This exchenge of letters between Henry Porter to Tony Blair were published in The Observer earlier this year.
From: Henry Porter To: Tony Blair Re: Liberty
Dear Prime Minister,
Nine years ago, as I watched you arrive at the South Bank on the night when you became Prime Minister, I would never have imagined that I’d come to view you as a serious threat to British democracy. But regrettably I have. Either by accident or design, your ‘modernising’ Labour government has steadily attacked our rights and freedoms, eroding the Rule of Law and profoundly altering the relationship between authority and the people.
Successive laws passed by New Labour have pared down our liberty at an astonishing rate. The right to trial by jury, the right to silence, the right not to be punished until a court has decided that the law has been broken, the right to demonstrate and protest, the presumption of innocence, the right to private communication, the right to travel without surveillance and the details of that journey being retained – all have been curtailed by your legislation.
While hearsay has become admissible in court, free speech is being patrolled by officious use of public order laws. In Parliament Square we now see people parading with blank placards to make the point that they are not allowed to demonstrate within one kilometre of the Square under the new Serious Organised Crime and Police Act (SOCPA). And this in the land once called the Mother of Parliaments.
For a democrat, this is all profoundly troubling. I hope that you believe you are acting in good faith; that you are simply motivated by the need to respond to the threats of terrorism and organised crime and the nuisance of anti-social behaviour, but I wonder if you have any idea of the cumulative effect of the 15 or so bills which have incrementally removed or compromised our liberties.