I may not have been there, but it looks like it was fabulous:
This is really the way to show up the meaningless waffle coming from the two main parties. The pro-gay rhetoric coming from the Tories really needs to be exposed for the sham it is (Cameron’s and Grayling’s gaffes don’t prove it but the article above sure does). Tamsin and The Commons deserve unlimited support – they may just be the future of politics.
After a first week with Labour and the Conservatives (henceforth Labservatives) refusing to talk about civil liberties and human rights, both completely ignoring issues around the government’s authoritarian agenda, the Lib Dems have finally created an opening with the release of their manifesto:
Speaking to the Guardian, the Lib Dem leader said he was shocked by the lack of reference to civil liberties in the Labour manifesto, and highlighted his own plans to scrap the next generation of biometric passports, and its communication base.
He said: “It’s a measure of the authoritarian streak of the Labour party that it didn’t refer once to liberty in its own manifesto.
“Civil liberties and individual freedoms are part of the DNA of the Lib Dems. It makes a compete mockery of the claim by Gordon Brown that he can speak for progressive voters in other parties when his own party has turned its back on one of the cornerstones of progressive politics.
The manifesto, part of which has been seen by the Guardian, proposes to set up a “stop unit” inside the Cabinet Office responsible for preventing anti-libertarian legislation, including the creation of new criminal offences.
Now that really is a clear blue line between the parties. I fully accept that many outcomes of the authoritarian project have been accidental – the RIPA legislation for example hasn’t been used remotely as intended, and nor for that matter has Section 44 of the Terrorism Act, although it’s probably debatable whether either piece of legislation was ever necessary. Joined up thinking like this is what we were promised in 1997, but it never happened.
The Liberal Democrats claimed scrapping biometric passports could save £3bn over the course of a parliament, the first time the party has mentioned this saving. It also calls for regulation of closed-circuit television, measures to stop councils spying on people, and new guidelines to prevent unfair extraditions to the US.
The manifesto says the Lib Dems would stop children being fingerprinted at school without their parents’ permission and promises to restore the right to protest by reforming the Public Order Act to safeguard non-violent protest.
Restrictions would be introduced to narrow the scope of injunctions and there are proposals to protect free speech and investigative journalism.
Very nice. It’s something which was discussed last night at the Hostile Reconnaissance event. Grand principles are being brushed aside in the name of ‘security’, and it’s time particular protections such as these were itemised, codified and legislated for.
The party is in favour of reforms to the English and Welsh libel laws: corporations would have to show damage and prove malice or recklessness to mount a successful court challenge against journalists. The party also calls for a £10,000 cap on individual donations, down from its previous pledge to impose a £50,000 cap.
More like it yet again. Just what were Labour promising again?
At the manifesto launch on Wednesday, Clegg will promise to scrap control orders, which can use secret evidence to place people under house arrest, as well as reduce the maximum period of pre-charge detention to 14 days. The second-generation biometric passport, which includes fingerprints, is not due to be scrapped by the Tories, even though they do propose to drop the national identity register.
What’s clear here is that the Lib Dems are committed to rolling back the authoritarian agenda itself. The Tories are promising to make tweaks here and there and changes of focus, but the agenda itself under them would without question remain. These commitments give voters a reason to vote for them actively, rather than just voting against the other main parties. I wonder though what pressures they would find themselves under if they really were in government, given that (again as came out in the Hostile Reconnaissance event last night) the party is wedded to neoliberal economic policies? So much of Labour’s agenda has arisen from that reality, and I wonder what any Lib Dem’s views on this are.
But the Lib Dems will argue it is not necessary to spend billions of pounds on storing fingerprints in passports, and say Britain already has a type of biometric passport known as an e-passport, which stores 16 facial measurements (along with your name and passport number) in the chip at the back.
Clegg said he would also scrap the communications database for which companies would be paid to store information about everyone’s email and internet use, including storing data about what you do on social networking sites such as Facebook and online computer games.
It sure sounds good. Is it now incumbent for as many of us as possible to vote Lib Dem at any cost in order to express our feelings on this vitally important issue?
The man who wants to be Prime Minister isn’t above the odd terminological inexactitude, any more than the incumbent. From his article today in The Times:
So instead, we are asking you to join in the government of your nation. We want everyone to get involved in the running of their country. Whoever you are, wherever you live, whatever you want — we are offering you a heartfelt invitation to join with us and help change Britain for the better.
