Coalition Document: Civil Liberties

So, the newspapers are going nutty that we don't have a majority government - that The Conservatives have to compromise on manifesto commitments. I'm with Chris Addison on this - they didn't get a majority, so the have to compromise. What is it about that concept they find so difficult? This coalition with the Tories was exactly what Clegg said he'd try to make happen. What are the alternatives? An alliance with Labour would have been too unstable, as would a Tory minority government. On 'Have I Got News for You', Chris Addison found his groove with the following:

"But that's how coalitions work. I don't understand how journalists don't appear to be able to see what the definition of a coalition is. (puts on silly voice) 'Dose two people don't appear to be in de same party, how can they be in a coalition?' It wouldn't be in a coalition if they were in the same party, it'd be a majority government - you thick bunch of bastards!"

Ian Hislop made my point: "I quite like the idea of the coalition, it neutralises the loonies on both wings".

Julia Hartley-Brewer said: "I thought it was ridiculous, Clegg was just going between the two of them, just trying to get a bit more and a bit more and a bit more."

Addision replied: "But isn't that what negotiation.... I don't understand why Journalists find this so hard to understand. (as a journalist:) 'What was Nick Clegg doing? How dare he try to secure the best possible deal for his party?' What is WRONG with you people? It's inane question after inane question."

Hartley-Brewer said 'Because he's saying it's all about the country....'

Addision came back with "Course he's saying it's all about the country, 'cos you people would be right up his jacksie if he didn't wouldn't you? If he actually said 'well it's all about politics and this is how politics works you bunch of four year olds.....'"

When Hislop and Hartley-Brewer were complaining about Brown staying on, Addison said: "What was he supposed to do? Constitutionally he was the Prime Minister, it was his job to stay on until another job could possibly be formed.... you don't understand how the country works!"

Some are saying Clegg has 'betrayed' their vote by a coalition with Tories. Rubbish. You don't get to cast a 'conditional' vote under First Past the Post. You vote for your MP to make decisions on your behalf. When voting Lib Dem, you are voting for as many Lib Dem policies as your MP can make happen. This way the Lib Dems can get SOME of their policies enacted. Which is surely better than sticking to principles and getting none.

I look at the coalition document, and on the whole I'm very pleased with it. The Tories have taken the sandal wearing edge from the Lib Dem policies, and the Lib Dems have moderated the nuttier Tory fringe.

The coalition document resulting from the agreement between Lib Dems and Tories isn't perfect, but it has a lot about it that is truly great - and if enacted will address much of the authoritarian streak that was Labour's legacy. People often see Lib Dems as the natural ally with Labour - forgetting that they differ from Labour as much as they do from the Tories, and in areas like Civil Liberties the Labour party is most decidedly illiberal. The Lib Dems are not 'Labour-Lite'.

As you may have surmised, the Civil Liberties section is the highlight for me. I was listening to this being described on Radio 4 as I drove home the other day, and I arrived at my destination with a big smile. Here is the relevant section.

The parties agree to implement a full programme of measures to reverse the substantial erosion of civil liberties under the Labour government and roll back state intrusion.

This will include:

  • A freedom or great repeal bill;
  • The scrapping of the ID card scheme, the national identity register, the next generation of biometric passports and the Contact Point database;
  • Outlawing the fingerprinting of children at school without parental permission;
  • The extension of the scope of the Freedom of Information Act to provide greater transparency;
  • Adopting the protections of the Scottish model for the DNA database;
  • The protection of historic freedoms through the defence of trial by jury;
  • The restoration of rights to non-violent protest;
  • The review of libel laws to protect freedom of speech;
  • Safeguards against the misuse of anti-terrorism legislation;
  • Further regulation of CCTV;
  • Ending of storage of internet and email records without good reason;
  • A new mechanism to prevent the proliferation of unnecessary new criminal offences.

All of which I heartily agree with.

Labour often argued for the retention of the DNA of the innocent as a crime fighting tool, however, if making an arrest on a traffic offence (to use the oft-quoted example), you don't need a database of the innocent to compare with a database of unsolved crimes.

Similarly, the ID card and their associated database are an expensive salve which wouldn't address problems without having checks everywhere in day to day life.

Anti Terrorism legislation has been used to eject hecklers from party conferences (hecklers have often been ejected, but using anti terror law?), it has allowed council officials to act as spies.

The right to protest has been severely curtailed under Labour, to the extent that Maya Evans was convicted for reading the names of the Iraq War dead at the Cenotaph.

Libel Law review is long overdue, especially in the area of scientific endeavour and in satire.

It's true that I did not vote for this coalition document - it's not perfect, but it's much better than any of the options which were on the ballot paper.