Thursday, March 22, 2012

Were the Liberal Democrats used to 'send a message'?

Remember the row over the accreditation of delegates at last year's Liberal Democrat Autumn Conference?

In blatant contradiction of the party's beliefs - remember Nick Clegg's vow that he would go to prison rather than carry an identity card? - those attending were required to supply their passport number. And in blatant contradiction of the party's constitution, the central bureaucracy awarded itself the right to vet local parties' choice of representatives.

Some of us were outraged by these moves. I was even moved to write an article on the affair for the Guardian's Comment is Free website.

Come the conference, a motion critical of the arrangements for accrediting delegates was passed. Those who opposed it relied upon two arguments.

The first was that there were people out there who wished us harm.

The second was our duty of care to the staff in the conference centre: members of Federal Conference Committee did not want to be the ones who had to tell their flaxen-haired children that Mommy would not be coming home because the nasty Liberal Democrats had silly hang ups about using identity cards to keep the nasty men out. (I exaggerate, but only a little.)

In view of all this, the Remote Controller column in the current Private Eye makes interesting reading.   Much of it is concerned with the BBC1 series Crime and Punishment, which has boasted "exclusive behind-the-scenes footage of the policing of last year's Lib Dem conference".

And the column goes on:
The Ministry of Justice is thanked in the credits and also seems to have written the scripts. "A strong message has been set out!" coos Louise [Minchin] as the top Brum coppers congratualate each other on preventing al-Qaeda from blowing up Cleggy and Cable.
The argument that we should impose laws or taxes exist to 'send a message' seems to me pitifully weak. Only yesterday, I was complaining that both sides of the debate over the reduction of the 50p income tax rate were deploying it.

Here I think the message sent was that Britain's most liberal political party would compromise its beliefs at the first hint of a terrorist threat. Al-Qaeda must have been hugging themselves with glee.

Ever get the feeling you've been cheated?

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3 comments:

George W. Potter said...

To answer the question at the end of the piece: All the time - though I'd probably say I feel more cheated over the WRB and the NHS than on accreditation...

Gareth Epps said...

The real test is if the insecurity industry triumphs and implements its illiberal system for Brighton. Then we'll know liberalism has failed in the Liberal Democrats.

The worrying thing is the degree to which certain people suspend their critical faculties when confronted by such nonsense.

Gareth Epps said...

It appears to be Episode 5:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b01dlvw7/Crime_and_Punishment_Episode_5/