Partial Transcript from London, #1

We will be posting partial transcripts from London throughout the day – the first part follows below, containing the opening of the initial keynote address.

The draft transcript which follows is unedited or requires further editing. It is provided to the client strictly on the understanding that it may contain errors. In particular, it should NOT be considered a complete or correct record of proceedings.

ANTHONY BARNETT:  I want to say 2 things.  First we live in a media dominated age.  And the media demand what you can call the personification of argument, they call it celebrity.  (inaudible) to reason.  They are desperate to — so what you say may will be very important.  But if the media decided yesterday’s story then may you have to forget it.  And this is an issue of which we are going to find in the weeks and months ahead.  And this creates a tremendous pressure on campaigners.  Who have to stick to their ground insisting on the same message.  Shami has been exemplary on taking on that pressure she has given a fundamental message, personality and life and become an awesome communicator in the need for humans right.


      We are all in her debt.  Thank you, Shami.  Second she heads Liberty, it is 75 this year as it says on the convention website, happy birthday to Liberty.  In the hunger marches down the road from here in central London in 1934 the NCCL was created in response to protect our freedoms.  So it will be more appropriate that today’s head of Liberty should open the new battle on the fundamental rights and freedoms.  Thank you Shami.


SHAMI CHAKRABATI:  Thank you very much I.  Am not going to gay good morning citizens for many reasons which will become apparent.  Not least because I am not here to check your IDs and see what immigration status you hold, but I am going to take the greatest pleasure in welcoming you to this convention, to this one day coming together of so many individuals and organisations for debate and celebration of dissent nod such a bad thing I am sure you will all agree.


      Let’s not turn this into an Oscar speech but some thanks are due.  Too many people to thank individually but certainly for Henry Porter and his team of organisers.  (applause).


      To all the many individuals and organisations who have worked so hard towards this event but if I may say so special thanks to my friend Phil Booth and No2ID.




I know many of you have come together with particular concerns about intrusion on privacy and the rise of surveillance state or to coin a state now famous by guy Herbert, also NO2ID, the surveillance, database state /If you’re looking for an umbrella coalition to deal with disproportionate surveillance and unwarranted surveillance and unwarranted rice of database state,—- 2004. I have been asked as I am sure many of you have, about this immunity business. A friend of mine asked me to say whether modern was to be to Liberty what new had become to Labour. Imagine my delight at that. So perhaps, old Liberty would say, no, no to 42 days and Modern Liberty would say it may be (inaudible).. May be old Liberty would say NO2ID and Modern Liberty could say may be just for foreigners or kids are this and that group of people, not me. Perhaps this is unfortunately more – old Liberty defends human rights or and Modern Liberty would attract the Human Rights Act . I say no, what do you say?  Sorry?  Perhaps we could have old Liberty, Modern Liberty, provisional Liberty?  Qualified Liberty, occasional Liberty – no, this is not the enterprise. Okay?  What we are is a group of concerned people and organisations huge differences between us perhaps when it comes to priorities and even some of the policies that are necessary, to deal with some serious problems of security, and other societal concerns and we can come together in the spirit of debate, and democratic descent, not all of agree about anything because we don’t have to – we are not a political party, we are not a new organisation but we come out of a shared concern at what has been lost. And what could yet be lost if we don’t join in this process of waking up Britain and waking up ourselves .  


You know, the former Government chief scientist, the wonderful man, Professor sir David King – you may have heard of him – he was on the TV for years and years with an warning about climate change and mad cows and mad all sorts of things. He once told me a story about frogs. I’m not sure if it is scientific basis but I found it wonderful metaphor for what we are dealing with today., Vegetarians please avert  your ears. Oh my God the whole room is now ….    


Vegetarians please avert your ears. Apparently it is said by the former Government chief scientist if you introduce live frogs into a sauce pan of boiling water, they very sensibly and instinctively jump out and save their skins. If on the other hand, you introduce same said live frogs to a pan of room temperature or tepid water and gently apply heat, the frogs will splash around and have a merry time and feel warmer and happier and gently and slowly boil to death .  


That ladies and gentlemen, is how freedom dies .  


Not with a bang, but a whimper. Not because someone called it a police state one day and someone else set that up as a man of straw and knocked it down, but because slowly and complacently we give too much away and we don’t come forward with a positive framework of what we are for rather than what we are against. A lot has been lost in the last ten to 15 years, no question. Fair trials, compromised, sometimes out of existence. We are heading for perhaps the 8th year of punishment without trial in Britain as next week the Government asks Parliament to renew control order that allow people to be individually punished by house arrest without charge offer trial. That is just terror suspects. Let alone the dilutions to normal trial procedures and quasy trial procedures applied by ASBOs to kid and so on. You know speech and peaceful process has been hindered. I never thought this would be country where people could be arrested for standing at the Cenotaph and reading out the names of the dead that died in the war. Many of you have come here to day with your concern of what has been lost in terms of personal privacy. Today if you think you can hold your privacy in your left-hand and the rest of the human rights framework in your right hand choose one over the other, I give you one vital achievement for the human rights convention and those of us using human rights laws to battle for our privacy everyday and that is the case of S v. malper against chief Constable of West Midlands and against the UK Government. there is nothing in the Magna Carta against personal privacy. Wonderful instrument though it may be it’s very much of its time. It protected your right to be charged promptly but there was nothing in there about personal privacy we took our privacy for granted in the oldest unbroken democracy on earth. Even our wonderful law Lord’s represented I am glad to say here today by that hugely respected senior law Lord, Lord Bingham, even our law Lord’s did not realise what was at stake and what was so dangerous and wrong about a database growing by day, by stealth, DNA, the most intimate material that can be held about all of us, innocent children, over a million innocent children, innocent adults who have never even been charged let alone convicted of a criminal offence, this database, with no public debate no popper Parliamentary authority, growing by the day. In Britain it was thought this did not matter. It the took a European court, a human rights, including Continental people with memories of the Nazis and the Stazis to understand how dangerous that database could be. Anyone who thinks you can have privacy without human rights is, frankly, bonkers .  


Sad though it is to say it, in this war on terror, in this age of compromising a few fair trials here , a bit of free speech there and so much personal privacy, ID guards snooping powers used and abused to police school catchment areas when they were told to us in the name of the war on terror, we have got now even compromising on the one non-negotiable principle the entire framework, the right not to be tortured    


You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

Leave a Reply