De-toxifying the Labour brand on civil liberties

22nd June, 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


  • Comment Unions Why we joined the tens of thousands marching in Manchester

    Why we joined the tens of thousands marching in Manchester

    By Cllr Jim McMahon and Cllr Kieran Quinn If you believe the hype, Greater Manchester’s aspiration and politics is all about the “Northern Powerhouse”. As Leaders of two Greater Manchester Councils playing important roles on the GM Combined Authority, we should be at the front and centre of this Tory ideal, keenly setting out our stall to display the “Powerhouse” at conference season. So when the Tory Party Conference descended on Manchester this week you be forgiven for thinking we’d […]

    Read more →
  • News Weekly Survey: Tuition fees, London and Scotland

    Weekly Survey: Tuition fees, London and Scotland

    During the leadership election, Jeremy Corbyn declared that he would want to abolish tuition fees if he becomes Prime Minister. The policy will have to go through Labour’s policy review channels, and his campaign team calculates that it would cost around £10 billion. Do you think that Labour should commit to spending that on scrapping university fees? Zac Goldsmith has now been selected by the Tories to take on Labour’s Sadiq Khan in next year’s Mayor of London contest. What […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Reaching out to micro businesses and self-employed, the Labour Party way

    Reaching out to micro businesses and self-employed, the Labour Party way

    At the moment, it seems one of the big questions is – how Labour are you really? As we couldn’t have experienced more viscerally than since 7 May, the party that we love covers a huge spectrum of people from all walks of live, with their different experiences, perspectives and approaches. And it’s growing by the day. In an age of such frustration at politics, Jeremy Corbyn can take great heart from and credit for that. I would argue that […]

    Read more →
  • News George Osborne “doesn’t live in the real world”

    George Osborne “doesn’t live in the real world”

    George Osborne’s failure to mention the Redcar steel plant, where 1,700 workers are losing their jobs, shows that he “doesn’t live in the real world”, according to Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell. Osborne made a half hour speech at the Conservative conference in Manchester earlier today, with McDonnell slamming the Chancellor’s omission of the job losses from his address. McDonnell is today visiting Redcar with Shadow Business Secretary Angela Eagle to speak to steelworkers losing their livelihoods. “They want substantive answers […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Featured So long, Denis

    So long, Denis

    I was once writing a column about leadership and those moments when you really have to be tough and probably end up upsetting people. In my head was a phrase I was sure I had heard Denis Healey use on one occasion – that while “sometimes you may have to be a bastard you must never be a shit”. But as this column was for the FT, there was no way I was going to be allowed just to claim […]

    Read more →
Share with your friends