Why are Libdems so silent about this bill?


8:38 am - April 3rd 2012

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contribution by Linda Jack

As one of the “awkward squad” I am used to being in a minority challenging so much of what our Orangebook leadership are signing up to in the name of coalition politics.

But take a peek on the many and various Lib Dem forums and you will be astounded at the disconnect with the leadership these days. No longer confined to the margins but part of the mainstream on this, I find myself alarmed at the contempt with which the leadership is treating the membership.

On the latest plans for a snooping bill, so far I’ve heard hardly any Libdem parliamentarians (other than Julian Huppert) publicly condemn these moves to enable GCHQ et al to monitor our communications.

I have heard David Davis, boldly and clearly taking a stand – but if he looks behind expecting to find his “liberal” coalition partners covering his back – he will be bitterly disappointed.

As Lib Dems we have been told we have nothing to worry about, it is all kosher, and that if you “have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear” – weren’t these the very New Labour arguments our leaders were condemning only a few short years ago?

As well as citing my liberal sensibilities I have personal reasons to be alarmed at this proposed legislation, having worked at GCHQ and served in Northern Ireland. Of course I can’t tell you why – you’ll have to wait until I’m 90 for that!

Last month a group of us launched Liberal Left. We did so because we were opposed to the coalition, because we felt the price we were being asked to pay in terms of abandoning our values and policies was far too high.

But, so the argument went, at least by being in bed with the Tories we were ensuring a more liberal government. If this legislation is allowed to go through that reason d’etre will have flown out of the window and it will remove any remaining vestiges of our erstwhile credibility.

But suffice to say, we sacrifice our civil liberties at our peril. This is a terrible move in the wrong direction, one that no amount of window dressing by the masters and mistresses of spin in the party will make more palatable.

Nick Clegg would be wise to take a step back and remove those enormous Tory shaped earplugs and listen to those he will be depending upon to shore up what support his party still has in the upcoming elections.


Linda Jack is a Lib Dem activist, member of the Social Liberal Forum council, and Chair Liberal Left

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Reader comments


As far as I can see, the outline proposals on this bill go far further than Labour had envisaged. This will give GCHQ free unconditional access to all ‘header records’ (not content) of all phone calls, emails, website access – all without any kind of Home Office or Judicial approval. Then if they can get approval, they can get access to the content of your conversations. Both the Tories and Libdems (rightly IMO) opposed the draft proposals Labour had put in, and realising they were on for a hiding Labour backed down and dropped the bill. So in theory all three parties are opposed to this. So why is it that something the Tories and Libdems were slating whilst in opposition in a far more watered down form, that they’re willing to champion as soon as they get into power? Surely you have a fixed position on a policy regardless of whether you’re in opposition or in power?

2. Leon Wolfeson

If you’re still within the libdem hierarchy, you’re still part of the problem as far as this moderate left winger is concerned.

It’s been clear for a very long time that the Libdems are riding a burning ship down…step away from it. I’d probably vote for a renewed Liberal party.

Liberal Voice has been hilarious for the last couple of weeks. A bit like Pravda at the height of the communist regime. Articles about obscure Lib Dem councillors. Pieces on how the Lib Dems can campaign better.

As for tax cuts for the rich, and tax rises for the poor, and the great sell off of the NHS, with their cabinet ministers banging the desk like tory public school boys not so much coverage. They had a big piece about Bradford and how terrible it was for Labour, forgetting completely that their candidate lost the deposit, and that the neighbouring seat is held by a Lib Dem.

They have lost their minds. They have certainly lost their souls. Clegg knows he is toast, so he is just going with everything. No doubt some private medical company will give him a job, as a thank you present.

So why is it that something the Tories and Libdems were slating whilst in opposition in a far more watered down form, that they’re willing to champion as soon as they get into power?

