Thoughts on politics and life from a liberal perspective

Thursday, 20 May 2010

This is why I became a Lib Dem

Nick Clegg's speech yesterday on political reform ticked so many boxes for me that it is essentially a summation of many of the reasons why I became a Lib Dem in the first place; to argue for things like he talked about to be implemented.

Here are some of the highlights for me with my accompanying thoughts:

...sweeping legislation to restore the hard won liberties that have been taken, one by one, from the British people.
This government will end the culture of spying on its citizens.
It is outrageous that decent, law-abiding people are regularly treated as if they have something to hide.
It has to stop.
So there will be no ID card scheme.
No national identity register, a halt to second generation biometric passports.
We won’t hold your internet and email records when there is just no reason to do so.
CCTV will be properly regulated, as will the DNA database, with restrictions on the storage of innocent people’s DNA.
Britain must not be a country where our children grow up so used to their liberty being infringed that they accept it without question.
There will be no ContactPoint children’s database.
Schools will not take children’s fingerprints without even asking their parent’s consent.

This is fantastic stuff. Some of the most illiberal work of the last government is going to be unwound. One thing that seems to be missing from this list though is the "Vetting and Barring" scheme. I hope that it will be thrown into the mix too.

...we’ll remove limits on the rights to peaceful protest.
...we’ll review libel laws so that we can better protect freedom of speech.
And as we tear through the statute book, we’ll do something no government ever has:
We will ask you which laws you think should go.
Because thousands of criminal offences were created under the previous government…
Taking people’s freedom away didn’t make our streets safe.
Obsessive lawmaking simply makes criminals out of ordinary people.
So, we’ll get rid of the unnecessary laws, and once they’re gone, they won’t come back.

Again, lots of great ideas here. Asking people which laws should go is very interesting and could work very well although I would like to see more details of that. Also, the government should be prepared for a few unintended consequences there!

This government will replace the House of Lords with an elected second chamber…
Where members are elected by a proportional voting system.
There will be a committee charged specifically with making this happen…

Long, long overdue and it looks like it will finally happen. We just need to see a time-frame now and to make sure that the committee referenced does not just become another talking shop.

If your MP is corrupt, you will be able to sack them.
You will need the support of 10% of people living in the constituency…
And your MP will have had to have been found guilty of serious wrongdoing…
But it happens in Switzerland, in Canada, in 18 US states…
And it’s going to happen here.

Another long overdue and extremely welcome move. If I was Eric Illsley I would be very worried right now...

This government will be putting to you, in a referendum, the choice to introduce a new voting system, called the Alternative Vote.
Under that new system far more MPs will have to secure support from at least half the people who vote in their constituency…
And, hand in hand with that change, there will be new constituency boundaries, reducing the number of MPs overall and creating constituencies that are more equal in size.
David Cameron and I are very relaxed about the fact we may be arguing different cases in that referendum.
But my position is clear: the current voting system, First Past the Post, is a major block to lasting political change.
According to some estimates, over half the seats in the Commons are “safe”… giving hundreds of MPs jobs for life… meaning that millions of people see their votes go to waste.
Is it any surprise that, with a system like that, we end up with politicians who are seen to be out of touch with the people they serve?
New politics needs fairer votes.
This referendum will be our opportunity to start to make that happen.

It is no secret that this is not my ideal system for the Commons. However an AV referendum was all that was politically possible at the moment and Clegg is spot on about how FPTP is a block to lasting political change. It's also good to see him acknowledging the differences with the Prime Minister and then underlining what the Lib Dems will do.

...we are serious about giving councils much more power over the money they use, so they depend less on the whims of Whitehall, and can deliver the services and support their communities need.
We know that devolution of power is meaningless without money.

Again I would like to see more details but devolution of power more locally has to be the right way and is a touchstone issue for Lib Dems.

I’ll still be holding my town hall meetings, that I’ve been holding for the last two years, around the country, where you can come and ask me whatever you like.
The next one is actually in Sheffield on Friday.
As I lead the transformation of our political system, I want you to tell me how you want your politics to be.

Great to hear. It will be a good way of ensuring that he keeps in touch with what ordinary people think about how the government is progressing. That also puts pressure on David Cameron to continue with his "Cameron Direct" events.

All in all there are lots of goodies in that speech. The only thing we need to see now is some more flesh on the bones.

1 comment:

Andrew K said...

I've been telling people about this speech to highlight the benefits of this coalition government and why I support the Liberal Democrats.

I really hope this can be put into action early in the new parliament. If successful this is one of the ways of showing how the LD have helped in government (along with our other financial policies included).

It may not have everything we wanted but it's an awful lot more than a solitary Labour of Conservative administration would have done.