What an absolute fraud. As Graham Linehan on Twitter says:
A week ago, MPs ignored thousands of people who wanted a proper debate on #debill. Now, they want us to “get involved”. They can go hang.
They can indeed. New Labour promises ‘power back in your hands’:
The people will be given ‘the power to decide’ how to make parliament more ‘accountable’ and ‘democratic’, they say. Another utter fraud. They’ve already had their opportunity to be accountable and democratic, tens of thousands of us asked them to and almost to a number they refused. This general election is a whole lot of hot air – meaningless promises offering nothing to anyone. What we need is a proportional voting system. What we need is an elected Senate to replace the House of Lords. What we need is fixed term parliaments to remove the need for ‘wash up’ periods. What we need is new blood coming into the Commons who aren’t career politicians. What we don’t need is yet more platitudes about how we should ‘get involved’, but Cameron more than Brown has no interest in relinquishing the power necessary for that to mean anything.
This is what is known on t’internet as a #fail. A future built on Green and digital industries? Vestas anyone? Digital Economy Bill? More police on the beat, yet less accountable than ever before, and more frequently a law unto themselves. Voicing opinions more than once every five years? Why then such strident attacks on protest and photographers; why ignore mass protests like the campaign against the Digital Economy Bill? If people’s opinions really are that important why kick the referendum on voting reform into touch? And where’s a fully elected Senate to replace the House of Lords? Do these people think we’re idiots?!
If by some miracle New Labour manages to get re-elected again based on this, we’re going to Hell sooner than I’d imagined…
“So we were talking Dave and me, and I said “You know Dave, the modern Conservative party is a lot like my critically acclaimed movie The Italian Job. It’s an occasionally jingoistic but ultimately lovable caper starring a band of young British men who get millions of pounds from somewhere overseas by being a little bit cheeky about the rules then try and get out of Europe as quickly as possible”
The government has for months ignored the European Court of Human Rights’ (ECHR) ruling that its policy of indefinite retention of the DNA of people not convicted of a crime was illegal. Home Secretary Alan Johnson today played further mischief with the human rights of hundreds and thousands of entirely innocent people, purely for partisan political advantage in the pre-general election ‘wash up’ period:
The Conservatives have dropped their opposition to the government’s crime and security bill, including its controversial provisions to allow the police to retain the DNA profiles of innocent people for up to six years.
Instead of blocking the bill, the shadow home secretary, Chris Grayling, made a fresh commitment that the Tories would bring in early legislation to ensure the DNA profiles of innocent people arrested for minor offences would not be retained on the national police DNA database.
“We will not seek to block this bill because the indefinite retention of innocent people’s DNA is unacceptable and has been ruled illegal,” said Grayling.He added that on taking office the Conservatives would also change the official guidance to the police, to give people the automatic right to have their DNA withdrawn from the database if have been wrongly accused of a minor crime.The decision follows a threat by the home secretary, Alan Johnson, to ditch the DNA provisions of the crime and security bill entirely, unless the Conservatives dropped their opposition to keeping profiles of innocent people on the database for up to six years.
Johnson said this morning he would pull all provisions from the amendment bill today if the Tories refuse to assent to the government’s plans. The bill is destined for this afternoon’s wash-up session to complete the government’s legislative programme ahead of the dissolution of parliament for the election.
Johnson told Sky News: “This is a basic example of how they [the Tories] talk tough on crime but act soft.”
I don’t normally use strong language on this blog, but what a cynical bastard the Home Secretary is. He’d rather play politics with one of the most important human rights issues in Britain today, and keep the country in breach of the Court’s ruling, instead of ensuring there was a system of appeal for people even to argue for their removal from the database. Yet more undemocratic game playing in the ‘wash up’ period by a government which has presided over the most out-of-touch, corrupt and inept parliament in living memory. The right to privacy and the presumption of innocence are commodities too precious to use as electioneering bargaining chips. When will this abuse end?
An explanation of what has begun today in parliament, in advance of the general election: a constitutional stitch-up of the highest order. Having already betrayed us by abusing their expenses system, they’re about to do so again by betraying the democratic system itself.