I suspect Sir Humphrey might have an idea…

5. paul barker

As Linda will know there are half a dozen threads on this proposal on Libdem Voice.The last time I checked there were about 70 comments of which 1 was in favour in a luke warm way & a couple more took a “wait & see” approach. The rest were very strongly against, mostly “over my dead body” against.
This proposal is already dead, its just a matter of time while the anger percolates through to whitehall.

6. Leon Wolfeson

@5 – Like tutition fees were dead?

Absolutely with Leon Wolfeson at 2 and 6.

It will be a damn sight more difficult for the Lib Dems to disengage from their libertine neocon’ bedfellows than they would like to believe.

I am just waiting for the first Lib Dem ‘activist’ to turn up on my doorstep.
(Sadly, liitle chance of that, I haven’t seen an activist of any party in 25 years – safe seat currently held by the Speaker – democracy – huh?).

Presumably, ‘Chair of Liberal Left’ must be a very lonely appointment – just you and the chair, Linda?

I think TimJ is right. There are at least two definitions of the word “government”. One is the government we elect. The other is the permanent government that remains in power regardless – civil service, officialdom, intelligence services, etc. The permanent government has permanent interests, or at least, interests that don’t vary according to which party is formally “in power”. It has a lot of resources with which to put its views to ministers, it can direct them to certain information and try to hide or disguise other information, it can push one policy or obstruct another, and collectively it’s hugely experienced. So of course it’s going to get its way a lot of the time.

I guess the Lie Dem manifesto at the next election will be a blank piece of paper. Pointless them writing anything on it.

Does Mr Clegg want to listen in to what his party members are saying about him, without having to answer them?

11. Here we go

That’s be because in the past the Lib Dems didn’t know anything aboiut the state of the world. The same can be said of politicians of any party who get into a position of power.

You get into power, you sit behind your desk, then Sir Humphrey walks into the room, puts a sheet of paper in front of you, you read it, wipe the beads of sweat from your brow, and the world has changed.

Let’s remember, there’s a hell of a lot that we don’t know, about our governments are in hoc to other governments without us ever knowing it. The same can be said the other way round too. The Americans call this Invisible Government. We might not like it, but, that’s the way it is.

If the Libdems don’t stand for civil liberties, they stand for nothing. Just voting fodder for theTories really. Nick Clegg and some others will do all right out of being part of the coalition, but the rest of Libdems are history. The voters will never trust them again.

here we go,

That’s be because in the past the Lib Dems didn’t know anything aboiut the state of the world. The same can be said of politicians of any party who get into a position of power.

You get into power, you sit behind your desk, then Sir Humphrey walks into the room, puts a sheet of paper in front of you, you read it, wipe the beads of sweat from your brow, and the world has changed.

Let’s let the government do what it wants because it knows more than us about “the state of the world”?

Do you really believe this or am I a victim of Poe’s Law?

13 – I think it’s more a question of Governments unthinkingly aggregating and centralising power, because that’s what Governments do. The bureaucracy is expanding to meet the needs of the expanding bureaucracy.

11 Then the politicians should tell us. They should say “we have to do this because the Americans demand it, and if we don’t they will make our lives very difficult.”

Lets Stop pretending that we live in a democracy and accept that we are now governed by global elites who want to control our lives. At least we know the truth then. We can all stop bothering to vote, because there is no point.

Blair would have been better of telling us that the neo cons were going to attack Iraq regardless of what anyone thinks, and that he had to go along with it because he didn’t want to upset Murdoch. At least he would have been telling the truth.

Well, where to start?! Thanks for the response, positive and negative. @Martin, couldn’t agree with you more, if you have a policy position you should stick to it, not try to defend moving away from it. This is why this is a rare event when I find myself in agreement with the right of my party.

For those of you who are cynical about the future of the Lib Dems, well can I remind you of the Blair years? Many on the left of the party, opposed to the war in Iraq, stayed because they hadn’t lost their values and thought they were worth fighting for. And @Barrie J 🙂 – don’t worry, I don’t just have a chair for company!

