Con/Dem Nation?

Betrayed?

My initial reaction to the Liberal Democrats’ decision to form a coalition with the Tories was a combination of disappointment and a sense of betrayal (with a side order of impending doom, of course).

I was, perhaps, naive. I said that I was voting LibDem, and that I actively wanted Labour to lose (while stressing that I wanted the Tories to lose even more). I was, I think, hoping for a hung parliament, which of course is what we got. But I was labouring (heh!) under the delusion that the LibDems were ideologically relatively close to Labour, and far enough away from the Tories that siding with them would be unthinkable.

Clearly I was wrong.

I had convinced myself that the only reaction of the LibDems to a hung parliament would be to join with Labour; and that seemed like the best possible solution.

Wasted?

On election day my friend Tony Facebooked to the effect that he had wasted his vote (and it’s really annoying that, as far as I know, there’s no way to link to an update or a comment in Facebook). I answered:

I don’t agree. The only way you can waste a vote is to not
use it. For example I voted LibDem in a safe Labour seat,
but that isn’t “wasted”. In fact, it would have been more of
a waste to vote Labour.

My son made the same point when I told him about that discussion. Diane Abbott got 54% of the vote in Hackney North and Stoke Newington. (That’s a proper majority.) My vote wouldn’t have made any difference, though, would it?

But in the days immediately after the election, as Clegg took his party into talks with the hated Tories, I began to regret my decision. It really felt like I had “wasted” my vote; or maybe misused is the better word.

Things Can Maybe Get Better?

However the coalition document that they published today is remarkable. If you’ve read any of my political posts over the years, you’ll know that the biggest thing going on for me for some time has been ID cards, and all the associated post-9/11 terror-panic fallout. So to read this, from the wordprocessor of the Tories (and LibDems) is remarkable:

  • A Freedom or Great Repeal Bill.

  • The scrapping of ID card scheme, the National Identity register, the next generation of biometric passports and the Contact Point Database.

  • Outlawing the finger-printing 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.

I mean, that’s pretty much everything we could want on civil liberties, right there.

And a few other points are good. As my friend Stuart said:

Most important line of the agreement? – We will end the detention of children for immigration purposes. #ge10Wed May 12 14:23:57 via TweetDeck

(Gotta keep embedding those tweets, you know.)

Dismal Science?

On the other hand, I’m no economist; but as I said before, I don’t trust right-wingers to run the economy. And right now, I have a gut feeling that cutting back on public spending during a recession is exactly the wrong thing to do (cutting back on most public spending is nearly always the wrong thing to do, of course).

Keep On Keeping On

In conclusion, I agree with Charlie, pretty much. I don’t trust the Tories, but let’s see whether Clegg & co can keep this thing on track. And let’s keep a close eye on them all, and keep that list above in mind.

You never know: maybe this really is “The New Politics”.

Con/Dem Nation?

42 referendums and and a resignation

I can’t decide on this David Davis thing. Is it just a stunt? Is he genuinely concerned enough about civil liberties to take the chance (small though it is) of losing his seat? Certainly he sounds sincere when he talks about his concerns about the growth of state power; and Shami Chakrabarti of Liberty counts him as a friend, it seems.

But as others have pointed out he has a bad reputation on some other rights votes.

Still, there’s no doubt in my mind that he’d be better than “Kelvin Mc-bloody-Kenzie”:… (as backed by Rupert Murdoch, of course).

The most concerning thing, though, is the talk to the effect that the public is in favour of 42-day detention without trial. This member of the public most certainly is not, and I’m sure I’m by no means alone. And honestly: would people who’ve really thought it through be in favour of this kind of thing? I find it hard to believe. What happened, if it’s true, to the great British sense of fair play, of support for the underdog, even of disrespect for authority? Is this another facet of the grumbling about human rights that I wrote about before?

Maybe we need to re-educate people about what is good and right. But how?

And then Ireland have voted ‘No’ to the EU treaty. I can’t help but think that this is a bad thing. The EU itself has been a net good for Europe and the world, as I’ve probably said here before. Whether these reforms will really make it better and more democratic, or not, I can’t say: I haven’t studied it.

Thing is, though, I would probably have been in favour of the EU constitution; if only because we could do with one in the UK. Admittedly, I’d want one that got rid of the monarchy and introduced an elected upper chamber in parliament, but one that further enshrined the European Convention on Human Rights would be a good start.

It would be quite difficult to amend it, mind you, since you’d need a Europe-wide referendum.

But I’m havering fancifully here: it was never meant to be that kind of constitution.

What now, then? Who knows, really. I expect they’ll either re-work it slightly and try again, or just apply various components of it without the treaty.

42 referendums and and a resignation