Liberty Annual Conference Liveblog

Liveblogging from Liberty’s 75th annual conference.

(edit: Some content remains on my Twitter feed but will be added to a write-up which I’ll work on in a few days)

All in all a brilliant day – notable in the three way disagreement between Jack Straw, Dominic Grieve and Lord Bingham over the Human Rights Act and the impending battle which even Shami Chakrabarti herself notes is likely to be the next big war over civil liberties and human rights in this country.

Click the link for the full liveblog. Full of drama but also some very current and relevant politics. This wasn’t a talking shop – with the Secretary of State for Justice, the former Home Secretary Jack Straw, this mattered. Read and comment if you are so moved.

1727 Great argument that control orders should be stopped before we get moving on do constitutional reform. That really needs to be circulated wider.

1723 A big celebration about the win against 42 days. Liberty did that – a timely reminder. Britain isn’t a police state – it’s a complacent one but is waking up!

1717 Democracy will eat itself without human rights.

1711 Overly glowing about Obama in Cairo. Action speaks louder than words Shami! A huge slam on Cameron too – so much of a battle to come with him.

1707 Shami really in awe of a big day, asking for a membership drive from this motivation. Ah she does self-deprecation!


1658 Kate Adie gets great laugh when she finds most delegates voted on Thursday – we’re not exactly representative of the country are we?! We’re effort makers. She’s a gay icon I tell you. Diane Abbott breaks the argument nicely on race & class grounds…

1651 Is Jon Gaunt really championing culture?! Thank you Kate Adie for balancing that out! Freeing airwaves is a dual edged sword. Oh no don’t do it Vivienne!

1640 Mark’s up now. Doesn’t sound like Milo. Rightly reminds us of the loss of public spaces and how much social debate was enabled in them. Major questions about what’s ok to bring up in art and what isn’t. Very subtle issue but so important!

1639 Actually she’s so mad I think I love her.

1636 Am a bit lost now. But Mark Titchener’s hair makes him look like Milo Ventimiglia! I may take that fantasy and run with it if this goes on…

1632 Vivienne Westwood – what point is she trying to make about human rights? She has great hair and loves Prince Charles!

1625 Gaunt triumphing Sun Radio. Oh God. It’s so not the answer.

1622 John Gaunt says he was learning about rights through having attacks on his. Alarmed at post-Ross era self-censorship reining in free speech. I’m agreeing with a Sun journo! Repeats Kampfner’s attack on BBC timidity, which really gets on my nerves for the same reason.

1615 Diane Abbott having fun at Gordo’s expense…final plenary starting. Starting with Kate Adie, bringing up freedom questions around Tianenmen anniversary. China developing and growing rapidly, changing. But still total political repression. The dissidents need our support, not just trade at all costs.


1441 Nutty control order man starts yelling again…

1439 A written constitution he says must not be the plaything of the political classes in its development.

1435 Now a woman…there are no TV cameras for them though…

1434 Conference hijacked by man under control order…

1427 Samira asks how to balance immigration & anti-terrorism. Clegg slams New Labour for it’s treatment of asylum seekers and its assumption most are bogus. He’s right – the government’s incompetent.

1424 Nick’s not answering how he could change the police. Would a public enquiry do this? He does at least argue the police need fewer powers.

1419 Great argument too for universal DNA database. Ahmed’s canny, although it ignores the likelihood that good policing does too little and could do more. Fantastic argument by Clegg about the folly of trying to eliminate risk through giant databases.

1417 Samira Ahmed’s right – how do you successfully preach to the unconverted? He replies with a waffle, suggesting Brits convert when they see outright abuses like G20 policing.

1413 ID cards are already dead he believes. Fun hearing him talking PR up – talks the German minimum vote threshold up. Impressive! Why so wordy though?

1405 Oho Tories support ID cards for foreigners?! I didn’t know. Vile. Rights must be fundamental and universal and the Tories don’t get it. They too want them conditional so can’t be trusted. Well put. A slightly overly long party political broadcast.

1400 Thatcherite centralism must be reversed. Would it be if they were in coalition? Savages first past the post – nice. Brings about disengaged government. Good word but not a terribly analytical perspective.

1353 Whitehall government causes a simplistic outlook on governance & liberty. He’s preaching to the converted though. Constitutional reform needed, a written constitution. Otherwise we rely on trust – not enough. Would have to incorporate HRA. Attacks US extradition treaty – excellent.

1351 Back to the Freedom Bill. Great Nick but FPTP won’t get you into government…

1349 People now want sweeping Obama-style change in the face of state bullying/incompetence. How to force it to happen though? Erk he’s looking to a Blairite like Purnell?!

