Guardian readers are not normally great supporters of freedom. By and large they think "society", through the dubious agency of the Government, knows best how we should conduct our lives. This odious newspaper is, never let it be forgotten, the platform for the despicable Polly Toynbee. But today, even Guardianistas are protesting the treatment of Brian Haw, the Parliament Square peace protestor - and rightly so.
Haw is politically something of a nut job. His stance on Iraq is naieve in the extreme, but I have donated to his campaign in the past because while I despise what he says, I support his right - in a free society - to say it.
Mainstream politicians dislike those of us who condemn Britain's slide towards "a police state". They say we are overstating our case. 50 police officers arresting a lone protester at 0245 looks like a police state to me.
We can, as the slide continues, continue to argue the precise point at which Britain will have crossed the line. But as Amnesty International condemns our government for its assault on civil liberties, as the officers who shot an innocent man on public transport seven times in the head while their colleagues held him down remain uncharged, and as harmless cranks are seized in dawn raids in what even Guardian readers see as "suppression of dissent", I take a more practical view. If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, then a duck is what it is.
Guardian Unlimited Politics | Special Reports | Another assault on our freedoms