Charles Kennedy: Don't forget that we live in a liberal democracy

From an address by the leader of the Liberal Democrats to the party conference, in Bournemouth

Share

We meet against an unimaginable backdrop. It is hard to find words adequate to give proper voice by way of response, far less respect. Now immediate emotions inevitably begin to subside, but they will never go away. Nor should they. We Liberal Democrats must be clear about our intentions. Resolve. There cannot be capitulation to the terrorist. Determination. That we strike at the heart of international terrorism. And equal determination that in combating terrorism we do not lose sight of the fact, at one and the same time, that we live – actually – in a liberal democracy, and the principles of democracy are what we're all about.

One of our particular duties is to make it clear that short-term kneejerk responses never provide long-term solutions. We have to be especially vigilant against those people who would seek to make scapegoats of Muslims in Britain. Let us be quite clear, we have no quarrel with the Muslim community and no quarrel with the Islamic faith.

Do not underestimate the real, ongoing pressures and the public scrutiny that goes with that, which will be upon us in the times ahead. Proportionate response is not just about military measures. Proportionate response is also about civil liberties. The scandal that is terrorism is all about civil liberties. In facing those dilemmas, we are best to remember our first principles. We subscribe to the rule of law, violated over the skyline of the United States on 11 September. But that subscription, as the very word implies, comes with a price tag attached. It involves realism and risk.Realism means facing the stark truth – that the terrorist will stop at nothing, absolutely nothing. Risk is about the consequences of your response.

Now that's where we stand. And that defines our response and our reasoning in the wake of these dreadful events. When Parliament was reconvened, I couldn't help but cast my mind back to such a happy year as a student in the Midwest of the States. Friendships were made there. What struck me then, what I didn't understand properly, was the extent to which the Midwest can almost be a country that is very different from the rest of the country, which, when you think about it, itself is a continent.

But what is so striking now is the remarkable degree of spontaneous unity right across America. A unity of understandable anger. But the fear that can flow from that can be dangerous. That's where a candid friend comes in. Standing shoulder to shoulder, but always there for the occasional cautionary tap on the shoulder.

The most special relationships, in my experience, are based on a combination of trust and mutual respect. And as America's candid friend, we are able to say: there are no blank cheques to be issued to the US. The way to defeat international terrorism is through international co-operation based on international law, clear intelligence and a measured and appropriate military response.

And let me say this where military response is concerned: we have a duty and a responsibility to ensure that where our armed forces are involved, the risks to them are quantified and minimised. We cannot shelve or abandon that requirement.

That means supporting American actions only in the knowledge that Britain will be involved in all planning and risk assessment. All that, we owe that to our armed forces. And let me also, incidentally, pay tribute to the BBC World Service. As ever, one of the key contributions that Britain can make to the coalition against terror and suppression is to offer accurate information and rational analysis.

But do remember. War is not the word. Nor is crusade. Resolve is. We have got to fashion a mindset, to find that approach which begins to address the roots of such evil. We do need to get back to those first. In the face of such violation, be inviolate. Don't flinch. Democracy must prevail and it will.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Technical Author / Multimedia Writer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This recognized leader in providing software s...

Recruitment Genius: Clinical Lead / RGN

£40000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: IT Sales Consultant

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support company has a n...

Recruitment Genius: Works Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A works engineer is required in a progressive ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

I don't blame parents who move to get their child into a good school

Chris Blackhurst
William Hague, addresses delegates at the Conservative party conference for the last time in his political career in Birmingham  

It’s only natural for politicians like William Hague to end up as journalists

Simon Kelner
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent