British people have been "careless" with their civil liberties, but that is beginning to change, former shadow home affairs minister David Davis has said. Speaking at the Convention on Modern Liberty on Saturday, Mr Davis said people were growing increasingly angry at government intrusion in their lives. More than 1,000 people joined the event in London and at venues across the UK.
Mr Davis, who resigned from the Conservative front bench last year to fight a by-election on the issue of civil liberties, said the British public had been "casual" with their freedom and privacy in the past. "They treat it carelessly, like a very old suit that they have had a very long time, [but] times are changing. "Something is happening in the hearts and minds of our country." People feel the fear of terrorism is being used to take away a lot of rights. Mr Davis said policies like ID cards and detention without trial for terror suspects were initially popular with the electorate, but were now drawing widespread opposition. Others speaking at the convention agreed with him. Human rights lawyer and life peer Helena Kennedy QC, said communities were "being alienated" by the increased use of anti-terror laws beyond their original remit. "There is a general feeling that in creating a climate of fear people have been writing a blank cheque to government," she said. "People feel the fear of terrorism is being used to take away a lot of rights." She added that people were "fearful of the general business of collecting too much information about individuals". Shadow justice secretary Dominic Grieve also spoke to the London audience, arguing that the government's desire to control risk in society was "destroying our quality of life". "We have to accept that society and life carries risk and whilst it is the duty of the state to do its best to moderate and prevent what is wrong, nevertheless there are finite limits," he said. "We, as citizens, have to make this clear to government, we are prepared consciously as adults to accept some element of risk in order to be free." Last week the Liberal Democrats unveiled their "Freedom Bill" and pledged a review of the use of CCTV cameras, the abolition of ID cards and control orders for terrorism suspects. And earlier this month the Lords constitution committee warned that electronic surveillance and collection of personal data were "pervasive" in British society and threatened to undermine democracy.
I make no apology for posting what is a political item. This subject applies not only to the UK, but countries around the world. Democracy was hard won and, if we are not very careful, can be easily lost.