A YouGov poll for this morning’s Telegraph confirms the willingness of the British people to restrict civil liberties in the war on terror.
70% said “yes, it may sometimes be necessary” to restrict the civil liberties of suspected terrorists even though there is not enough usable evidence to charge and convict them.
81% supported taking action against people who have not yet done anything but the intelligence agencies believe may be planning an act of terrorism.
The British people’s willingness to restrict liberties in the war on terror may explain the fact that 68% rate the Government as doing a “very good” or “fairly good” job in dealing with the danger of terrorist acts.
Tony Blair’s overall satisfaction rating has been transformed from minus 29% in January 2005 to plus 7% now. This may be temporary and may also partly reflect the ‘Make Poverty History’ phenomenon. It may also reflect, however, some of the same kind of political advantage gained by President Bush because of his uncompromising defence of the homeland and his support for the controversial and some would say repressive Patriot Act.
The emphasis on civil liberties by the Conservative Party (echoing that of John Kerry) does not appear to have struck a sufficient chord with voters. The Tories should, perhaps, reflect on Matthew d’Ancona’s words of some months ago:
“We live in an individualistic society and one in which people take many liberties – economic, social, sexual – absolutely for granted. But it is wrong to extrapolate from this that liberty is the voters' touchstone on all issues. When it comes to the handling of the post-9/11 terrorist threat, I doubt that the public consensus is remotely libertarian: quite the opposite, in fact. Just as the voters expect noisy neighbours to be dealt with sternly, and the right to tackle intruders in their homes without the fear of prosecution, so they expect the State to put the prevention of terrorism before – well, just about everything else, to be honest.”