Groundswell of support for civil liberties on the anniversary of the Magna Carta
By Ian Dunt
A survey showing huge public support for civil liberties has been released on the anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta.
The ComRes poll, commissioned by civil liberties group Liberty, found 95 per cent of respondents identified the right to a fair trial and respect for privacy family life and the home as either vital or important.
Just over 75 per cent believed that the right not to be detained without reason was either vital or important, and 89 per cent thought the right not to be tortured or degraded was in the same category.
Comment: Thank God Britain hates its government
The findings come on the anniversary of the day King John put the royal seal on the Magna Carta at Runnymede, near Windsor, in 1215.
They also follow a depressing week for civil liberties activists, who saw the election of two BNP MEPs to the European parliament and the government’s hostile response to a law lords judgement against control orders as depressing continuations of an authoritarian trend in British politics.
To add to their arguments, the Metropolitan police were accused of using ‘waterboarding’ techniques on suspects.
Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty, said: “This poll will be depressing reading for the cocky far right and others opposed to human rights in Britain.
“Despite headlines about ‘waterboarding’ and punishment without trial, our common values still run extremely deep and the contents of the Human Rights Act are valued by the overwhelming majority of people.”
At last week’s Liberty conference, recently retired senior Law Lord, Lord Bingham said of the Human Rights Act: “Which of these rights, I ask, would we wish to discard?
“Are any of them trivial, superfluous, unnecessary? Are any of them un-British?
“There may be those who would like to live in a country where these rights are not protected, but I am not of their number.”
Sabina Frediani, campaigns co-ordinator for Liberty, said: “Britain hasn’t just got talent; it’s got an ocean of common sense and decency too.
Liberty’s poll coincides with the launch of the Equalities and Human Rights Commission’s Human Rights Inquiry report.
However, both the Commission and the government appear to be failing to educate the public about the Human Rights Act – the Liberty poll shows that only ten per cent of people remember seeing or receiving any information explaining the legislation.
Tory leader David Cameron has said he wishes to replace the Act with a British bill of rights if he becomes prime minister.