Buy the DVD
Filmmakers Blog
In our Taking Liberties blog, not only will we keep you uptodate on the progress of the film, we'll also post news about the ongoing civil liberties movements we're related to.

Tuesday, 12 June 2007

A different Kettle of facts

On Saturday Michael Kettle - well known New Labour supporter and fan of Tony Blair - wrote an article in The Gaurdian attacking the film entitled "No, we are not living in a Police state". I have written a letter back, but while we wait to see if they publish it, the text is in full below. It did originally have a lot more fruity language in and several jokes about John Ried, but Tim advised me to keep it a bit more reasoned if I want to get it published.

Orginal Kettle Article

My response:

Dear Sir,

It was flattering to open the weekend papers and see that my new documentary, 'Taking Liberties' was not only to be reviewed by the cinema critics but its arguments addressed by the political columnists.

It is a pity, therefore that Martin Kettle ('No, Labour has not turned Britain into a Police State', The Guardian, 9 June, 2007) seems to have misconstrued the core arguments of the film and in doing so, appears to be engaged in what might be equally misconstrued (surely) as patronising point-scoring. Still, I'll reply directly to Kettle's main criticisms.

Firstly, that I paint a picture 'difficult to square with the evidence'. Kettle argues that protest is alive and well in the UK because some people still manage to protest near parliament. True, if you apply for permission a week beforehand then you may be given a license to demonstrate, but this is simply not acceptable in a liberal society. There are quite often times where spontaneous protest is necessary in a democratic society. Would the Government politely give us a week's notice before it starts to bomb Iran? US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, refers to the ‘Town Square Test’ i.e. if you can walk to the centre of your town and publicly criticise your government without fear of arrest you live in a free country. By this test Britain is no longer free society.

Kettle asserts that 'it is untrue that Blair has taken away an ancient right to demonstrate near the House of Commons. There never was any such ancient right.' The issue is rather that in English Common Law the assumption is that an act is permitted unless it is specifically forbidden by statute. Previously this was not forbidden, now we need permission. The government has sought to criminalise what has been previously permissible behaviour, including peaceful protest. The government has gone further, enabling the police to hand out £80 fixed penalty notices for 'crimes' as ludicrous as wearing t-shirts bearing the words 'Bollocks to Blair' - not a crime last time I checked, though as this government has created over 3,000 new offences it will take a while to look.

One of the more common criticisms of the film also raised in the article has been my alleged suggestion that a direct comparison can be drawn between the current government and Nazi Germany. If true, I would agree with Kettle, but we do not live in a police state, yet, and Tony Blair is no Nazi, whatever some of the lunatic fringe may wish to persuade you. What the film does do, however, is give a worst case example of what can happen when civil liberties are taken away: certain initial steps that lead us towards authoritarianism, such as removing the right to protest, the right to privacy and imprisonment without trial.

I want the film to sound a warning that just because we may trust our current leaders, we simply do not know who is going to take the reigns of power in the future. Kettle may be delighted to give up all his personal freedoms to the current Prime Minister, but he cannot know who will inherit them and how irresponsible they may be. I believe it is not yet too late to reclaim some of our essential liberties, but who can say when it will be?

Kettle praises John Reid for his 'emollient tone' in his recent announcements on terrorism. Perhaps he did not hear the Home Secretary’s proclamation that he may soon declare a “state of emergency” to derogate from the Human Rights Act if it prevents him from taking steps deemed against Human Rights. It also seems that when Gordon Brown is already demanding that the pre-charge detention limit is extended yet further to 90 days, that New Labour's onward march against our ancient rights and freedoms will continue undiminished despite Blair’s departure.

What has impressed me most about responses to this film, reflected also by its contributors, is that they go beyond simple left-right partisanship. Yes, I am heavily critical of the current government, but believe firmly that challenges to free speech, the right to protest, the right to privacy and imprisonment without trial to name but a few issues, whether well intentioned or not, threaten the future stability of democracy for left and right alike. So, no, New Labour has not turned Britain into a police state, but it has made it easier for a government in future to do so, and we may not be as far from it as Martin Kettle believes.


Dariush Alavi said...

I would hope that the reasonable, non-hysterical tone of your letter means that it'll get published.

Taking Liberties said...

I believe it's going in thursdays guardian. Intersting to see what tehy edit out!

arms said...

Firstly, thank you for the film – although I haven’t seen it yet (not much chance as it is showing in so few places), the subject is so very important. If we don’t heed the warning, then as your letter so perfectly states, we will have made it possible for future leaders to abuse the system that is currently being formed. The system seems to be more a ‘state of terror’ at the moment than a ‘police state’....but neither is how I want to live my life.
It is also clear that once laws are created and liberties curtailed, there will be no going back (though as we are in theory in charge of our own country and as ‘we the people’ may choose it, we should be able to undo that which has been done wrong).
Reid scares me, as do many in our current government and its closest opponent. I just joined the Liberal Democrats – the first time I have joined a political party and I did this not because I know myself to be Liberal any more than Left, Right or slightly unbalanced – but because I can see that the two main parties are as corrupt as eachother, that I would trust none with my personal details, trust none to care about my family, know that each will abuse my taxes for agendas I don’t agree with and that each will lie to me. I do not accept that governments can lie – even if it is a fact that they do. I do not accept the behaviour of my government when it acts without our consent or against our wishes. I don’t know if the Liberal Democrats will be better – but I believe they will. I also know that I will vote for what I want and not simply as part of the ‘voter game’ to oust who I don’t.
Strikes me too that we said a resounding NO to the 90 day detention recently – yet like an impertinent teenager, those who want it just keep on bringing it up, hoping to eventually get it through when we are all to weary of the words.
It seems that laws on laws on laws are created in order for each in power to make his mark and be shown to be reacting to the latest headline...rather than taking the existing laws and making them work – and being accountable for their failing.
Thanks again for this and I do hope I can see it.
Tina Louise

I was very aware when I wanted to campaign against the war in Iraq that the laws were changing – so now I protest by wearing a plain, white, home-made armband – wonder how long till even this becomes offensive to government? Still if we all do it – we will be a mass at all times in all places and unstoppable in our unity.

Taking Liberties said...

thanks for your thoughtful comments. I do hope you do get to see the film - it is movnig around the country - keep checking the cinemas listings tab as it is litterally getting update every day.

© 2007 Taking Liberties, All Rights Reserved | Terms of Use | Accessibility | Site Map
Built by Revolver Entertainment