Sunday, January 29, 2006

Harold Elletson looks homeward

Harold Elletson, the former Conservative MP who joined the Liberal Democrats in 2002, got some publicity last week by suggesting that some Lib Dem MPs were considering joining the Tories. He also implied that he might rejoin his old party himself.

He was in the papers before Christmas too, accusing some of Charles Kennedy's advisers as suffering from "infantile liberalism".

Elletson is usually described as chair of the Lib Dem Foreign Affairs Forum, a body that has previously escaped the attention of most party members. But a little research shows just what an unexpected recruit to Liberal Democracy he was.

On 22 June 1994, while still the Tory MP for Blackpool North, Elletson moved a private member's bill calling for the introduction of national identity cards. The peroration of his speech ran:

After all, which of us here would be prepared to stand up and say that he would fight for the crimes of the fraudster to go undetected, or allow the terrorist to continue to go about his murderous business hidden behind a cloak of false identity for fear of abusing his civil liberties ? Our concern should be not with the civil liberties of fraudsters and terrorists, but with their victims ; not with the rights of con men and criminals, but with the security of decent, law- abiding people.

We are now faced with the need to tackle crime, fraud and abuse of trust, not because the Government wish to monitor or limit the movement of our citizens but because criminals have impinged on our natural assumption that all our citizens are decent and honest. Unlike the infamous three-card trick, in which the con man always wins, this one card--a national card-- will ensure that the winner is the decent British citizen.

Perhaps we should me more careful about accepting converts from other parties in future? Brian Sedgemore began his political life as a Liberal in the 1960s, but it is hard to see why Elletson was ever thought a good catch.


Martin Tod said...

I've looked into this and it turns out that Foreign Affairs Forum is a somewhat overgrandly named subcommittee of the Liberal Democrats Parliamentary Candidates Association (PCA). To put it mildly, the FAF a low profile organisation. I'm told it has never actually met since Elletson took over as Chair.

Tom Barney said...

Harold Elletson belongs to my local party and yet I've never met him. His would appear not to be the enthusiasm that made Emma Nicholson such a success with us. I think that some of our local members were a little too understanding: "Our thoughts are with him and his family at what must be a difficult time for him personally" etc. etc. What's difficult about a snippet or two in the press followed by a resumed Lancastrian fastness?