Hear Gorvid Camerown explain why youll be voting Labservative at the General Election.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown has unveiled New Labour’s five ‘key’ election pledges, repeating a scam they’ve tried in previous elections, and in this case completely missing the point:
Gordon Brown has unveiled Labour‘s key election pledges, promising a re-elected Labour government would help create a million skilled jobs, a state-funded citizens’ right to take antisocial offenders to court and “the largest set of constitutional reforms this country has ever seen”.
The Labour pledges, to be enshrined in a new pledge card, will be readily enforceable. The first of the five pledges is to secure economic recovery, halving the current £167bn budget deficit.
The second is to raise family living standards – with low mortgage rates, increased tax credits for families with young children, helping first-time buyers and relinking the state pension with earnings from 2012.
The third is to build a hi-tech economy through support for businesses and industry in creating a million new skilled jobs and the delivery of high-speed rail, a green investment bank and broadband access for all.
The fourth is to protect frontline investment in policing, schools, childcare and the NHS – with a new guarantee of cancer test results within a week.
The fifth pledge is to strengthen fairness in communities through controlled immigration, guarantees of education, apprenticeships and jobs for young people and a crackdown on antisocial behaviour – with victims entitled to take out civil injunctions, funded by the local public authority, if the police are not taking action within a set time.
His hubris is unbelievable. ‘Securing’ economic recovery? Try massive slashing of public spending (which Alistair Darling this week admitted will be ‘worse than Thatcher’), instead of a Robin Hood tax. Raising family living standards? Well that’s fine, but will there be a high pay commission, to help stop the unprecedented acceleration of the rich and super rich away from the poor? He offers a ‘high-tech’ economy, yet whilst promising broadband access for all is ramming through draconian legislation which would take it right back again. Where’s the environment in this, and for that matter why not a green New Deal to transform our economy, which would prove to developing countries like China and India that cuts we demand of them are actually achievable and desirable?
Brown promises to ‘protect frontline investment’ in public services, yet throughout his tenures as Chancellor and Prime Minister has failed to grasp that throwing money at public services has only solved half the problem. And he fails to mention the horrific spending cuts he’s imposing on universities, which will destroy his party’s pledge to get 50% of young people into higher education, and gut existing services. I’m not going to dignify pledge five with much time. Talk about playing to the BNP. And what about making a pledge against poverty, what about enforcing minimum pricing on alcohol, and what about actually pledging what the government should be pledging?
They could apologise for their authoritarian experiment, for the attacks on photographers and demonisation of protesters, or promise to protect civil liberties and the rule of law. They could pledge not to force people to prove (at their cost) they aren’t paedophiles in order merely to get work. They could kill Trident, the ID cards programme, abide by the European Court’s ruling on the DNA database, abandon the Digital Economy Bill or offer a more proportional voting system. Notably none of these things is even hinted at. At the Progressive London conference in February Harriet Harman was pointedly asked to name a single new progressive policy which New Labour could offer to renew people’s engagement in politics; she refused. They’re still refusing and will pay a heavy electoral price.
Henry Porter makes an excellent point – neither of the Big Two major political parties in Britain is talking at all about civil liberties or human rights in the run-up to the general election the month after next. Remember this is the election where we can thoroughly repudiate this authoritarian government’s surveillance agenda, and refuse to vote for anyone who doesn’t guarantee to repeal it:
It is [also] a very dangerous government – it has attacked liberty and rights like no other administration in the past hundred years, and it will continue to do so unless stopped by the electorate in 70 days’ time, for the one area which requires absolutely no skill at all is the creation of new offences, the erosion of ancient liberties and filling our lives with endless checking, vetting and surveillance.
Cameron has spoken about these things in the past but this great issue is not apparently big enough to be one of the main themes of an election campaign in which so much is obviously at stake. The only conclusion to draw is that the Tories believe either this is not important, or that the public don’t think it is important. I am not sure which puts them in a worse light because the first displays shallowness, while the second a lack of leadership.
The Tories have rejected changing the voting system and they’re uninterested in talking seriously about civil liberties – this mustn’t be an election about personalities, nor must it be reduced to who can cut public services and how fast. It must be about repairing the social damage caused by New Labour, and proving to all the major parties that the trade-off between security and liberty is a false one.
