Press Releases

Brave New World or Brand New World? – University of Reading

Release Date : 30 January 2004

image of lembit öpik mpA growing climate of mistrust and fear in the UK is damaging national unity and eroding civil liberties, Lembit öpik MP claimed in his Reading Town Hall Lecture on Monday 2 February. Mr öpik talked about the way increasing fear, which has intensified since September 11 2001, is affecting British society. He argued that this fear is being used to justify an attack on civil liberties. "This is ultimately an erosion of trust between all members of society," he said. "Between government and citizen, between neighbour and neighbour, between native and foreigner." Born in Northern Ireland, Mr öpik is the son of Estonian parents whose families fled the totalitarian regime of Stalin. Mr öpik was elected Liberal Democrat MP for Montgomeryshire in 1997. He believes mistrust prevents our country from truly being united, as suspicion prevents cooperation on issues affecting both daily life and government policy. Bills like the Anti-Terrorism Crime and Security Act of 2001 are an example of the government's knee-jerk reaction to threat, he said. "Since September 11 2001, the crackdown on freedom has been more widespread than the average citizen realises. The biggest problem as a result of this growing tension is that fear of being seen as soft on security and therefore dangerous oneself, prevents many potential critics from speaking out." He concluded: "My chief concern is that, without effective criticism, democracy becomes stagnant, and the foundations of our society are at risk." In Parliament, Mr öpik is the Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Northern Ireland and Wales. He became the Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats In 2001 and a member of the Liberal Democrat Shadow Cabinet. He has also played a prominent role in the debate on foxhunting as Co-Chair of the Middle Way Group, which calls for statutory regulation of hunting as opposed to a ban. His interests include astronomy (he has been actively promoting awareness of the threat to earth from asteroids and meteors), flying (gliders in particular) and motorbikes. He has even turned his hand to stand up comedy. The MP speaks fluent Estonian and is learning Welsh. Unlike the usual lecture format, Mr Opik structured most of his lecture around a question and answer session. 'Brave New World or Brand New World?' was the second in a series of five Town Hall Lectures organised by the University of Reading's School of Continuing Education. The 'United Kingdom?' lecture series aims to explore our national identity as a unified kingdom. Remaining speakers in the series include: -Mandana Hendessi, Commissioner on Muslim women's issues for the Women's National Commission - 'The Hidden United Kingdom', 16 February, 2004. -Caroline Lucas, Green MEP for the South East Region - 'The Question of Europe', 1 March, 2004. -Anthony Barnett and/or Caspar Melville, the editor and executive director of - 'Sovereign State?', 15 March, 2004. End -Tickets for the series (£25 or £18 concessions) and individually (£7) can be booked in advance through the Hexagon box office by calling 0118 960 6060. Individual lecture tickets are also available at the door on the night. -For further information, please contact Karen Brown at the University's Institute of Continuing Education. Tel: 0118 378 6754 Email:


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