Skip to main content

Trust and Distrust

"Liberalism is trust of the people tempered by prudence. Conservatism is distrust of the people tempered by fear" William Ewart Gladstone

The Liberal Democrats on principle oppose secret courts. Our party conference has repeatedly pointed out that no government can be above the law. It is an article of faith that we must oppose any executive authority that seeks to place itself outside the normal rule of law. Nor is this a purely theoretical issue: the information coming out of Libya after the fall of Gadaffi suggests prima facie evidence that agents of the British government sanctioned criminal activity- including torture and even murder- of those the government deemed arbitrarily and often without evidence to be guilty of enmity against the British state. 

The executive can not even give a number for how many such secret trials might take place under the proposed legislation, still less give any assurance as to the integrity of the judicial process without public scrutiny. Even senior members of the security services have expressed scepticism as to the need for secret trials. 

It is not merely Liberal Democrat policy - duly voted for at the last conference- to oppose the establishment of secret courts, it is a basic foundation of Liberal principles, Liberal ideology and Liberal faith.

So why in God's name did only seven Liberal Democrat MPs vote against the establishment of such secret courts last night?

Our Federal Spring conference begins shortly. Some, notably Liberal Democrats against Secret courts, will presumably be asking serious questions of our Parliamentary party. I am not able to attend this year. I will, however, be watching closely. I will not be alone, as the Guardian pointed out in December, this really is a litmus test of Liberal principles.

What is the point of working so hard to get Mike Thornton elected as MP for Eastleigh, if- the very next week- the Liberal Democrats are prepared to abandon a core principle of Liberalism?

I believe in the fundamental value of Liberalism as a political ideology. It is a pretty poor look out when David Davis turns out to be a more genuine liberal, not just than Ken Clarke, but than Nick Clegg, and the bulk of the Liberal Democrat Parliamentary party.

It is a very bleak day for liberals of all stripes when those we trust to represent liberal values renege on that trust in the name of political expediency. The Parliamentary party owes the long suffering Liberal Democrat membership at least an explanation and probably an apology.

A Democracy can not compromise its fundamental principles without weakening the very fabric of democracy itself and essentially giving in to its enemies- whether the criminal terrorists we most fear, or the criminal state tyrannies like Putin's Russia. We are better than our enemies only for so long as we maintain our better nature and adhere undaunted to the political, indeed the moral, principles of a liberal democratic state. 

Last night was a vote to weaken those principles and it is a vote that must not go unchallenged.  


Popular posts from this blog

Concert and Blues

Tallinn is full tonight... Big concerts on at the Song field The Weeknd and Bonnie Tyler (!). The place is buzzing and some sixty thousand concert goers have booked every bed for thirty miles around Tallinn. It should be a busy high summer, but it isn´t. Tourism is down sharply overall. Only 70 cruise ships calling this season, versus over 300 before Ukraine. Since no one goes to St Pete, demand has fallen, and of course people think that Estonia is not safe. We are tired. The economy is still under big pressure, and the fall of tourism is a significant part of that. The credit rating for Estonia has been downgraded as the government struggles with spending. The summer has been a little gloomy, and soon the long and slow autumn will drift into the dark of the year. Yesterday I met with more refugees: the usual horrible stories, the usual tears. I try to make myself immune, but I can´t. These people are wounded in spirit, carrying their grief in a terrible cradling. I try to project hop

Media misdirection

In the small print of the UK budget we find that the Chancellor of the Exchequer (the British Finance Minister) has allocated a further 15 billion Pounds to the funding for the UK track and trace system. This means that the cost of the UK´s track and trace system is now 37 billion Pounds.  That is approximately €43 billion or US$51 billion, which is to say that it is amount of money greater than the national GDP of over 110 countries, or if you prefer, it is roughly the same number as the combined GDP of the 34 smallest economies of the planet.  As at December 2020, 70% of the contracts for the track and trace system were awarded by the Conservative government without a competitive tender being made . The program is overseen by Dido Harding , who is not only a Conservative Life Peer, but the wife of a Conservative MP, John Penrose, and a contemporary of David Cameron and Boris Johnson at Oxford. Many of these untendered contracts have been given to companies that seem to have no notewo

Bournemouth absence

Although I had hoped to get down to the Liberal Democrat conference in Bournemouth this year, simple pressure of work has now made that impossible. I must admit to great disappointment. The last conference before the General Election was always likely to show a few fireworks, and indeed the conference has attracted more headlines than any other over the past three years. Some of these headlines show a significant change of course in terms of economic policy. Scepticism about the size of government expenditure has given way to concern and now it is clear that reducing government expenditure will need to be the most urgent priority of the next government. So far it has been the Liberal Democrats that have made the running, and although the Conservatives are now belatedly recognising that cuts will be required they continue to fail to provide even the slightest detail as to what they think should guide their decisions in this area. This political cowardice means that we are expected to ch