Liberal Hero of the Week #37: Ingrid Loyau-Kennett. Our Liberal Villains are John Reid & Alex Carlile

by Stephen Tall on May 24, 2013

Liberal Hero of the Week (and occasional Villains) is chosen by Stephen Tall, Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice, and Research Associate at CentreForum. The series showcases those who promote any of the four liberal tenets identified in The Orange Book — economic, personal, political and social liberalism — regardless of party affiliation and from beyond Westminster. If they stick up for liberalism in some way then they’re in contention. If they confound liberalism in some way they’re liable to be named Villains.

villains reid carlile

Lords (John) Reid and (Alex) Carlile

Former Labour home secretary, and former Lib Dem MP and independent reviewer of terrorism legislation
Reason: for wanting to sacrifice our liberties ‘for the greater good’

There’s a familiar pattern to a terrorist outrage. Immediately, there’s the shock at innocent life cruelly and calculatedly obliterated; followed by the grief on behalf of their family and friends, robbed of their fellowship. Then there are the sonorous statements from politicians, gravely intoning that we must remain steadfast, that the murderers will not win, that our lives must continue as normal; anything else would be to hand the terrorists their victory on a plate.

And then comes the next inevitability: politicians striking a pose as authoritarian strongmen by cravenly giving the jihadists the glory they seek. Two of the usual suspects this week displayed to the full their instinctive wish to do the terrorists’ job for them and concede defeat on our behalf: step forward Lords John Reid and Alex Carlile.

As the rest of the country watched in horror at the ritually savage attack so calmly executed in Woolwich this week, they ignored the Prime Minister’s sensible, sober words…

… one of the best ways of defeating terrorism is to go about our normal lives, and that is what we shall all do.

… and instead took the opportunity to urge crackdowns, resurrecting the ghost of the Data Communications Bill (aka Snoopers’ Charter) which sought to keep tabs on private citizens emails and internet activity ‘for the greater good’.

Here’s Lord Carlile speaking on Wednesday’s BBC2 Newsnight: “we must ensure that the police and the security services have for the future the tools they need that will enable them to prevent this kind of attack taking place. I hope that this will give the government pause for thought about their abandonment, for example, of the communications data bill.” His co-conspirator Lord Reid cheerily asserted, “some of the measures the Government has refused to implement, like data communication, is absolutely essential for effective fighting of terrorism.”

You might ask where their evidence is that giving into the terrorists as they desire will make any of us safer. The issue has already been examined in detail by a parliamentary Joint Committee who pointed out how flawed the Snoopers’ Charter was, giving the state powers well in excess of those needed to prevent atrocities such as Woolwich. As Lib Dem MP Julian Huppert pointed out at the time:

While the Home Secretary claimed in the Sun that ‘Only suspected terrorists, paedophiles or serious criminals will be investigated’, the truth is as that it could also be used for speeding offences, fly-tipping and things as vague as being in ‘the interests of the economic well-being of the United Kingdom’. We are all suspects under this bill.

This week’s killing was a tragic, symbolic attack on our democracy — on the freedom of individuals to live our lives as we want within just laws. It’s precisely at times like these we need to stand confidently in defence of our liberal democracy, not fearfully give up our hard-won liberties as Lords Reid and Carlile want us to do.

hero Ingrid Loyau-Kennett

Ingrid Loyau-Kennett

Cub Scout leader from Helston, Cornwall
Reason: for composure in the face of terrorism

If Lords Reid and Carlile showed us how not to react to terrorist outrages, Ingrid Loyau-Kennett showed us how we should respond:

When the prime minister talked about Britain having a shared duty to confront extremism, the Cub Scout leader from Cornwall was the example he chose: “Told by the attacker he wanted to start a war in London, she replied, ‘you’re going to lose, it’s only you versus many’.”

With those few words, he said, Ingrid Loyau-Kennett had spoken “for us all”.


(Available to watch on YouTube here.)

* You can view our list of ‘Liberal Heroes of the Week’ (and occasional ‘Liberal Villains’) here. Nominations are welcome via email or Twitter.