City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

Edinburgh Book Festival: Shami Chakrabarti: 'The Most Dangerous Woman in Britain'

By Allan Alstead - Posted on 22 August 2015

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Edinburgh International Book Festival
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Shami Chakrabarti with Kate Mosse in the Chair

This was The Open University Event, with the person who was identified as 'The Most Dangerous Woman in Britain', Shami Chakrabarti. It was chaired by her friend Kate Mosse. Conducted very much as a discussion between Shami Chakrabarti and Kate Mosse, it was a pity that Mosse had her microphone set very much louder than the main speaker as occasionally she was drowned out. Chakrabarti was appearing to highlight her new book 'On Liberty' which is shortly to be published.

We heard how originally Chakrabarti had worked for the Home Office, but left to join the campaigning organisation, Liberty the day before the New York twin towers were attacked on 11th September 2001 - 9/11 - an attack which killed almost three thousand people. At the time she was very depressed as she had a number of friends and colleagues at the Home Office and no one knew what would happen next and if this country itself might be attacked. She watched the sheer horror of the event as it unfolded and saw later how it developed into 'the war on terror' and eventually to the attack on Iraq.

The demands of national security became intense and she felt, most intensely, that the measures threatened individual liberty. So her passion became the fight for human rights in the face of the demands of states across the world to restrict access to justice under the guise, as she saw it, of providing greater national security. Her commitment to this cause led her to being called 'The Most Dangerous Woman in Britain' - she added that she now found herself disputing this title with the charismatic Nicola Sturgeon!

Chakrabarti claimed that everyone wanted human rights when they were in trouble, but that politicians such as Michael Howard and Tony Blair had been the driving forces to restrict the freedom of the individual. She said that she saw the introduction of identity cards as a retrograde move and she was glad this had been abandoned for the present. Chakrabarti cited the imprisonment of suspects in Guantanamo Bay and in Belmarsh Prison as being totally wrong and she deplored the fact that many had been imprisoned for long periods without proper trial.

Asked about what the UK would look like in five years time, she said she was hugely optimistic; she felt that the Human Rights Act would still be there and she hoped that politicians would have a better understanding of the problems that any change would produce. She was also asked what her views were on Edward Snowden and she welcomed the information that he made public as this helped to keep a check on the operations of the politicians.

There is nothing half-hearted in the convictions that Shami Chakrabarti holds. She has proved herself to be a tireless campaigner for liberty and many will certainly buy her new book.

Event: 19 August