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What price liberty now, Mr Raab?


FOREIGN Secretary Dominic Raab holds the second most powerful office of state and is de facto deputy prime minister. In his ten-year parliamentary career he has enjoyed a dizzying rise to power. 

He cut his spurs as a human rights lawyer and was shadow home secretary David Davis’s chief of staff before becoming an MP in the 2010 general election.

Just before then, as a parliamentary candidate in 2009, he wrote a full-scale onslaught against the track record of New Labour called The Assault on Liberty

He declared: ‘The British idea of liberty, developed over 800 years . . . has been both corroded and conflated. It has been corroded by the government’s direct assault on our fundamental freedoms, including freedom of speech, the presumption of innocence and freedom from arbitrary police detention.’

He added that ‘since 1997 . . . the government has hyperactively produced more legislation than all the governments in our history combined, accumulating a vast arsenal of new legal powers and creating more than 3,000 new legal offences. As the power of the state has grown, so has the scope for abuse, whether by police officers operating under ever-increasing pressure, invisible civil servants concealed within grey bureaucracies or over-zealous council officials relishing their windfall of extended authority over residents. 

‘As our liberal democracy becomes less liberal, the government is inflicting lasting damage on the very bedrock of what it means to be British – undermining the fundamental freedoms we enjoy as citizens, our sense of fair play as a society and balances that restrain the state’s ability to interfere in our daily lives.’

Yesterday on Sky News, discussing the latest interferences in our basic liberties announced by Boris Johnson without parliamentary approval under delegated powers on the pretext that he is dealing with an alleged second wave of Covid-19 cases, Mr Raab declared: ‘We’ve always said we have got a sort of repository of measures in the arsenal to take. I don’t think we should speculate about what further could be done. But the reality is they will be more intrusive and we could end up with a national lockdown.’ 

As has been noted elsewhere, this could include banning citizens from visiting the homes of others, limit gatherings of almost every kind to six, compel pubs and restaurants to close at 10pm (even though government scientists think it will make little difference), a renewed drive to keep people working from home, the possibility of the Army being drafted in to deal with those who infringe new lockdown laws, and the creation of a national army of informants to snitch on those who break these laws.

What price now that 800-year-old British idea of liberty, Mr Raab?

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David Keighley
David Keighley
Former BBC news producer, BBC PR executive and head of corporate relations for TV-am. Director of News-watch.

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