Common Values in Government: Liberty’s event at the Conservative Party conference

04 October 2010
Bella Sankey, Liberty Policy Director

We rounded off Liberty's Party conference season last night by thanking our panellists - Attorney General Dominic Grieve and Lord Chancellor Ken Clarke - for a good start on civil liberties since taking office.

Shami applauded the fact that her elderly mother won't be compelled to share biometric data with the authorities and her son won't be added to an enormous children's database.

She welcomed 'two of the most admirable people in politics' to our Conservative Party event, "Common Values in Government."

 Engaging and good-humoured discussion followed during which the Attorney and Lord Chancellor were challenged to honour commitments made in opposition to end the unfair, unsafe control order regime.

Both panellists acknowledged the challenges of balancing freedom with national security and spoke of a need to avoid knee jerk, headline-grabbing reactions to the terror threat. They also agreed that a genuine commitment to civil liberties has to be at the heart of the coalition - the 'noble glue' binding it together.

The Attorney was optimistic about the Government's ability to withstand the pressure of events, pointing to its measured response to the shootings in Cumbria as a good example. Further, both speakers were clear that fundamental freedoms applied to everyone in Britain- not just citizens.

A wide-ranging Q and A session covered such diverse topics as the Torture Inquiry, prison reform, legal aid, speech offences and the importance of personal privacy. The Lord Chancellor laughed off jibes from his outgoing shadow on prison reform. "O Jack, Jack, Jack! ... I didn't think he believed half his rhetoric in office and I certainly don't think he does now."

However, the key commitment of the evening came when the Lord Chancellor asked Liberty to be sure to hold the coalition to account as we did the Labour Government. 'Lord Chancellor' Shami responded with a grin, 'We most certainly will!'