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The Idea is simple: far too much power is locked up in the hands of too few people. Formed in November 2007 after the merger of Charter 88 and the New Politics Network, Unlock Democracy hosted a committee on defending rights and delivering political reform.
Almost every seat was filled and everyone wanted to have their say, it was clear that word got around. The committee was opened by Vicky Seddon, Chair of Unlock Democracy who introduced us to Sadiq Khan MP, The Shadow Lord Chancellor. Alex Runswick, The Director of Unlock Democracy and Stephen Bowen The Director of the British Institute of Human Rights (BIHR.)

Sadiq Khan began his speech by saying that the rights and liberties of ordinary people are under threat, legal aid is threatened. Khan also acknowledged 800 years of the Manga Carta and celebrated the Human Rights Act but said that the clock is ticking. Khan continued by saying that labour will stand up for human rights in 2015, and that we need an elected 2nd chamber. He admitted that labour got things wrong during their time in power and that the freedom of information act should be extended to private companies.
Sadiq Khan had to leave his speech halfway through to vote. While we were waiting, Stephen Bowen began his speech, Khan then returned mid-way through Bowen’s speech. I have put both parts of both speeches together.

Stephen Bowen used his speech to talk about human rights and the work that he does at BIHR, he said that labour have often over reacted and ID cards is one such example. Bowen said that more should be done on minimum wage and child poverty. Bowen said that Human Rights are sometimes seen by governments as an inconvenience, as they do not give the state power to do what they want and he welcomes a no retreat stance on human rights by labour but he chastised labour by saying that it is their mistake to not provide education on human rights.

Alex Runswick talked about charter 88 and its relevance today by quoting its opening words: “We have been brought up in Britain to believe that we are free: that our Parliament is the mother of democracy” and that: “Today such beliefs are increasingly implausible.” Runswick said that we have great cause for concern in this country, legal aid should stay and our press should be fair and balanced. She finished by echoing Sadiq Khan’s point that we need political reform.

Vicky Seddon opened the floor to comments. First she went to someone who had been itching to talk, she started to describe how she was a victim of human rights by the labour government, however she was cut off as Seddon remarked that they cannot comment on individual cases.

The rest of the comments were squeezed into the last 45 minutes. One of the first subjects asked was why labour went into an illegal war with Iraq, Sadiq Khan said that he was one of mp’s that did not vote to go. I used this opportunity to get across a question about Edward Snowden and the NSA. This is a case that I have been eagerly following; I asked if Edward Snowden was to come to Britain, would we be able to welcome them, or would we jump if America said jump? Khan also answered this question by saying that sadly if he came here and America asked we would just give him over.

Another prime subject was the funding of a political party, one commenter questioned Labour taking funding from trade unions, however Khan again was quick to respond, he said that he was proud that trade unions were funding the labour party as it puts the workers first. The discussion then moved on the prisoner voting, Khan again commented saying that we do not treat our prisoners correctly, as a former lawyer and later as a MP, he visits a lot of prisons and compared to other countries he noticed that there is a lack of education and course’s, numeracy and literacy are terrible and drugs and alcohol remain a huge problem.

One of the final subjects raised was the royal family, one gentlemen said that we should lose our political dependence on the sovereign, he continued by saying that there is no way we can truly unlock democracy until we are a republic nation. Finally, Alex Runswick responded by saying they will still be there no matter what happens to the political system.