Saturday, November 18, 2006

"Read this or the corgi gets it"

My House Points column from yesterday's Liberal Democrat News. It's remarkable how far a corny pun can get you.

No kidding

It’s the goat I feel sorry for. One minute it is leaping from rock to rock (or whatever it is that goats do); the next is has been slaughtered, skinned and had some appallingly right-wing policies inscribed on its hide.

For the Queen’s own copy of the Queen’s speech is traditionally written on goatskin. Some historians believe that this practice is where the phrase "nanny state" comes from.

Certainly, last year’s goat died largely in vain. The Tories have published research showing that half of the 30 bills she was made to announce last year ("Read this or the corgi gets it") have failed to make it into law. They have been scrapped, delayed, watered down or amended because they have turned out to be unworkable.

Should we hope that this year’s beast will turn out to have made a more worthwhile sacrifice? There were useful measures on pension reform and climate change in the speech, but it is hard to feel enthusiastic about many of the other measures it contained.

The overwhelming feeling is that we have been here before. As this was a New Labour speech, it promised more criminal justice legislation. Yet the government has reached the point where it is bringing in new laws to overturn its own ‘reforms’ of a few years ago.

As Ming Campbell said: "After nearly ten years in office the government and the Prime Minister are still chasing the same elusive goals and the same elusive headlines."

If there was a theme to the speech it was not the ‘security’ – lumping together international terrorists and unruly teenagers as though they are part of the same problem – we were promised beforehand. Instead its theme was ‘mistrust’ – mistrust of the British people.

We were promised a rush towards identity cards, an end to jury trials in some fraud cases and powers to detain mentally ill people who have committed no crime. Elsewhere there were hints that, if he becomes prime minister, Gordon Brown will again seek to bring in powers to detain terrorism suspects for up to 90 days.

Ming talked of "a rush from judgement towards legislation. The government suffers from a statutory addiction."

He was right. Hey Tony, leave them goats alone.

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