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

  • News MPs with links to private health shouldn’t vote on today’s NHS bill, Labour demand

    MPs with links to private health shouldn’t vote on today’s NHS bill, Labour demand

    MPs who could potentially make a financial gain from NHS privatisation should not vote on the bill Clive Efford is putting to Parliament today, according to Labour. Research released earlier this week found that 70 MPs have links to private healthcare firms – including David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt. Today’s Private Member’s Bill aims to halt privatisation in the health service by repealing sections of the Health and Social Care Act 2012 that enforce competition in […]

    Read more →
  • News Burnham remains most popular frontbencher in latest Shadow Cabinet rankings

    Burnham remains most popular frontbencher in latest Shadow Cabinet rankings

    It’s been a while since we’ve done the shadow cabinet rankings, so we thought with the minor reshuffle that happened following Jim Murphy’s resignation – and as some, including Mark Ferguson, are calling for Miliband to use his front bench team more – we’d see what LabourList readers thought of each member of the shadow cabinet. Before we take a look at the results, here’s a quick explanation of how we’ve figured out each shadow cabinet members percentage rating. We asked […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Our defeat last night shows Labour’s forgetting the politics of inclusion and compromise

    Our defeat last night shows Labour’s forgetting the politics of inclusion and compromise

    There was a moment when we could have won Rochester and Strood. Talking on doorsteps there a month back, the mood seemed to be a plague on all your houses. People weren’t sure of UKIP, lots of people saying they were divisive and opportunistic. Mark Reckless was described to me as a vain man who lives up to his name. No-one seemed to see much evidence of the Conservatives’ economic ‘recovery’. Labour wasn’t trusted. But we could have stood above […]

    Read more →
  • Featured UKIP’s Reckless win is a disaster for Cameron – but it was a painful night for Labour too

    UKIP’s Reckless win is a disaster for Cameron – but it was a painful night for Labour too

    It was another long night waiting for the results to come in from Rochester and Strood, but when they did they confirmed what was already all but expected – UKIP had won and Mark Reckless had been re-elected to Parliament. Let’s focus first on the fundamentals from the Rochester and Strood result. David Cameron has lost another by-election. A second MP has defected from his party, joined UKIP, stood against Cameron’s party and roundly thrashed him. This seat was number 271 […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Featured Emily Thornberry’s resignation – a “no cock ups” strategy or a wild over-reaction?

    Emily Thornberry’s resignation – a “no cock ups” strategy or a wild over-reaction?

    Emily Thornberry’s now infamous tweet from Rochester was clearly a fairly epic mistake – a real “What on earth were you thinking?” moment. Of course the likelihood is that Thornberry wasn’t thinking about how her tweet would be interpreted, the firestorm that would ensue or where, dramatically, the story would end – with Thornberry’s resignation from the Shadow Cabinet. The tweet appeared crass. It appeared to play into negative stereotypes about Labour MPs not understanding voters, their concerns and their lives. But […]

    Read more →