The Independent Safeguarding Authority's (ISA) proposals have come under heavy criticism today. However, I have to agree with the head of the scheme, Sir Roger Singleton, who rightly claims that with balance and rationality, the proposals will allow for a safer society for our children.
On a side note, I think it is also interesting to reflect on Martin Kettle's article and argument that Britain is illiberal and that is one of the three reasons that the Liberal Democrats will find it hard to ever gain power. To counter this, I think it is important to consider how the core route of the criticisms of the ISA scheme is coming from a civil right position. The arguments are focused on the rejections that people have for a Big Brother state. I think an interesting way to look at this, is to take the line I have in regard for Feminism. If you consider the basic Feminist arguments, which is for greater equality for women, in terms of pay, rights and so forth, then near everyone would be seen as a Feminist. The same goes for being a supporter of civil rights. People do not want to be spied on; they want to feel as though their voice matters. I think that the civil liberty line is one that our party should happily and confidently continue, as I think there is clear support for civil rights amongst many in Britain. The message just needs to be clearer. Less of the political jargon, and more of a simplistic message. Many people who are not involved in politics have civil liberty attitudes. I mean, look at how well the Pirate Party are doing. Taking the line that we are some kind of dark illiberal Britain, is like sharing Thomas Hobbes' pessimism of human nature.
However, in regard to this 'vetting system', I think the argument for civil liberties is one that needs to be made carefully. There has to be a clear attempt not to take it out of context. There is a difference between freedom and irresponsibility. If these proposals are carried out with safeguards in place, and responsibly and logically within proportional guidelines, as Singleton said...:
"It is not about interfering with the sensible arrangements which parents make with each other to take their children to schools and clubs.
It is not about subjecting a quarter of the population to intensive scrutiny of their personal lives and it is not about creating mistrust between adults and children or discouraging volunteering.
It is about ensuring that those people who have already been dismissed by their employers for inappropriate behaviour with children do not simply up sticks and move elsewhere in the country to continue their abuse.
And it is about bringing an end to the need for repeated CRB checks which so many people have found irritating. ISA registration is a one-off process for a single fee."...then I see absolutely nothing wrong with the proposals. Ed Balls is right to just make sure that there are no aspects of the proposals that abuse civil liberties, but I think that these proposals will help in the long term. They will not deter volunteers, as they do not have to pay for the checks. The only way it will deter them and others is if they have something to hide. I think there needs to be a sense of proportion with the responses to these proposals.
Whilst it helps show the concerns many people have for basic civil liberties, and highlights how we are not a total illiberal state, I think some concern has to be taken when using the civil liberty line so that it does not get misrepresented and damage the fight to promote the basic rights that everyone should have in society.