If there’s one thing we know in the press office it’s that good news doesn’t sell papers. We try not to let this get us down – as Jerry Seinfeld said, it's amazing that the amount of news that happens in the world every day always just exactly fits the newspaper. So you might not have heard, but this week has been one of victories here at Liberty HQ.
In less than a week, more than 9,000 of you took the time to sign Liberty and Kalayaan’s petition calling on Peers to back an amendment to the Modern Slavery Bill that would allow vulnerable workers to escape abusive employers by axing the deeply flawed tied visa system.
Principles can be tricky things, can’t they? We all have values we think are terribly important - until we have to act on them. Perhaps speaking up would cost us a seat on the train, a friendship or even our job – and if we’re honest whatever the price is, it’s often a bit too high.
After years of feet dragging by the Ministry of Defence, a committee of MPs seized their opportunity last week and voted to change the Armed Forces Bill to ensure that our service men and women can access an independent and impartial decision-maker should they wish to make a complaint about their lives in the forces.
However, the Government opposes granting the new Service Complaints Ombudsman the power to investigate these complaints.
Ernest Hemingway said ‘most people never listen’ – and perhaps we could all be a bit better at it. Including the Government, who’ve been sticking their fingers in their ears for ten years over prisoner voting. I know this is an emotive issue but let’s stick to the facts of what the European Court of Human Rights has (and hasn’t) said.
"Judicial authorisation must be obtained in all cases where communications data is ought to determine the source of journalistic information." So advises Sir Paul Kennedy, the Interception of Communications Commissioner, following his inquiry into police use of RIPA to access journalists’ sources.
It’s funny how ‘nothing to hide, nothing to fear’ only ever seems to work one-way. I can’t remember when the Government has ever applied it to themselves – and certainly not during my time as Media Director.
The fundamental human right to vote is one for which many have died, and others continue to strive – much like all of our precious rights and freedoms. It underlies our equality – giving each of us the chance to be part of democratic decision-making, and the opportunity to be heard. It’s too important to take for granted, and well worth claiming.
The past two weeks alone have seen the Ministry of Justice preside over damaging changes to judicial review, the loss by the department of important records concerning the fatal police shootings of three men, and the quiet reversal of the much-criticised prisoner book ban. But the latest devastating critique of the department’s failings comes from a new source – Margaret Hodge and the Public Accounts Committee.
In the Liberty press office we’ve yet to see a week through without the Human Rights Act appearing in the media. We’ve all seen the stories about how it’s the root of almost every social ill from terrorism and crime to the recession and global warming*. This negative reporting can often be overwhelming and it’s easy to forget the positive work that we see the legislation used for every day.