Liberty AGM 2012

Posted by Ian McDonald on 28 May 2012

We were delighted with the outstanding attendance at our Members’ Conference and Annual General Meeting on Saturday. On the hottest weekend of the year to date, Liberty supporters from across the country did us proud by giving up their time to flock in droves to the event.

Things got underway with a lively panel debate, expertly chaired by Liberty director Shami Chakrabarti. All three main parties were represented, with Attorney General the Rt Hon Dominic Grieve QC MP, Shadow-Attorney General Emily Thornberry MP and deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats Simon Hughes MP joined by Guardian journalist Marina Hyde and Liberty’s very own policy director Isabella Sankey.

The quintet were quizzed on current human rights and civil liberties hot potatoes ranging from secret justice to the snoopers’ charter; from prisoner voting to gay marriage. The panel were particularly forthright on the Justice and Security Bill, which is due tomorrow and which Liberty is fighting hard against via its For Their Eyes Only campaign. The Shadow-Attorney General argued there wasn’t “sufficient evidence” to justify the changes and that we should be “greatly alarmed”. Simon Hughes MP stressed the importance of openness and the dangers of one-sided justice and Liberty’s policy director reminded the audience that the scheme doesn’t just constitute “secret justice” – it offers “no justice” whatsoever. Marina Hyde questioned who voted for such a policy – never included in any manifesto – and even the Attorney General, as a member of the current Government, admitted he was “anxious” about the Bill while defending the thinking behind it.

After lunch, once all the formalities - including a fantastic debate during the "business" section - that come with being a membership organisation were concluded, Liberty members were treated to a series of interactive workshops conducted by staff and board members. Our supporters listened hard and got their thinking caps on while enjoying fruitful sessions covering human rights careers, protest, effective campaigning and equality.

And following that we were honoured to be joined by Baroness Brenda Hale, the first and only woman in the Supreme Court. She was interviewed on stage by Liberty’s director – doing her best Parkinson impression – about her early life, law career and the role of the highest court in the land. Members in the hall, who also got to ask questions of our special guest, were captivated by her compelling answers; all delivered in her customary clever, humane manner.

In short, it was the busiest AGM in recent memory and perhaps the best we’ve ever staged. Massive thanks to all our members for attending – you make everything we do possible. Hopefully you enjoyed it as much as we did – see you next year!