The Three Pillars of Liberty: Political Rights and Freedoms in the United Kingdom

The Three Pillars of Liberty: Political Rights and Freedoms in the United Kingdom

The Three Pillars of Liberty: Political Rights and Freedoms in the United Kingdom

The Three Pillars of Liberty: Political Rights and Freedoms in the United Kingdom


In this landmark study, a thorough audit of British compliance with international human rights standards is carried out. The book identifies 44 violations and 19 near violations. It provides an up-to-date description of law and practice with respect to freedom of information; freedom of expression; freedom of assembly and public protest; freedom of association and trade unionism; state surveillance; the right to life and liberty; and the right to vote and stand in elections. This study looks at both the political and legal aspects of political freedom in the UK. It measures political freedom specifically against international standards and provides the 'Human Rights Index' - a new system for measuring political rights which may be used to monitor new legislation in the UK from next year or in any country in the rest of the world. This is the most rigorous and systematic review yet published of the political and legal systems for protecting political freedom in the United Kingdom. It challenges the existing political and legal system and finds it wanting. The Three Pillars of Liberty will be essential reading for all those interested in their rights and the rights of others.


This is one of two companion volumes which between them seek to audit the quality of democracy and political freedom in the United Kingdom. Both books are part of an ongoing project, entitled the Democratic Audit of the United Kingdom (henceforth, 'the Democratic Audit'). the goal of the Democratic Audit is to establish an account of the current state of democracy and political freedom in the United Kingdom on systematic and objective foundations. This volume audits political rights and freedoms in the UK; the companion volume, to be published in 1997, audits democratic institutions and practice.

For this purpose, we have developed two related indices as auditing tools: a set of 'democratic criteria', against which we can for the first time measure the democratic institutions of the United Kingdom; and the Human Rights Index of 'evolving international human rights standards' to audit the protection of political and civil rights in this country. These indices are designed both to allow us to carry out these audits in a systemic and transparent way-and to be replicable both in the United Kingdom and other countries. the intention is that the two companion volumes will provide a substantial 'benchmark' for regular audits in the future to measure whether Britain is becoming more or less democratic, and whether people's freedoms are more or less secure. the plan is to review and update both Democratic Audit volumes for the year 2000 and to publish the first set of follow-up volumes the following year.

These indices were constructed on three basic principles. They had to be based on clear and defensible ideas of democracy and political freedom. Second, they had to be specific indices, against which it was possible to measure significant aspects of Britain's political, legal and social life. Third, they had to be applied through a systematic and impartial set of procedures.

The appeal of democracy comes from the idea that ordinary people rule-the original Greek, δημoκρατια (demokratia), literally means 'people power'. We took the view that two universal principles underlie the implicit contract that representative democracy makes between the modern state and its people or peoples. in such a democracy, people do not-and cannot-rule directly, but through a representative system in which they have the final say. If that system is to keep the 'promises' that it makes to the public, it must seek to satisfy two basic goals-the first is that of popular control over the political processes of decision-making within their society; the second is that of political equality in the exercise of that control.

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