@Leon, it would be easy to “step away” but frankly I had a choice – to stay and fight from within or to leave and have no influence at all. It’s incredibly uncomfortable I can tell you – but as anyone who has been involved in a party for a long time will understand, I’m not about to give up without a fight!

Just think how much the police are going to make selling celebrities and politicians internet records to nice Mr Murdoch.

I see May the home Secretary is already trotting out the usual pedophile and terrorism threats to justify it. When ever the elites want to take our freedoms away they always scare us with the kiddie fiddlers.

18. Shatterface

I think TimJ is right. There are at least two definitions of the word “government”. One is the government we elect. The other is the permanent government that remains in power regardless – civil service, officialdom, intelligence services, etc

That’s why some of us prefer to use the word ‘State’ rather than government. Governments come and go but the institution of the State does not.

Presumably, the Lib Dems are silent on this matter because ultimately it stems from the EU (which to most Lib Dems can do nothing wrong):

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Directive_2006/24/EC

..as someone who voted Lib Dem in the past I am well beyond wondering about why you are silent.. suppose it’s a bit like your local election manifesto which does not mention Student Fees.. you totally lack any moral backbone and apart from the sound bytes your silence is deafening.. your party has sold it’s soul.. I once voted for you but now despise you with a passion and I think you will find this is not the exception, although some of you still don’t get it which seems rather absurd..

21. Here we go

@13 ukliberty.

Do you really believe this or am I a victim of Poe’s Law?

Not at all. Ever since the first disasterous attempts at democracy in ancient Athens and the Peloponnesian war which followed, the ordinary people have had a serious lack of understanding of politics, and especially foreign policy.

Democracies have demonstrated themselves to bevicious, aggressive and downright dangerous

Lorna Fitzsimmons understands this, which is why she famously commented on foreign policy being an “elite issue”.

As Tony Blair realised after distasterously losing the Beaconsfield bye-election, the public like wars, even if only for a short time. That was the problem with Iraq and Afghanistan – they lasted for more than the 3 month period that the public can maintain an interest – any longer than that and they get bored, just ask any tv producer.

If the general public were to have any say in foreign policy, Polaris would be launched about now against some poor bugger. Sure, they’d regret it in 4 months time after everyone else in the world had fired back at us, sure they’d try and find someone else to blame, but by then it’d be too late. “Keep the public in ignorance”, it’s the safest way!

22. Here we go

The link hasn’t come out – here it is:

http://www.dartmouth.edu/~nedlebow/aggresive_democracies.pdf

23. Here we go

As previously stated, here’s the link – it didn’t work earlier.

http://www.dartmouth.edu/~nedlebow/aggresive_democracies.pdf

I hate the comments system on Liberal Conspiracy!

..Lynne..

..it’s way too late to worry about not being trusted again.. that bit’s been and gone ..

25. Charlieman

“Why are Libdems so silent about this bill?”

Well you tend to be gobsmacked when anything as stupid (and potentially dangerous as this) is suggested.

Aside from the period of startlement, it is untrue to say that LibDems have been silent. The OP above is a good starting point. And there is nothing more to say about it than the last time that spooks and authoritarians tried to push it through.

26. Leon Wolfeson

@16 – Then you’re tying yourself to policies which are a disaster, in a party which is going to crash and burn. It’s too late, far too late.

Offering a *left*-wing party to vote for is something which could do a LOT of good in the dark times ahead. Something the LibDems will never be seen as again.

@19 – The EU and ECHR have recently produced rulings putting individual rights ahead of snoopers. Funny that! It’s like you’re selecting old data…

27. Spotty-faced Marxist

Leon “as far as this moderate left winger is concerned.” Ha ha, you are joking Mr point-the-finger-at anyone-you-disagree-with-and-call-them-a right-winger-and-sounds-about-as-moderate-as-Sally-Wolfeson, aren’t you….?

Why are Libdems so silent about this bill?