1344 Is Nick advocating nationalism? He can’t believe the level of suppression of protest – police now agents of state not people. Nice one. No scrutiny of executive is at fault

1338 Now it’s Nick Clegg’s turn. He wants to talk about renewal, changing govt entirely to guarantee rights. Power has to leave Whitehall apparently. Good luck with that Nicky.


1243 Tony Benn brings about laughter on the cyclical nature of history. Anger against injustice and the flame of hope keep him going!

1241 Interesting that Grieve talks up the Equality Bill when his party is against it.

1235 Straw not popular but no real heckling. A rambling question about media unaccountability gives him a break.

1231 Here we go. Labour did go too far?!! But slates Grieve. Platitudes about a better balance. Crap about Freedom of Info, ignores his abuse of it!

1227 Now Straw! Bleats on about hard choices, even asylum seekers and children in detention. Huge obfuscation over asylum seeker treatment. Groans ring out. Alludes to referendum for PR, who noticed?! Keeps talking up HRA as he’s losing on every other count.

1225 Grieve warns against transferring ownership of what’s wrong to external agencies/quangos.

1222 Grieve says politicians shouldn’t interfere with police but it WAS a political issue for Smith, as was Damien Green. It’s about good governance. New Labour implicitly at fault by it’s lax views over place of governance.

1220 Maguire agrees G20 police were looking for a fight. Give police powers they’ll abuse them! Govt won’t talk HRA up when they intend to on swine flu.

1216 Macdonald demands explanation from IPCC over balaclavas and numbers removal by Met. Straw curiously applauds. Repeats 42 days was cynical game with human rights.

1215 Benn talks down referendum politics to sidestep poor political representation.

1212 Straw attacked for anti-terrorism legislation. Will he repudiate his position on 42 days/ID cards?

1207 Why change HRA? Doesn’t trust Tories to provide us with better deal from barest minimum. Huge applause again. Straw & Grieve under pressure.

1203 Yasmin Alibhai-Brown can’t understand how Sralun could be put into government. It undermines govt. Accuses Straw of being two-faced, attacking punishment of asylum seekers. Thundrous applause. Reminds us HRA failed people like Binyam Mohamed – Macdonald was wrong.

1201 Straw says New Labour opponents have moved on. Curious.

1157 Kevin Maguire says HRA horribly misrepresented. British Xenophobia at the heart of it. Human rights also seen as elitist, a rarely talked up term. Losing the argument because of opportunists like Cameron and New Labour disinterest.

1151 Ken Macdonald supports Human Rights Act & pats Straw on the back. HRA stood up after 9/11 when the US Constitution did not. Supports Grieve, suggesting he’s trying to stand up to Tory bigots. HRA protects everyone in the criminal justice system, should be proud of it.

1149 Tony Benn suggests we’re in a counter-democratic revolution. Very amusing and lovable but adds little.

1143 A BBRR must merely comply with ECHR requirements, ignoring universality of human rights & the need to access them easier in the UK. Fails to explain what the difference would be when he suggests BBRR would apply universally. Asylum seekers?

1138 Dominic Grieve replies, attacking Labour’s real civil liberties failures, sidestepping the issue. Commits to ECHR but not the Act. Says Act doesn’t fulfil ECHR requirements well enough, but still witters on about a British Bill of Rights. Lame.

1136 Commits to not repealing it. Attacks Tory threats to repeal it.

1132 Straw addresses Lord Bingham’s speech on Human Rights Act. He acknowledges HRA embodies parliamentary sovereignty and forces govt legislation to use it as a prism in drafting stage.

1128 Straw embarrassed by Shami over 42 days…

1122 A Jack Straw vs Tony Benn battle in the next hour? It looms…this is very exciting!


1106 The Justice Secretary is here for reasons unknown. Ego? Rebranding? Spin? If I could ask him a question what should it be? Something substantial please, not about Brown. Jon Snow tried that the other day.

1057 Even if the Tories repeal the Human Rights Act they’re still bound by the European Convention on Human Rights. Disconnection from the ECHR is unthinkable.

1050am Lord Bingham’s opening speech is on my twitter feed to the right of this entry on the main blog page. Quite inspiring, taking the odd pot shot at Jack Straw, who is in the room.


5 responses to “Liberty Annual Conference Liveblog

  1. That was an interesting read and sounds like a fab day.

    I was like a rabbit in headlights when I heard John Gaunt was there though. I used to listen and simultaneously swear and hit the radio when he used to have a talk phone in on Talk Sport. He was always like a talking Daily Mail for blind people so I never expected him to be at something intelligent like this.

  2. He said he was surprised too, and was hilarious when he talked up the Sun Radio as somehow a boon for human rights and the freedom of expression. Thankfully Kate Adie was there to keep some sanity in the room…he was dreadful.

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