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Baroness Shami Chakrabarti: Still fighting for equality

Chakrabarti is adjusting to life in Labour


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AS HEAD of human rights group Liberty for 13 years, Baroness Shami Chakrabarti was the darling of the liberal left.

Her assured and articulate campaigning style – often via her many appearances on pro­grammes like Question Time – led The Times to describe her as “probably the most effective public affairs lobbyist of the past 20 years”.

Radio 4’s Today programme placed her on a shortlist of 10 people “who may run Britain” and her popularity with young people was le­gion. An indie band called the Dastards even wrote a eulogistic song about her, while in 2006 she came second in a Channel 4 poll to find Britain’s ‘Most Inspiring Political Figure’.

Not that she ever lacked critics. Never over-popular with the right-wing press, after cam­paigning against “excessive” anti-terror meas­ures in the wake of 9/11, The Sun branded her “the most dangerous woman in Britain”, albeit a label her supporters viewed as a badge of honour, given the source.

It has been since leaving Liberty, however, that detractors have rounded on her with an hitherto un­matched vehemence, though that should come as no great shock. At Liberty she enjoyed the halo effect of being ‘above’ politics, an independ­ent voice unaffiliated to any party, promoting civil liberty causes related to individual, politi­cal and social freedom.

Post Liberty – she left in 2016, joined the Labour party and was appointed to Jeremy Corbyn’s shadow cabinet as shadow attorney general – her reputation became linked to the ideological buffetings of party politics.

Supporters of the leader of the opposition applauded the findings of her report into anti- Semitism in the Labour party (she concluded it was “not overrun by anti-Semitism” despite an “occasionally toxic atmosphere”) while op­ponents labelled her probe a “whitewash.”

Similarly, Corbyn supporters staunchly de­fended his appointing of her just two

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