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Taking Liberties Paperback – 11 May 2007
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One of the most important books of our time, "Taking Liberties" tells the story of how New Labour and Tony Blair have systematically demolished the freedoms of the British people, and the devastating effect this has had on the rest of the world. The story is told through the eyes of the ordinary people who have suffered these injustices, from being arrested for holding up a placard outside parliament, to being tortured and abused by the US military with British complicity. Chris Atkins' "Taking Liberties" has become the most explosive film of 2007. For the reader who wants to dig a little deeper than the film, this book asks why our government is removing our fundamental freedoms while claiming to be defending them. Humorous and offbeat in tone, but solidly backed up by interviews with commentators and experts across the spectrum including Henry Porter, Andrew Gilligan, Tony Benn, Boris Johnson, Claire Short, Milan Rai, Martin Bell, Shami Chakrabarti, Rachel North, Julian Petley, Ross Anderson, Kate Allen, Philippe Sands, Michael Mansfield, Mark Thomas and many more, Taking Liberties is an urgent and timely work.
Top customer reviews
The book is dated in some respects and Tony Blair, the subject of much of the venom in the book is long gone. Some of the issues addressed in the book have now been resolved, most notably the abandonment of the ID card project. Other aspects remain problematic. It is almost impossible to reconcile the continuance of a system where the accused can neither hear nor challenge evidence which is being used against him/her with a country which prides itself on upholding civil liberties and the rule of law.
Somehow I think I have been even more angry re-reading the book than I was the first time round, shortly after it was published. I suspect this is partly because some of the examples highlighted have faded from memory and having the details set out again re-ignites a sense of rage. Some of the real events mentioned just sound too barmy - you could not make them up but they are real. For example, the 'demonstration'' involving reciting the names of the soldiers killed in Iraq where, because not unnaturally, the 'protesters' didn't see why it should be necessary to ask permission to remember the dead.
The book is unashamedly polemical, and as a result at times suffers from over-statement and hyperbole. The examples are so shocking that it really isn't necessary for the author to do this to make his point. There is also in my view quite effective use of quotes and media transcripts - a toe-curling transcript of a Newsnight interview between Jeremy Paxman and the hapless John Denham had me in hysterics or a fantastic quote from David Blunkett in defence of Tony Blair saying that he believed the PM was "innocent until proven otherwise...But its also the law. In this country people are presumed innocent until proven guilty" - unless of course they were locked up in Belmarsh by Blunkett.
Despite the fact that the book is not up to date, it is still a worthwhile read setting out as it does how a government, probably with the best of intentions, reduced our liberty and confidence in the rule of law in order to protect us. It is also a good counter to those people who will say that those who have done nothing wrong have nothing to fear from some of the draconian legislation introduced by Blair's government. People who were innocent of any crime were locked up, sometimes based on dodgy evidence acquired by means of torture.
The author makes it very clear throughout that he views the government's actions as being what they believe to be in the interest of the population (ie. wholly decent aims) which may seem an odd remark to make but for me it illustrated this not a rant - instead it is an honest assessment of a government's action, referring to historic precedence and future risk that it sets a precedence for.
Definitely worth reading.