It got little more than a passing mention at the Bourne Hall meeting on liberties last week, but the government's draconian new Criminal Records checks, and its establishment of an agency purely to deal with the alleged rising tide of paedophilia against nearly everyone who has contact with children, has provoked a slew of hostile comment over the past couple of days (two examples - Minnette Marrin in the Times today, and headmaster and author Anthony Seldon in the Independent yesterday).
The new Independent Safeguarding Authority, an Orwellian sounding beast if ever there was one, is being established to provide Certificates of Innocence to anyone working, or just volunteering, with children. The assumption of guilt that has been dogging teachers - via the CRB - for some years, now threatens to engulf all manner of children's workers, volunteers, children's authors who visit schools, even parents doing each other a good turn on the school run. In such an easy bureaucratic manner has the government surreptitiously overturned the whole basis of English law - an assumption of innocence prior to any conviction of guilt.
This nonsense is defended as the natural response to the outrage caused over the Soham Murders - when 2 schoolgirls were killed by the school caretaker - a few years ago. That the murderer in question could have been identified by local police with a bit of basic co-operation between agencies is now conveniently forgotten. The government has to be seen to do something, and so long as that something doesn't require any real thought, or any understanding of individual liberties, well then they'll go ahead and do it. After all, we have had in power since 1997 a government that has been legislating ferociously on a continuous basis. There is nothing too small for this government not to believe it must be subject to legislative remedy. Henry Porter in today's Observer launches one of his regular and articulate broadsides at the government for its over-legislative mania, and anyone who is concerned about civil liberties should be reacting with horror at their latest iniquitous menaces. ID cards are merely the icing on the cake.
But will the Tories remove this raft of perniciousness? They make the right libertarian noises in public - although Tom Brake MP was anxious to point out that Chris Grayling's commitment to liberty was a relatively recent development. But Grayling hasn't committed to removing the ISA and its malicious undermining of all youth work in the country. He has been vague in saying how, exactly, he would roll back the government's authoritarian legislation. He might stop ID cards, but what else will he let pass as he succumbs to the illness of all those who hold power - their determination to have and control as much information as possible? In short, when do we get a truly libertarian government, genuinely committed to divesting itself of more powers than it gains? There would be a revolutionary movement indeed.