Proof the Conservatives Can be Trusted on Civil Liberties

17/10/2012 09:52 BST | Updated 16/12/2012 10:12 GMT

Theresa May's decision to block the extradition of Gary McKinnon to the United States has proven that the Conservatives can be trusted on justice and constitutional affairs. David Cameron and his team of shadow ministers were right to promise to halt the extradition of Mr McKinnon whilst in opposition, and it's a relief that this has been followed through in government. As Chris Grayling said when he was Shadow Home Secretary: "Gary McKinnon is a vulnerable young man and I see no compassion in sending him thousands of miles away from his home and loved ones to face trial ... If he has questions to answer, there is a clear argument to be made that he should answer them in a British court." David Cameron concurred, stating that he was "deeply saddened and disappointed" with the extradition of Mr McKinnon.

However, there still remain some question marks with regards to the government's policy on this important area. There is an argument to be made that the Conservatives have failed to live up to their promises on law and order and justice issues, now they are in government. For instance, there has been no reform of the EU arrest warrant or the US/UK extradition, despite the fact that the forum amendment would be easy to implement. The Bill of Rights commission does not appear to have made much progress in reforming the Human Rights Act, and proposals for real-time monitoring of email and social media launched by the government are the complete reverse of what the Conservatives promised in opposition. The question must be asked, whatever happened to a cornerstone of Conservative Party policy: 'Reversing the rise of the surveillance state'?

Pro-civil liberties policies should not just be rolled out at election time, and then ignored once in government. They ensure our society remains free, and absent from excessive government interference. As it is stated in V for Vendetta: "People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people." Whilst today's decision by Theresa May should be welcomed, the Conservatives need to ensure they remain a party that is committed to defending civil liberties.