“Come down to my dungeon,” jokes Shami Chakrabarti, leading me towards her windowless office in the basement of Liberty’s London Bridge HQ. The former Home Office barrister joined Liberty the day before 9/11 and in September 2003 became its director. Ever since, she has tenaciously upheld freedom of speech in 21st-century Britain with principles stretching back to Voltaire and Mill. Her speech at last week’s Tory conference, attacking “the pit-bull posturing of home secretaries”, was loudly cheered.
“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” Wrongly attributed to Voltaire, these words first appeared in 1906 to summarise his beliefs on freedom of expression. Their sentiment remains close to Chakrabarti’s heart.