Because it doesn’t matter who you elect, you always get a government………

28

Totally agree, despite so-called liberal governments claiming that they support freedom and privacy, they do not. The focus of all governments is to control society and to do this they need to observe.

Marshall McLuhan identified that the internet would create the conditions of a medieval village (global village) with its’ ability to communicate information exchange within seconds. The proposed law enables the state to become the metaphorical, all knowing, feudal lord

.Let’s face it, information and the ability to communicate could assist a revolution, that’s why certain parts of the internet gets blocked in some countries. But that’s not very liberal because it amounts to censorship, so being able to observe everything ensures the state potentially retains control.

30. White Trash

Yup, we’re in the Panoptikon now, whether it’s State/Corporate or Corporate/State.

Is there a difference anyhow?

31. Leon Wolfeson

@27 – Yes, yes, it’s SO terrible that I won’t let right wingers claim they’re on the left and pollute the debate that way. Did I nail your socket puppet?

With yet more secret courts, and the mind-blowing surveillance of our every doing, both now being proposed, the market is open for a party of liberty. (Oh, and forget any blather about our intelligence relationship with the Americans. We tell them everything, most of which they already knew because we have cravenly made ourselves dependent on their facilities in order to obtain it, while they tell us almost nothing.)

Light sentences and lax prison discipline are both expressions of the perfectly well-founded view that large numbers of those convicted, vastly in excess of the numbers that have always existed at any given time, are in fact innocent. We need to return to a free country’s minimum requirements for conviction, above all by reversing the erosion of the right to silence and of trial by jury, and by repealing the monstrous provisions for anonymous evidence and for conviction by majority verdict. And we need to return to proper policing. Then we could and should return to proper sentencing, and to proper regimes in prison, with no suggestion that prisoners should have the vote. But only then.

We need to return to preventative policing based on foot patrols, with budgetary sanctions against recalcitrant Chief Constables. We need police forces at least no larger than at present, and subject to local democratic accountability though police authorities composed predominantly of councillors, not by means of elected sheriffs, which, like directly elected mayors, have no place in a parliamentary rather than a presidential res publica, and are wholly incompatible with the defence, restoration and extension of the powers of jurors, magistrates and parliamentarians.

We need to restore the pre-1968 committal powers of the magistracy, restore the pre-1985 prosecution powers of the police, and restore the network of police stations and police houses placing the police at the very heart of their communities. We need each offence to carry a minimum sentence of one third of its maximum sentence, or of 15 years for life. And we need a single category of illegal drug, with a crackdown on the possession of drugs, including a mandatory sentence of three months for a second offence, six months for a third offence, one year for a fourth offence, and so on.

We need to abandon the existing erosion of trial by jury and of the right to silence, the existing reversals of the burden of proof, conviction by majority verdict (which, by definition, provides for conviction even where there is reasonable doubt), the admission of anonymous evidence other than from undercover police officers, conviction on anonymous evidence alone, both pre-trial convictions and pre-trial acquittals by the Crown Prosecution Service, the secrecy of the family courts, the anonymity of adult accusers in rape cases, identity cards or any thought of them, control orders or anything like them, police confiscation of assets without a conviction, stipendiary magistrates, Thatcher’s Police and Criminal Evidence Act, the Civil Contingencies Act, the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Act, and the Official Secrets Acts.

We need to raise the minimum age for jurors at least to 21. We need to extend to the rest of the United Kingdom the successful Scottish extension of the right to serve on a jury without compromising its restriction to those with a tangible stake in society. We need to repeal the provision for “no win, no fee” litigation, while at the same time protecting, restoring and extending Legal Aid. We need the current judicially imposed arrangement on privacy to be enacted into the Statute Law, but with the burden of proof in libel actions placed on the plaintiff.

