Johnson: No apology for civil liberties

By Ian Dunt

Alan Johnson launched a staunch defence of the Labour government’s track record on civil liberties today, in a speech which all but removed him for the running for a shadow Cabinet job.

In his last conference speech as shadow home secretary, he refused to adopt the views of his new leader, who insisted Labour needed to put civil liberties at its heart.

“Our record on crime and security is one to be proud of,” Mr Johnson said.

“It is one of our strengths not one of our weaknesses.

“We were in government at a time when the world faced new and unprecedented threats, when terrorists aimed to kill as many people as possible including themselves.”

Mr Johnson, who said David Miliband was “head and shoulders” above the other candidates during the leadership contest, was expected to be out in the cold if Ed Miliband won the race.

Today’s speech will cement the impression that he has little hope of securing a prominent place on the front bench.

“With a new leader and a new team in place it’s time for fresh thinking and new directions,” he admitted.

“But we must not forget our experience in government as we re-examine our policies in opposition.

“The coalition is putting dogma before its duty to ensure public safety and it will return to haunt them.

“And you do not demonstrate your commitment to civil liberties by failing to protect the most important civil liberty of all; the right to be safe on our streets.”

The coalition government is currently reviewing anti-terror legislation with a view to scrapping unnecessary laws.

Ed Miliband is expected to accept that move as the new Labour leader, although he may resist efforts to reform CCTV and DNA retention rules.