if we are forced to compromise, it will be a compromise with this nation’s security, don’t let anyone be in any doubt about that
Right. A compromise is exactly what is needed. We have to decide how much risk we are willing to bear and what price we are willing to pay – in terms of liberties lost – to reduce those risks.
Here is Tony Blair in the preface to Risk and Uncertainty, a Government policy statement on handling risk:
It will rarely be possible for governments to eliminate risks entirely. All life involves some risk, and any innovation brings risk as well as reward – so the priority must be to manage risks better.
There is lots of good stuff in that policy document about best practice in handling risk which the Prime Minister might like to review:
Recent cases have demonstrated that, in order to handle and communicate effectively about risks to the public, government needs to win public trust. In particular, they suggest the need for:
- building public confidence in the basis of decisions made by government about risks;
- more transparency about decisions so that they demonstrate a clear grounding in evidence;
- decisions that better reflect public values and concerns; and
- providing enough information to allow individuals to make balanced judgements.
Although steps have been taken to improve the handling of risks to the public, this study suggests that the government’s approach to handling risks to the public needs to become:
- more open, particularly in cases of uncertainty;
- more transparent about the processes it has used to reach its decisions; and
- more participative, by involving stakeholders and the wider public at an earlier stage in the decision process.
These seem to be good principles. They explain, in part, why the disaster of going to war against Weapons of Mass Destruction that never were has so eroded public confidence in the advice of our security services that we are much less willing to accept a restriction of our liberties on the basis of their say-so.