We must insist on a return to the situation whereby a Bill which ran out of parliamentary time was lost at the end of that session. On the restoration of the power of a simple majority of the House of Commons to require a General Election, whether by rejecting a motion of confidence or by approving a motion of no confidence. On the restoration of the supremacy of British over EU law. On the requirement that EU law apply in the United Kingdom only once it has passed through both Houses of Parliament exactly as if it had originated in one or other of them. On the requirement of a resolution of the House of Commons before any ruling of the European Court of Justice, or of the European Court of Human Rights, or of the Supreme Court, or pursuant to the Human Rights Act, can have any effect in the United Kingdom. On the restoration of British overall control of our defence capability. On the removal of all foreign forces and weapons from British territory, territorial waters and airspace. On the repeal of one-sided extradition arrangements. And, especially now that Norman Baker is a Minister, on the coroner’s inquest that has mysteriously never been held into the death of Dr David Kelly.

There must be an extension to Scotland of the historic liberties, largely as set out above, which have never applied in that far more oligarchic country, where middle-class institutions and upper-middle-class power have been defined as the esse of national identity, a situation which has been made even worse by devolution’s weakening of the Labour Movement. While this might have been a factor contributing to the retention of more rigorous minimum qualifications for jurors in Scotland, criteria which should be applied nationwide as surely as should be the Scots Law requirement of corroboration of evidence, nevertheless it means that, while there is an automatic right to trial by jury for serious offences in Scotland, the decision on which way to proceed in an ‘each-way’ case lies with the prosecution rather than with the defence. The police have no power to caution, and they proceed entirely under the direction of the locally unaccountable Procurator Fiscal, who does not prosecute unless it is in the public interest to do so, which it is for the prosecution alone to decide and for which it does not have to give any explanation. It is extremely difficult to bring a private prosecution, far in excess of the necessary restrictions on that practice which rightly exist elsewhere. These profoundly illiberal arrangements must change.

That would be a start, anyway.

Ed Miliband, over to you. You can read all about it in a book available here.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Liberal Conspiracy

    Why are Libdems so silent about this bill? http://t.co/xoyntN5S

  2. eric the hamster

    Why are Libdems so silent about this bill? http://t.co/xoyntN5S

  3. MerseyMal

    Why are Libdems so silent about this bill? http://t.co/xoyntN5S

  4. Jason Brickley

    Why are Libdems so silent about this bill? http://t.co/V0ndaoxj

  5. sunny hundal

    Why are Libdems so silent about the internet snooping bill – asks Libdem @lindylooz – http://t.co/3KWdNtcX

  6. Dale Hayes

    Why are Libdems so silent about the internet snooping bill – asks Libdem @lindylooz – http://t.co/3KWdNtcX

  7. thesmallwhitebear

    Why are Libdems so silent about this bill? | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/S4W12NQD

  8. Alex Deane

    Why are Libdems so silent about the internet snooping bill – asks Libdem @lindylooz – http://t.co/3KWdNtcX

  9. Mark Brown

    Why are Libdems so silent about this bill? | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/YoeAosAD via @libcon

  10. Nautilus in Red

    Why are Libdems so silent about this bill? http://t.co/xoyntN5S

  11. Gideon Hallett

    @that_wazzock I'm seeing some noise in the regular places; http://t.co/itVYu4GK for one; I believe @julianhuppert is also making noise.

  12. jo clancy

    "@libcon: Why are Libdems so silent about this bill? http://t.co/KsSmrJLa" 'cos their leaders sacrificed the party for the illusion of power

  13. leftlinks

    Liberal Conspiracy – Why are Libdems so silent about this bill? http://t.co/8ydibTRv

  14. Peter Anderson

    Why are Libdems so silent about the internet snooping bill – asks Libdem @lindylooz – http://t.co/3KWdNtcX

  15. Dan Castro

    Why are Libdems so silent about the internet snooping bill – asks Libdem @lindylooz – http://t.co/3KWdNtcX

  16. Paul Harper

    Why are Libdems so silent about this bill? | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/cafGpyDf via @libcon Well written

