About Geoffrey Bindman
Geoffrey Bindman is a former chairman and vice-president of the Society of Labour Lawyers.
Articles by Geoffrey Bindman
This week's editor
Mandela: the global icon
Geoffrey Bindman (London, BIHR): My old school in Newcastle, founded in 1545, was proud of famous former pupils. Several of them were mentioned in the school song. Eldon was the procrastinating judge caricatured by Dickens in Bleak House, Armstrong an armament manufacturer, Collingwood was Nelson’s second-in–command at Trafalgar. Absent was John Lilburne, leader of the Levellers at the time of the English Civil War, who I discovered years later had been at the school in the early 17th century.
Lilburne is only now coming to be recognised as a fundamentally important figure in our political and constitutional history. He was also a man of extraordinary personal courage and determination. Cromwell thought highly of him and made him a colonel in his army but he became disillusioned with Cromwell when he abandoned the democratic programme which Lilburne passionately advocated.
Geoffrey Bindman (London, BIHR): The interesting OurKingdom debate on Labour After Brown risks becoming too remote from actual policy needs as it discusses general strategy. Of course, government needs to be fairer and extend justice in a way that supports individuals while building shared values. If this is what David Miliband and Sunder Katwala mean by combining social democracy with liberalism, who could disagree? Except that it runs the danger of phrase-making. What I am looking for is a much more principled approach to endorsing the need for public values that explicitly face down the marketisation of government that has been the tragic hallmark of New Labour. After a lifetime of support, I have witnessed this process at first hand, as the legacy of 1945 is systematically undone. What is happening is wrong. We need the new generation to identify that it is wrong and pledge to reverse it.
Geoffrey Bindman is a former chairman and
vice-president of the Society of Labour Lawyers. He is chairman of the British
Institute of Human Rights. Also by Geoffrey Bindman in openDemocracy:
"Justice in the world's light" (14 June 2001)
"Civil liberties and the 'war on terror'" (5 May 2004)
"From race to religion: the next deterrent law" (18 August 2004)
"War on terror or war on justice?" (3 March 2005)
"Human rights: can we afford them?" (2 February 2006)
On 3 June Gordon Brown attracted easy headlines by announcing his willingness to be tough in security measures to prevent terrorist incidents and would consider further legislation to do so. Among new measures, he mentioned using phone-tap evidence in court, allowing questioning of suspects after charge and, most controversially, extending the permitted period of detention without charge beyond the current 28 days to as much as 90 days.
In fact, new measures were already in preparation by John Reid and have now been published. The one encouraging element in Gordon Brown's contribution is his insistence that "at no point will our British traditions of supporting and defending civil liberties" be compromised but that guarantee has a hollow sound when set against the erosion of civil liberties which has already taken place in the plethora of anti-terrorist legislation already enacted, including the Terrorism Act 2000, Anti-Terrorism Crime and Security Act 2001, Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005 and the Terrorism Act 2006. These create a range of new offences targeted at virtually anyone remotely linked to the possibility of terrorism, a term so widely defined as to embrace virtually any kind of hostile activity for political ends.