Jo Shaw and I may currently be competitors in the elections for the Federal Executive, but that doesn’t mean I can’t take time out of my day to back her continuing campaign against secret courts.
Her motion against the Government’s Justice and Security Bill provided the only real defeat for the leadership at Conference. In a thrilling debate, Conference representatives overwhelmingly rejected the idea of secret courts.
Personally I cannot imagine being able to argue that I believe in a fair free and open society and at the same time support the notion of a trial from which one side is excluded, evidence is heard in secret, judgments are handed down in secret and the government is able to rely on unchallenged and unchallengeable evidence. Those two sets of ideas seem to me to be entirely contradictory.
How can we, who stand for openness vote for a closed court which shuts out press and public scrutiny?
How can we, who believe in freedom, vote to allow the Security Services to operate wholly in the shadows?
How can we, Liberal Democrats, who have fairness at the core of our beliefs, vote for a trial which leaves one party in the dark, excluded?
I don’t believe we can. If the preamble to our constitution means anything, it means Liberal Democrats should be campaigning fearlessly against these proposals which offend every principle we hold dear.
So, what happens now the Conference debate is over? Well, it’s important to make sure that the powers that be stick to the terms of Jo’s motion passed at Conference which are: