Temporary safety or essential liberty?

The Green Party's Home Affairs spokesperson lays out the Green response to terrorism

Shahrar Ali

Our emotional reaction to the recent terror attacks will have been typified by shock and grief, even anger or despair. But what is the Greens' political response to people killed or maimed in Westminster by a car used as a battering ram; kids bombed after a concert in Manchester Arena; people socialising in Southwark knifed by men in suicide vests; and Muslims attacked in Finsbury Park after midnight prayers?

Greens refuse to resort to populist knee-jerk reactions - our refrain is of a defiant sort. We want to identify the causes that have contributed to the escalation, not in order to justify the unconscionable, but to recognise that state violence, for instance, facilitated or perpetrated by our governments has made things worse for decades to come.

Greens seek long-term peaceable solutions to international conflict while our leaders seem bent on further bloodshed, when history should have taught us the hard way that we need to get off that road. Actions have consequences, whether Saudi Arabia's use of arms sold by the UK on the Yemeni population, or what we risk becoming by committing or aiding brutality.

Our policy says: 'Measures to protect society should not undermine the fundamental values that shape a green society: inclusion, justice and equality.' Safeguarding liberty requires that we don't do the terrorists' work for them, by retreating into unreasonable suspicion of our neighbours, or expecting a minority community to shoulder the policing burden that should justly be carried by all.

Muslims, in particular, are no more responsible for the violent ideologies carried out in their name than were Christians for the horrific 2011 killing spree of Norwegian far-right terrorist Anders Breivik. Anti-terror policing that seeks to normalise racial profiling or Prevent policies that inspire Islamophobia fail on their own terms and make our job harder.

Benjamin Franklin's warning is prescient: "Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither." Yet we see our government jeopardising liberty for putative safety - whether by the Investigatory Powers Bill, authorising practices the European Court of Justice has ruled as illegal, such as indiscriminate retention of electronic communications, or erosion of our rights to protest through arbitrary imposition of no-go areas, kettling tactics or threats of water cannon.

Greens understand the vital role free speech plays in protecting against state intrusion and risk of oppression. We contend that jaw-jaw is better than war-war and look to inspirational examples such as truth and reconciliation in apartheid South Africa.

We advocate the use of criminal law instead of erecting new, dubious laws for tough cases; and would confront those who seek to divide us with yet greater solidarity. Ours is the path that would better rescue our enemies from evil doing - or at least render repeat incidents less, not more likely.

Greens aren't soft on terrorism. Au contraire: in thinking before we act, we are the ultimate hard-nosed realists.


Chris Ogden - Internal Communications Officer, Manchester Green Party: Salman Abedi's fateful decision to kill himself and 22 other people at an Ariana Grande concert at Manchester Arena on 22 May was the most deadly terror attack on British soil since the 7 July 2005 attacks in London, and a terrible shock for Manchester Greens, some of whom had friends who were personally affected.

Having survived the IRA's bombing of the Arndale Centre in 1996, Manchester is a strong city which has refused to be cowed by fear. We are a proudly cosmopolitan city which continues to embrace Muslims as members of our community, despite an unfortunate spike in Islamophobic attacks in the week immediately after the bombing.

With more isolated attacks likely, it is vital that the police are properly resourced to investigate terrorist activity. However, the 18 arrests made so far in connection with the Manchester bombing have not led to a single charge. As we look to reduce the threat of terrorism, Greens must defend inclusion, justice and equality - values which are crucial in preventing the radicalisation of young men like Abedi.