Diary - Shami Chakrabarti<br />

I've had it with the well-meaning pragmatists. If one more of them tries to persuade me of the virtu

''Stop in the name of Plod!" My three-year-old has been displaying some worrying inclinations towards law enforcement of the less enlightened variety. In different times this might have amused me, but this week it begins to feel like a conspiracy. Perhaps he has a handler somewhere? I always thought that little Caitlin had a great deal of influence over him and she is a whole year older. But what are his mission objectives? To inform on me? He can certainly be a tell-tale at times. To disrupt my activities? He can make it very difficult to listen to the news in the morning. I make a mental note to put the Bob the Builder costume in more prominent view and spirit away some of the police cars. Also, better cut out the politics as well as the swearing at the breakfast table. Loose talk and all that.

The handbag-sized Guardian is looking snazzy and I drop in on the launch party. When I'm greeted on the way in by none other than the Director of Public Prosecutions and the permanent secretary at the Home Office, I begin to suspect an ambush. What has the little one told them? Are they going to do me for treason? My pulse steadies only when I spot Richard Norton-Taylor and John Kampfner out of the corner of my eye. If this isn't a genuine Guardian party, at least I'll be going down with friends.

It's my second week back at work after the holidays and I'm determined to keep cheerful against all the odds. The Zimbabwean ambassador has been on the radio explaining his country's approach to rights and freedoms. Apparently the BBC is now excluded from his country because it has "abused our hospitality". The little one was singing in the back seat of the car at the time, but I could have sworn I heard him say that "the rules of the game have changed".

My heart lifts when I hear a group of youngsters in Liberty HQ singing the praises of "that nice Mr Clarke". Apparently they've been inspired by the text of a speech he's given defending civil liberties. I begin planning my congratulations for the Home Secretary, along the lines of: "Robin Cook would have been proud. Standing up to No 10, and on the eve of publishing yet another tough-talking anti-terror bill. Let's hear it for the big man. We always knew he had it in him!" Of course I don't feel the slightest bit a fool when I realise that it is Kenneth Clarke who is being discussed.

I grab a coffee with a woman friend, a young Muslim professional who happens to wear the headscarf. I haven't seen her in a while and not since the bombs in July. After a few minutes I'm not sure who I'm angrier with, the people who have been abusing her in the street or the nice, well-meaning liberals at her place of work, with their helpful advice that she should perhaps remove the scarf. "After all, it's more cultural than religious and does make you rather a target." This is rather like telling a woman to avoid wearing a miniskirt or even to put on a jilbab because that way she'll be less likely to suffer a sexual attack.

I have had it up to here with the well-meaning pragmatists. If one more of them tries to persuade me of the virtues of dodgy deals allowing deportation to Algeria and other such fragrant "allies in the war on terror", my response may not be printable. They seem to think that human rights principles are as easily modified as British political parties. "New Labour. New Human Rights." What's a little torture between comrades as a price for schools and hospitals? Perhaps they want to ditch Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights just as they ditched Clause Four of the Labour constitution. The party conference is going to be a ball.

Then comes terrible anti-terror bill day, latest landmark in the Prime Minister's campaign to Make Liberty History. Terror suspects will be detained for three months without charge. But surprise, surprise, visible "tracked changes" in the electronic version of a letter by the Home Secretary reveal that there may be some room for horse-trading on this brilliant policy. Some newspapers reveal this so-called blunder as a great scoop. "Anti-terror legislation in political posturing shock!"

Someone from the Association of Chief Police Officers (it seems you can't draw a police salary these days without dabbling in politics) pops up to explain that the new provision "might look a bit like internment but contains judicial involvement". It is so reassuring to be told that three months' detention without charge - that's 30 times the period allowed in a murder, rape or complex fraud case - is really not like what they had in Northern Ireland at all. Feeling the holiday cheer draining from my body, I think perhaps I'll put the little one's police cars in the wheelie bin. If I can do that in the dark, perhaps I can avoid a charge of "glorifying terrorism".

This is the real surprise of my week: reading draft criminal offences more broadly defined and with heavier penalties than even I expected, even from the present government. Have you negligently said things that you ought to have known might encourage someone into terrorism? Seven years. Have you "glorified" terrorism from the past, present or future, anywhere in the world? Five years. Apparently, the Prime Minister once referred to Yasser Arafat as an icon. In future, he'll have to be more careful.

Shami Chakrabarti is director of Liberty

A Barrister by background, Shami Chakrabarti has been Director of Liberty (The National Council for Civil Liberties) since September 2003. She has been recently appointed a Governor of the London School of Economics and the British Film Institute and a Master of the Bench of the Honourable Society of the Middle Temple.

This article first appeared in the 26 September 2005 issue of the New Statesman, Vote Brown: get Blair!