  17. Consumer

    Why are Libdems so silent about the internet snooping bill – asks Libdem @lindylooz – http://t.co/3KWdNtcX

  18. Barbara Cannon

    Why are Libdems so silent about this bill? | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/auqpL69c via @libcon

  19. Natacha Kennedy

    Why are Libdems so silent about the internet snooping bill – asks Libdem @lindylooz – http://t.co/3KWdNtcX

  20. Verity

    Why are Libdems so silent about this bill? http://t.co/xoyntN5S

  21. Kev

    “@libcon: Why are Libdems so silent about this bill? http://t.co/F8nB6jxw”

    Why LibDems effectively silent about everything? #lost deposit

  22. Linda Jack

    OK – have had my say on #snooping here http://t.co/HrLV7sE4 and here http://t.co/4684ClqA

  23. Christian DeFeo

    OK – have had my say on #snooping here http://t.co/HrLV7sE4 and here http://t.co/4684ClqA

  24. Kev

    “@sunny_hundal: Why are Libdems so silent about the internet snooping bill – asks Libdem @lindylooz – http://t.co/F8nB6jxw”

    They don't know

  25. Qian Yu

    Why are Libdems so silent about the internet snooping bill – asks Libdem @lindylooz – http://t.co/3KWdNtcX

  26. Richard Morris

    OK – have had my say on #snooping here http://t.co/HrLV7sE4 and here http://t.co/4684ClqA

  27. Jamie Wilson

    Why are Libdems so silent about the internet snooping bill – asks Libdem @lindylooz – http://t.co/3KWdNtcX

  28. Humphrey Cushion

    OK – have had my say on #snooping here http://t.co/HrLV7sE4 and here http://t.co/4684ClqA

  29. Neill

    Why are Libdems so silent about this bill? | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/1ClKHLWj via @libcon

  30. BevR

    Why are Libdems so silent about this bill? http://t.co/RbXanzkf #telldaveeverything #democracybroken #corruption #spartacusreport #wrb

  31. McGinOxford

    Why are Libdems so silent about the internet snooping bill – asks Libdem @lindylooz – http://t.co/3KWdNtcX

  32. Julie Francis

    Why are Libdems so silent about this bill? http://t.co/RbXanzkf #telldaveeverything #democracybroken #corruption #spartacusreport #wrb

  33. Owen Blacker

    Why are Libdems so silent about the internet snooping bill – asks Libdem @lindylooz – http://t.co/3KWdNtcX

  34. Alex Butcher

    Why are Libdems so silent about the internet snooping bill – asks Libdem @lindylooz – http://t.co/3KWdNtcX

  35. James Holley

    Good to see the liberal democrats haven't abandoned their values for power. Oh wait… http://t.co/Bll69e3u

  36. Janet Graham

    Why are Libdems so silent about the internet snooping bill – asks Libdem @lindylooz – http://t.co/3KWdNtcX

  37. Anandamide

    OK – have had my say on #snooping here http://t.co/HrLV7sE4 and here http://t.co/4684ClqA

  38. Tories Reveal Authoritarian Roots While Liberals Check Their Shoelaces | Strangely Perfect

    […] Why are Libdems so silent about this bill? (liberalconspiracy.org) […]

  39. Louis Stephen

    Why are Libdems so silent about this bill? http://t.co/xoyntN5S

  40. Hermes Trismegistus

    Because Clegg is a sell-out >> Why are Libdems so silent about this snooping bill? http://t.co/kdUnWAlO #orwell #UK

  41. Daniel Pitt

    Why are #LibDems so silent about this bill? http://t.co/Fuqwi3z5 #snoopgate #Tories #BigBrother #civilrights #democracy

  42. sean

    Why are #LibDems so silent about this bill? http://t.co/Fuqwi3z5 #snoopgate #Tories #BigBrother #civilrights #democracy

  43. S Smith

    Why are Libdems so silent about this bill? http://t.co/xoyntN5S





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