-shirt. Why? Because on it, the t-shirt says “This is what a feminist looks like”. There have been a catalogue of ideas floated since about why he might not have done it – “It’s only a mag campaign” or “You shouldn’t dress up the Prime Minister”, say. But really, it’s not important that it was a request from a […]

    Read more →
  • News Scotland Anas Sarwar: We shouldn’t allow the SNP to “talk left and act right”

    Anas Sarwar: We shouldn’t allow the SNP to “talk left and act right”

    Interim Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar may have formally declared that he will not be entering the race to succeed Johann Lamont, but that has not stopped him analysing where Labour have failed in Scotland over the past few years. In an interview the the Huffington Post, Sarwar identifies the perception that the SNP are more left wing as a problem – even if that belief is misplaced. He said: “The SNP have been allowed to wear our clothes and talk left […]

    Read more →
  • Comment PMQs verdict: What have we learned? That Westminster has tried and failed to control immigration?

    PMQs verdict: What have we learned? That Westminster has tried and failed to control immigration?

    You could tell early on that PMQs was going to be…different, this week. The Prime Minister was sat in his seat like a coiled spring. On the Labour benches opposite, Harriet Harman was wearing a t-shirt reading “This is what a feminist looks like”. Cameron had refused five times to be photographed wearing the same t-shirt, so it was clearly intended to rile him. In reality it simply looked like a stunt, and appeared to have no impact on the […]

    Read more →
  • Featured News Scotland Neil Findlay confirms he is standing for Scottish Labour leader

    Neil Findlay confirms he is standing for Scottish Labour leader

    Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary in the Scottish Parliament, Neil Findlay, has announced his intention to run for leader of the Scottish Labour Party. Findlay’s name has been among the list of potential candidates since Johann Lamont stood down on Friday. There were rumours this morning that Findlay was reconsidering whether to stand following the surprise declaration of Sarah Boyack yesterday. In a statement this lunchtime, however, Findlay says Gordon Brown was the candidate he would not have wanted to run […]

    Read more →