Tuesday, August 12, 2008

David Cameron's reversion to type will help Lib Dems

The article of the day is John Kampfner's piece about the death of the husky-hugging side of David Cameron. It begins:

These were words to gladden the heart. "Wealth is about so much more than pounds or euros or dollars can ever measure. It's time we admitted that there's more to life than money. It's time we focused not just on GDP, but on GWB - general well being." This was David Cameron, 2006 vintage. His speech to the Google Zeitgeist conference suggested a new set of political and economic priorities. He spoke of a "passionate desire for capitalism with commitment". He noted that many companies and ordinary people "are expressing a profound dissatisfaction with rootless, rampaging globalisation".

Fast-forward two years, to the verge of a recession and the fears of knife crime, and what do we hear? Society is broken; more prisons should be built; more people should be denied bail. While the Tories are nowhere near the point of Michael Howard's dog-whistle anti-immigrant pitch of 2005, they are slipping back into their political comfort zone. That is a shame for the country, and a lost opportunity for them.
Developments today have shown how right Kampfner's analysis is.

Dominic Grieve, the shadow home secretary, has announced that a Tory government would:

amend the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act so that police no longer need to secure authorisation to conduct surveillance on those suspected of non-terrorist offences.

The changes would mean that the police would automatically be able to:

  • Use covert video or listening devices in premises or vehicles.
  • Watch premises to identify or arrest suspects.
  • Conduct visual surveillance of public locations.
  • Patrol, in uniform or plain clothes.
  • Use thermal imaging and X-ray technology.
  • Conduct surveillance using visible CCTV cameras.
And Simon Milton has defended the actions of councils who use the act to spy on people. He says:
"Generally [the powers] are being used to respond to residents' complaints about fly tippers, rogue traders and those defrauding the council tax or housing benefit system.

"Time and again, these are just the type of crimes that residents tell us that they want to see tackled.

"Without these powers, councils would not be able to provide the level of reassurance and protection local people demand and deserve."
Milton is the person who was put into City Hall by the Tories to act as Boris Johnson's representative on Earth.

All of which confirms the impression that the attractive green, liberal Toryism of David Cameron's first couple of years as leader were no more than an act. The Tories now seem to believe that because Labour is so unpopular they are free to return to what they really believe in.

It may be a tragedy for the country, but it represents an enormous opportunity for the Liberal Democrats. When liberal-minded voters see the Conservatives in their true colours, it will make it far more likely that they will decide to stay with us after all.


Jennie Rigg said...

Nobody is going to see it though, are they? The press are being ridiculously gentle with the Tories.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure whether the attached story I've spotted in the West Somerset Free Press has gone any further.

A fairly horrific example of where the surveillance state could take us. Dragged from his bed an handcuffed at 2am in the morning!It was a good thing the man did not have a heart condition.

Jennie Rigg said...

Jon: it's gone a bit further now.

Liberal Polemic said...

No surprise to see the Tories reverting to type, but I'm not sure I share your enthusiasm for that 2006 speech.

It may gladden the heart of the upper-band taxpayer with a nagging consumerist guilt, but that "General Well Being" nonsense is dangerous.

Never mind the fact that, given the choice between keeping their own money and having it taken from them so that the Government can buy them "wellbeing", most people would rather try to pursue happiness in their own way.

The real problem is that "GWB" is utterly immeasurable and so spares a future Cameron government the need to demonstrate success against any definable measure.

dreamingspire said...

Didn't I read that its an offence to be near a prohibited place, even if you don't know you are? Recently I went past the Norton camp on a bus, and there are no signs telling you not to stop. Indeed, as in the report in the WSFP, there is a bus stop there, and I could have hiked that way from Taunton to, say, Bishops Lydeard. Also, in London I recently walked along a road where right next to the quite narrow footpath is a building whose walls are festooned with notices saying that it is a prohibited place (I passed within a foot of at least one notice), yet numerous people were walking along that road and regularly do so.
WSFP has a long history of excellent journalism, including the story of Norman whatsit's dog, and more personally that after drafting a story about my father's death the reporter phoned me and read over his copy to me for my approval.