John le Carré, the novelist and former spy, has picked a particularly timely moment, therefore, to register his disgust at the proposed legislation.
“I'm angry that there is so little anger around me at what is being done to our society, supposedly in order to protect it. We have been taken to war under false pretences, and stripped of our civil rights in an atmosphere of panic.”
The author’s comments reflect widespread disillusionment, amongst those of liberal sensibility, with Labour’s systematic destruction of basic liberties. Arguments against erosion of freedom have married increasingly harmoniously with Conservative calls to preserve rights, fundamental to the UK’s constitution. David Davis MP enjoyed backing from both camps as he eased to a majority of over 15,000, in a by election precipitated by this issue, earlier in the summer.
Le Carré’s literary status will ensure that his remarks once again highlight the importance of this debate. He is by no means the most influential ex-spy to raise doubts about the government’s plan however. Lady Manningham Buller, who retired from her position as head of MI5 last year, has already opposed 42 days in the Lords, calling into question whether the measures would in fact allow security services to counter terrorism more effectively.
As this assault on law and liberty continues its progress through parliament, the disparate alliance against the legislation must hold. It is indicative of an authoritarian instinct, careless of rights and freedoms which underpin our society, cavalier with the fabric of our constitution, which characterises this Labour government. It represents compelling proof that as broad a coalition of British people as can be built, should strive to see the back of Gordon Brown and his party, as soon as possible.