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The Bonfire of the Liberties: New Labour, Human Rights, and the Rule of Law [Paperback]

Keith Ewing
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

April 4 2010
This provocative book confronts the corrosion of civil liberties under successive New Labour governments since 1997. It argues that the last decade has seen a wholesale failure of constitutional principle and exposed the futility of depending on legal rights to restrict the power of executive government. It considers the steps necessary to prevent the continued decline of political standards, arguing that only through rebalancing political power can civil liberties be adequately protected. Relying on extensive new research of inaccessible sources, the book examines the major battlegrounds over civil liberties under New Labour, including the growth and abuse of police power, state surveillance and counter-terrorist measures. It unfolds a compelling narrative of the major battles fought before Parliament and in the courts, and attacks the failure of the political and legal systems to offer protection to those suffering abuses of their civil liberty at the hands of an aggressive Executive. In doing so, it offers a definitive account of the struggle for civil liberty in modern Britain, and a controversial argument for the reforms necessary to contain executive power.

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Britain is undoubtedly a much better, informed and relaxed place to live than 13 years ago; one would really need to be a hidebound reactionary not to recognise this. On civil liberties, however Labour urgently needs to restore its credentials. It could make a start by having a long discussion with Professor Ewing and other critics about finding the right balance between liberties and effective protection against terrorism. David Winnick, Tribune Keith Ewing has written an excellent and damning indictment of New Labour's record on human rights and the rule of law, marshalling his evidence with ease and great narrative power. It is a real tour de force. James A. Grant, University of Oxford, The Modern Law Review It's very readable and something which all MPs ought to read, especially the new intake from 6th May 2010. Probably the single most important theme is the erosion of individual rights by the state and Ewing backs up each topical issue with breathless detail to justify the assertions made...a useful commentary on the parlous state of today's 'rights' Phillip Taylor MBE and Elizabeth Taylor, Richmond Green Chambers ...core content of considerable value... an excellent critique Geoffrey Robertson, New Statesman.com ...the definitive text on Labour government's attack on liberty and rights... Henry Porter, Liberty cetral Blog, Guardian.co.uk ...As a handy catalogue of the duplicity and chicanery displayed by this administration it is excellent... the book's greatest achievement is to translate often dense legal argument into something slightly more palatable to the general reader... Paddy McGuffin, Morning Star The aims of this book appear to be twofold. First it provides a much needed documentation of the continuing 'erosion of civil liberties' (p.vii) that occurred under the previous Labour Government...Secondly, building upon this analysis, Professor Ewing aims to provide a politics-based solution to the deficiencies of the HRA. First and foremost, this book is about a contradiction...Professor Ewing powerfully demonstrates how empty the culture of liberty rhetoric has been, and shows that there has been a contradiction at the heart of Government. Matthew Burton, Birmingham Law School, Human Rights Law Review 11:2

About the Author

Keith Ewing is Professor of Public Law at King's College London, and is one of the country's leading civil liberties lawyers. He is the author of Freedom under Thatcher: Civil Liberties in Modern Britain (with Conor Gearty) and his other books include The Right to Strike and The Struggle for Civil Liberties (also with Conor Gearty).

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5.0 out of 5 stars All fired up for change in 2010 Aug. 9 2010
Format:Paperback
Length: 1:32 Mins
An appreciation by Phillip Taylor MBE and Elizabeth Taylor of Richmond Green Chambers

The book is rightly subtitled "New Labour, Human Rights and the Rule of Law" and describes, with examples, the erosion of our civil liberties since 1997. It starts ominously with this statement: "we live in a society where he police have more power, where we are watched and monitored more closely and more often, and in which our ability to speak out and protest is subject to more and more restraints".

A damning indictment of New Labour, many may feel, if ever there was one. Ewing does say that many people do not share his views although `at best they may share the concerns' and that really sums up the worth of the work- it's a collection of statements on areas of the law which affect the direct relationship between the State and its people with worrying conclusions.

There are 8 chapter headings in 300 pages covering all the usual `liberty' issues and there are some useful cases and statutes cited. It's very readable and something which all MPs ought to read, especially the new intake from 6th May 2010. Probably the single most important theme is the erosion of individual rights by the state and Ewing backs up each topical issue with breathless detail to justify the assertions made.

Ewing also knows a few of the tricks about reviews because he says that normally only the introduction and conclusion of most books are read. This book is different, however, because the wealth of detail on what can be termed `abuses' by the state are well worth reading in detail throughout.
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Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars All fired up for change in 2010 June 10 2010
By Phillip Taylor - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
An appreciation by Phillip Taylor MBE and Elizabeth Taylor of Richmond Green Chambers

The book is rightly subtitled "New Labour, Human Rights and the Rule of Law" and describes, with examples, the erosion of our civil liberties since 1997. It starts ominously with this statement: "we live in a society where he police have more power, where we are watched and monitored more closely and more often, and in which our ability to speak out and protest is subject to more and more restraints".

A damning indictment of New Labour, many may feel, if ever there was one. Ewing does say that many people do not share his views although `at best they may share the concerns' and that really sums up the worth of the work- it's a collection of statements on areas of the law which affect the direct relationship between the State and its people with worrying conclusions.

There are 8 chapter headings in 300 pages covering all the usual `liberty' issues and there are some useful cases and statutes cited. It's very readable and something which all MPs ought to read, especially the new intake from 6th May 2010. Probably the single most important theme is the erosion of individual rights by the state and Ewing backs up each topical issue with breathless detail to justify the assertions made.

Ewing also knows a few of the tricks about reviews because he says that normally only the introduction and conclusion of most books are read. This book is different, however, because the wealth of detail on what can be termed `abuses' by the state are well worth reading in detail throughout. The final conclusion, right at the end, covers `power not rights' and appears to be a veiled criticism of the "human rights business" and the deliberate ineffectiveness of judicial review which is merely seen as a sop to the public as far as some are concerned.

The problem with the book is that when one reads it, one seems to go around in circles all the time rather like the bonfire, not knowing whether the thing is completely out of control.

So, the lasting legacy of "Bonfire of the Liberties" will hopefully be the way out of the current `liberties' mess with parliamentary reform. The problem, however, remains with the international economic crisis taking pole position as the top agenda issue of today although the corrosion of civil liberties and the constitutional slide will need addressing as a matter of some urgency in the short term if we remember our inter war years history.

Ewing offers useful steps which can be taken to restore some semblance of balance between loss of rights and a consecutively aggressive series of Executives. The work is rightly a 2010 definitive account of the struggle for civil liberties as a new Parliament meets this year to seek to curb executive power (if it can) and implement some of the reforms on offer.

Ewing is clearly trying to douse the `lack of liberties' fire which still seems to be out of control and it's a useful commentary on the parlous state of today's `rights' which will be viewed with interest in a couple of years' time (we hope).
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