Jeremy Corbyn obliterated a week’s worth of smears with one simple point about democracy, on ITV’s Peston on Sunday.
In the aftermath of the Manchester bombing, Conservatives and the right-wing media have tried to paint the Labour leader as weak on terror. They have attacked Corbyn for voting against numerous ‘anti-terror’ laws.
Following the lead, interviewer Robert Peston challenged Corbyn on 28 May:
We… have identified at least 17 occasions you voted against anti-terror laws, laws designed to keep us safe, do you now regret voting in that way?
But Corbyn set the record straight, with a simple point about law and democracy:
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Anti-terror laws are important, but they must be subject to judicial oversight. My concern was always we are going down the road of executive orders, executive detention, and executive control.
The Labour leader followed through with an example:
the Prevention of Terrorism Act of the 1970s… it was the attempted criminalisation of large numbers of young people, which of course drives them in a very bad direction. So my point on the anti-terror laws was not that you don’t need an effective anti-terror strategy, you must have independent judicial oversight to what goes on.
Human rights group Liberty supports Corbyn’s point. A 1993 report concluded that the Irish community suffered “widespread violations of their human rights and civil liberties”, compromising the UK’s “reputation”.
‘Designed to keep us safe?’
Peston claimed that anti-terror laws are “designed to keep us safe”. But terrorism legislation has long been used as a pretext to erode the rights of UK civilians and hand sweeping powers to government, as Corbyn alludes to.
Leading human rights organisation Amnesty International also echoed the Labour leader’s concerns:
Since the war on terror was declared by the US government in 2001, the UK authorities have mounted a sustained attack on human rights, the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law.
sweeping and vague provisions that undermine the rights to freedom and expression and association, the right to liberty, the prohibition of arbitrary detention, the rights to the presumption of innocence and fair trial.
Other terrorism laws invade the privacy of millions of ordinary people. Another that Corbyn rejected, the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act 2014, was later found to be unlawful by the High Court. Again, the act was too vague, amounting to an assault on the privacy of innocent people in the UK.
In another report, Liberty concluded [pdf] that the 2000 Terrorism Act effectively criminalised Muslims “as a community”. So the organisation pointed out that the act alienated the very group that anti-terror intelligence often relies upon. Corbyn voted against this legislation as well.
Anti-terror laws routinely exploit events like the Manchester bombing to increase government control and encroach upon the rights of ordinary people. Unlike many politicians, Corbyn has stood against legislation that amounts to a shameless power grab. So, on Peston On Sunday, Corbyn turned the smear campaign on its head. Turns out the Labour leader was on the right side of history, once again.
Watch the exchange here:
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