Friday, January 27, 2006

Under watchful eyes

After the embarrassment of CK's downfall and the further embarrassment of Mark Oaten, Simon Hughes' little display of hypocrisy is making me feel murderous thoughts about the Liberal Democrats' Parliamentary party. The purpose of this election was to heal, and if Simon truly believes that he is a healing figure then he is frankly deluded. His stupefying ineptness with the media marks him out as one to avoid- after what has happened in recent weeks, he still chose to bluff his way though- that is to lie, even when he must have been aware that a tabloid expose could not be far away. I will not even give Simon a preference, and he should reconsider his position. As far as I am concerned, this contest is between Chris Huhne and Ming Campbell- I have already pledged my support for Ming, I would be content with Chris- I would be appalled if Simon comes anywhere close.

What particularly makes my blood boil is that this truly is a battle about scrutiny: not the tabloid scrutiny of the pathetic sexual shenanigans of politicians; the real battle about government and who controls it. I am currently back in Tallinn the -rather cold and snowy- capital of Estonia. I will be meeting with various members of the government here. Interestingly, there is almost complete transparency over government decisions here: the meetings of the cabinet are broadcast on the internet, including the agenda and supporting papers- the only time this rule of openness is broken is the exception of defence ministry matters. The Estonian population can scrutinize in detail their government and hold them to account accordingly.

By contrast, I see this morning that the United Kingdom now has the most scrutinized roads in the world- with CC TV coverage becoming universal. In my opinion this is foolish and potentially dangerous. The revelation that DNA samples from thousands of innocent individuals had been kept on file is frankly sinister. With the prospect of the expensive and badly thought out ID card system becoming compulsory, can I be the only one to think that the government authorities in Britain are overstepping the line? The increasing intrusion of government into people's lives is as unwelcome as it is unnecessary. I do not admit that the open-ended and vague "War on Terror" is a sufficient excuse to erode the liberties of a nation. It is the state that serves the people and not the other way round. At a time when the farcial freedom of information act still does not us to know some of the most basic information about our own country, it is not acceptable for the government to posses, let alone use, detailed personal information. As far as road traffic is concerned, well since so few people intend to keep the 70 mph motorway speed limit, it should either be raised or scrapped and replaced with higher fines for dangerous driving (in which case a judgment of what is excessive speed can be made by the court). The Rule of Law should be obeyed, but laws that few people obey are not worth keeping. Or are we now to have a DNA database for those dangerous criminals that drive at 80 on the M1? The people should be scrutinizing the government; the government should have few, if any rights to spy on its employers- the people.

These are the issues of scrutiny and accountability that should be at the forefront of the Liberal debate- not the fact that Simon Hughes is a "Tommy Two-Ways" and made the lie direct about it. However the puerile British Press could rake over old sex scandals until the last of our ancient liberties was finally denied us by an unaccountable and remote state. Hughes knew the rules- he failed us and he should not take this forward any further.


Edis said...

Was thinking of pointing out the Estonian example myself sometime... thanks for this. One Lithuanian-origin LibDem here - any other Balts about in Party circles to make it three with Lembit?

frvfvsdvdsv said...

I always look forward to Cicero's wise words, but I must admit surprise at the sharpness of your attack on Simon Hughes. Simon has, understandably, sought to keep his private life private over twenty years until 'blackmailed' into outing himself by the Murdoch press. Simon's sexuality has never been an issue for those who respect the hard work he has done for his constituents and the cause of Liberalism. My real regret is that any thinking Liberal should fail to defend his right to privacy while we are battling a government that seeks to invade our privacy with illiberal measures such as ID cards

Cicero said...

Hi Steve, and thanks for the kind words. As I hope I make clear, the issue is not really Simon's sexual behaviour. It is that he knew that people (read the tabloids)would be after him, especially after the Oaten fiasco and indeed the removal of Charles, and yet he still played the lie direct- this really is not the mark of leadership that we need, and after the last few weeks I am not feeling very tolerant about very many of our MPs- Simon included.

Peter Pigeon said...

Edis - Mark Carlile I think.

Cicero - I found you sharp too. But you have convinced me.

Should we just blame Simon? No - those MPs who nominated him should have made disclosure a condition of support.