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Liberalism in an Era of International Terrorism

Jonathan Fryer

Jonathan Fryer

Julian HuppertWhen people don’t have existential worries, it is easy to be a Liberal, Cambridge MP Julian Huppert declared at a Kensington & Chelsea LibDem “Food for Thought” this evening, but it is much more challenging to remain so in an era of international terrorism. But as Julian’s many fans in the the Party and its constituent organisations are aware, he is one parliamentarian who has continued to champion civil liberties through thick and thin, and to keep Home Secretary Theresa May on her toes. That is in complete contrast to Labour’s supine submission to the demands of the security establishment post 9/11; Jack Straw’s role during that period was particularly nauseating. And although the Coalition government replaced the hated Control Orders with a watered-down version (TPIMs), it was thanks to Liberal Democrat pressure that these new measures were softened to take into account genuine civil liberties concerns. Forced internal exile within the UK– which was often a part of Control Orders — may not have been as harsh as Soviet-style banishment to Siberia, but it still uprooted people from their communities. However, as some of today’s newspapers pointed out, because the TPIMs were introduced in January 2012 and last for a maximum of two years, a few hardened individuals will be let back into society this week. Julian opined that even if there is a certain element of risk in that — though those people will be under close surveillance — the alternative of a Labour-style suspension of important human rights would be far worse. Julian also said that the Guardian’s publication of just a tiny percentage of Edward Snowden’s revelations about the level of surveillance by the UK and US security services was for many people a wake-up call to the scale of the problem. None the less, he paid tribute to the people who work at GCHQ in Cheltenham monitoring suspect communication traffic, declaring that the majority of the staff there remain scrupulously within the Law and some of their work does indeed make Britain a safer place.

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