Sunday, 8 August 2010

Opinion: Getting rid of ContactPoint – a great day for liberalism

I would imagine Liberals throughout the country breathed a collective sigh of relief this past week when they opened their newspapers or turned on their computers to find the intrusive ContactPoint database was to be switched off at noon on 6th August.

28th February 2010 was the beginning of the end for ContactPoint.

On this day, an emergency motion submitted to Liberal Youth Spring Conference found its way through the ballot and ended up for debate on the final day of our conference. During the debate, we acknowledged the good points of ContactPoint and, whilst we understood its flaws and noted that the intention had been honourable, the fate of ContactPoint – at least in the eyes of Liberal Youth – was clear. We wanted it gone, and we wanted it gone now.

We could not believe that the system had been approved in the first place, that the safeguards put in place were not nearly strong enough for a databank designed to house the details of 11 million children and those responsible for them, and that 330,000 unchecked people would have access. It wasn’t reasonable, it wasn’t an answer to the Victoria Climbie case, it was simply a Labour overreaction that would further infringe our civil liberties.

At a time when the federal party did not have a policy on this dangerous database, the emergency motion passed through our spring conference almost unanimously. Soon after, it became Liberal Democrat policy and appeared in the party’s General Election manifesto. Then, to our surprise and delight, scrapping it became Government policy. Now, after a long hard fight – from the party, civil liberties campaigners and the public – we have the result we were always after.

It’s time to say goodbye to ContactPoint and give a warm welcome to the return of our civil liberties.

Liberal Youth have been the leading voice against this system. If it hadn’t been switched off, we would have kept fighting, because we recognised just how dangerous this database was to us and to young people across the country.

Liberal Youth have been referred to, both internally and externally, as the ‘conscience of the Liberal Democrats’ and, whether true or false, Liberal Youth will keep fighting for our civil liberties – at conference, during Freshers’ Week, and as we approach the Freedom Bill in autumn. Expect nothing less from Liberal Youth than our full support for the abolition of intrusive databanks – from ONSET to the Common Assessment Framework to the proposed Communications Database. We believe firmly that our data was never meant to be used against us, and intend to speak out and speak loud on the issues that matter to us.

Getting rid of ContactPoint is a great Liberal Democrat success – our children are safer, our data is protected – we have taken a large step in the right direction. But, now we’ve taken one, let’s, as a party, start running. We can fight for Identification, Referral and Tracking (IRT) systems to be abolished, for Control Orders to be terminated, and for steadfast opposition to extradition to countries where a fair trial cannot be guaranteed or that have not abolished Capital Punishment.

Mark it in your diaries: 6th August, 12 noon. A great day for liberalism, and the day we started getting our civil liberties back.

* Sarah Harding is a General Executive Member and Policy Officer for Liberal Youth. She also blogs at

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