I shall be voting Green, because they have a strong chance of removing the government minister who doesn’t represent me in any way, shape or form. You should be voting for parties which are against ID cards, think vetting the population for paedophilia before being allowed to work is unthinkably wrong, which don’t demonise asylum seekers (or lock up their children), and which couldn’t condone throwing people off the internet without a trial, or secretly banning websites they don’t like. If the Tories don’t start talking all of these abuses down (and more), you can’t vote for them merely to get Brown, Straw, Johnson, Balls et al out, because they clearly won’t have any intention to do any better. The database state and state surveillance culture must be stopped – this is your best chance to take a stand and make it happen.
The Lib Dem leader puts David Cameron on the back foot on gay rights as it looks increasingly as though cultural divisions will define this year’s general election. Nick Clegg acknowledged how far Labour equalised the legal playing field, with the equalisation of the age of consent, the removal of Section 28, the removal of the armed forces ban an the introduction of civil partnerships, but in interview with Johann Hari offered to go much further, to:
- Force all schools – including faith schools – to implement anti-homophobia bullying policies and teach that homosexuality is “normal and harmless”.
- Change the law to allow gay men and women the same marital rights as straight couples, including the symbolic right to use the word “marriage” rather than civil partnerships.
- Reverse the ban on gay men being allowed to give blood.
- Guarantee any refugees genuinely fleeing a country because of persecution over their sexual orientation asylum in the UK.
- Review Uganda’s membership of the Commonwealth if its government was to bring in the death penalty for practicing gays.
It’s an impressive support of full equality, the likes of which David Cameron and even Gordon Brown would be hard pressed to match. Most interesting I find is his offer to force all schools, particularly faith schools to operate positively against homophobia. It’ll infuriate widely in the religious community, yet Clegg is entirely right when he points out the real battleground in changing attitudes is in schools. It’s where Brown hasn’t risked treading, it’s where Cameron won’t consider treading, and it’s extremely admirable that Clegg should risk losing considerable number of religious votes on this issue. Acting on principle rather than for electoral advantage will put serious weight behind his pledge to want to move past the first-past-the-post strategy of having to court swing voters in marginal seats. The Church of England has already responded:
speaking to The Independent last night, one senior Anglican bishop (who asked not to be named) said: “I think this will go down badly even among the not overtly evangelical. Instituting something that must be taught, come what may, is frighteningly fascist.”
The Rev Janina Ainsworth, chief education officer for the Church of England, said she saw no reason why the current laws governing sex education in schools should change. “The Church’s traditional teaching is that sex should be set within the framework of a faithful marriage, and sex education in church schools will be delivered within that context,” she said. “At the appropriate stage within the sex education curriculum, all students, in all schools, should have the opportunity to examine the full range of views on different aspects of sex and sexuality, and to develop their own considered position. Further upheaval of the guidance for sex education would not be welcomed by many schools, church or otherwise.”
It’s interesting to think that preventing organised religion from permitting homophobia to be condoned in any aspect of children’s education should be somehow ‘fascist’, but arguments such as this may be the shape of things to come. If Clegg persists in his line of constitutional reform and putting his money where his mouth is on matters of equality, we’ll have some genuinely non-technocratic dividing lines opening up in this general election. His interviewer Johann Hari explains why it’s necessary:
41 per cent of gay children get beaten up in school, and they are six times more likely to commit suicide than their straight siblings. He says every school must teach that homosexuality is “normal and harmless and something that happens”. There can be no religious excuses. He wants to see this tightly policed: “We need to put serious pressure on them. It needs to be a requirement.”
And then goes further, identifying institutional homophobia as equally unacceptable as institutional racism:
In the same way, he says the Government needs to drive homophobia out of the police, where a 2005 Home Office study found it to be “endemic”. He compared several recent cases – where gay people were murdered and the investigations appeared to go badly wrong – to the Stephen Lawrence tragedy, and said there needs to be a change of culture “on patrol, on the beat, in the changing room, in the officers’ mess, in the staffroom”.
This is genuinely brave, because Clegg is taking the fight to the last remaining bastions of bigotry. He will get a nasty kick from religious fundamentalists who say that gay couples should never be allowed to marry, and who claim they have a “right” to teach homophobia to children in a way that produces such disproportionate rates of violent bullying and suicide. The right-wing press will savage it as an attack on “freedom” – when, in fact, it is a defence of the freedom of gay people to live their lives free of irrational hate.
