Is Labour vulnerable on encroachments to personal liberties?

Is Labour vulnerable on encroachments to personal liberties?

Politics Home poll

Could this be one of the big election themes?

Over the past week I’ve been surprised by the public reaction to the compulsory vetting regime planned for those who have contact with children who are not their own.

If I’d been asked to venture a view before this blew up I’d have said that virtually anything that helped clamp down on paedophiles would have been applauded by the Great British Public.

Maybe it’s the way the initial story came out but there’s little doubt that the measure flies in the face of public opinion. This is supported this by a new Politics Home poll which found significant opposition to what the government is doing except, interestingly, amongst Labour supporters.

But it’s the general issue that I think is important and could be electorally significant.

Just look at the chart above from the poll which deals with the general question of the emncroachment on personal liberties. That voters split by a ratio of 8:1 in believing that the state now has “too much of a say” in our lives is surely something that party strategists of all parties should be registering.

This might be one of the reasons why Labour has found it difficult in winning back the Iraq-war switchers who voted for Charles Kennedy’s Lib Dems in 2005.

Looking forward I wonder whether some of the authoritarian rhetoric coming from shadow home secretary, Chris Grayling, needs to be toned down. He sometimes sounds like the last Tory Home Secretary, Michael Howard, whose reputation was only redeemed when Labour successors in the post – Blunkett, Straw and Smith – came over as being even more repressive.

My concern about this finding is that it came at the end of a series of questions on the adult screening controls which might have influenced the result.

But the perception is certainly there – Labour has introduced one measure after another since May 1997 which has made people feel less free. Maybe that is what is being articulated in the opposition to the adult-CRB controls?

I can see this being woven into one of the key themes of the election.

Mike Smithson

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