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 Nearly one million people forced to use food banks in the last year

    Nearly one million people forced to use food banks in the last year

    David Cameron and his party may be claiming that the cost of living crisis is over – but perhaps they should speak to the nearly one million people who were forced to rely on emergency food aid from food banks in the past year. 913,138 adults and children received three days’ emergency food and support from Trussell Trust food banks in the last 12 months – that’s a rise of 163% on the number who were helped in the previous financial year. […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Going for the student vote: Postgraduates matter more

    Going for the student vote: Postgraduates matter more

    In a politics dominated by efforts to chase the grey vote it is nice to see a bit of electoral competition at the other end of the generational divide. As Labour weighs up what to do about tuition fees it might seem that a big offer to students could yield important gains next year at the general election, as well as shoring up any post-2010 support tempted to return to the Lib Dem fold. 40.5% of students voted Lib Dem […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Independence won’t deliver for Scottish women

    Independence won’t deliver for Scottish women

    As the referendum debate in Scotland picks up pace, there is an increased focus on how women will vote. So far, it would seem that women in Scotland are steadfastly resisting Salmond’s overtures. It’s no surprise, given that his central offer for more childcare has been dismissed by the experts, and women are starting to understand that the SNP are being led by polls and not principles. Women are asking why, if the SNP’s commitment to equal representation is real, […]

    Read more →
  • News Weekly survey: Cost of living, elections and devolution

    Weekly survey: Cost of living, elections and devolution

    Average wages are set to rise faster than prices – so is there still a cost of living crisis? Ed Balls says there is, the Tories are arguing that there isn’t. What do you think? And with the European and local elections coming up next month – how much campaigning is going on in your area? And when were you last out on the doorstep? Also in our survey – Ed Miliband has pledged to devolve at least £20 billion to be […]

    Read more →
  • News Labour have a mini reshuffle

    Labour have a mini reshuffle

    Labour have had a very mini pre-Easter reshuffle, with two new role announced. Thomas Docherty, formerly Angela Eagle’s PPS, has become Shadow Deputy Leader of the House, while Angela Smith moves from that position to become a Shadow Environment minister. Congratulations to both on their new roles.

    Read more →