It’s a clear dare to David Cameron, and in my mind to gay Tories. If Cameron refuses to accept that everything possible must be done to stop bullying of gay children in schools, and that homophobia should be treated in the same way as racism, will it be morally acceptable for gay people to vote Tory, or even Labour for that matter? Labour has equalised the legal playing field in most respects for gay equality but has barely touched the thornier issue of changing attitudes; the Lib Dems are first out of the gate in offering the next step. Will the ‘big two’ respond cynically and turn the whole election into one surrounding identity politics? I hope not – we’ll have to wait and see. It’s true that gay voters can’t only look at policies relating to their sexual orientation any more than voters who are religious should respond only to parties which offer policies relating to that aspect of their identities. Many gay voters will have never experienced the kind of overt homophobia which used to be omnipresent in society, and will understandably (but sadly) not see the need to vote for Clegg. I would argue however that Labour’s implicit claim to have brought about gay equality has been illusory – on paper it’s highly impressive but the deaths of Ian Baynham, Michael Causer and many others prove how murderous homophobia remains only a footstep away from all of us.
Cassetteboy knocks it right out of the park again. It’s going to be a long five months, but it won’t be laugh free, thankfully…
From the Liberal Democrats’ website:
Today, Nick Clegg set out the priorities that will be at the heart of the Party’s election manifesto. The value that connects everything the party wants to achieve is fairness. There are four priorities for how the Liberal Democrats will make Britain a fairer place: fair taxes; a fair start for every child; fair, clean and local politics; and a fair, green economy with jobs that last.
The first priority is to introduce fair taxes, with radical proposals for the biggest tax reform in generations. The Liberal Democrats will close loopholes for the richest and introduce a tax on mansions to fund tax cuts of £700 for everyone else. No-one will pay income tax on the first £10,000 they earn, meaning millions of low earners and pensioners will stop paying taxes altogether, while millions more will get hundreds of pounds back in their pockets. Only the Liberal Democrats will make taxes permanently fair.
The next priority is to give every child the fair start they deserve through a huge transformation of our education system that will build the foundations of fair society. That means cutting class sizes so children get the individual attention they need to thrive. The Liberal Democrats will be putting an extra £2.5 billion into schools to pay for more teachers, better discipline and catch-up classes so children get the individual attention they all need. This means an average of £2,500 extra per pupil for the schools teaching the million most deprived children in the country, funded by taking above-average earners out of the tax credit system and cutting wasteful programmes at the Department for Education. The Liberal Democrats will also phase out tuition fees over the course of six years, so that, after school, everyone who gets the grades has the opportunity to go to university without fear of debt, no matter what their background.
Thirdly, the Liberal Democrats are the only party committed to real change of our political system. This means getting big money and corrupt donors out of politics altogether, reducing the number of MPs by 150, giving power over the police and NHS to local communities, changing the voting system to abolish safe seats and giving you the right to sack corrupt MPs. These are changes that would upend our political establishment. Neither Labour or the Conservatives will ever offer change on this scale – they will defend the status quo to the last. Only the Liberal Democrats offer the chance for a different politics. Another whitewash is unacceptable, we need permanent change to make politics clean, fair and local.
The Liberal Democrats will shift the economy away from the traditional over-reliance on the City of London and on financial services. Our plans will usher in a new era where growth is enabled in every part of Britain in a way that promotes green technology and creates lasting jobs. We will put an end to the casino banking that caused the financial crisis by breaking up the banks and encouraging regional and local ways to bring competition back to the financial sector and make sure businesses can find the money they need to grow. Under our plans, councils will regain control of business rates, reconnecting local enterprise with local politics; Local Enterprise Funds will help people invest in growing businesses in their area and Regional Stock Exchanges will give companies a way to move into public equity without the huge risks and costs of a London listing. The Liberal Democrats will also create a new National Infrastructure Bank to bring in private money to build the transport links, energy grid and public buildings we need for a sustainable, low carbon economy in every part of Britain.
I’m obviously particularly in agreement with constitutional reform, but I wonder whether Clegg’s sums add up on the admirable education policy. If he, as Labour, is trying to pretend there won’t have to be swingeing cuts in public services over the next parliament then he’s lying, and the implicit support for elected police chiefs would be localising public services too far. How would he really bring in the ‘green’ economy he and Ed Miliband are talking about, and what about forcing banking bonuses to be contingent on the business’ medium-term success?
What are your thoughts?
David Tennant, a long-time supporter of the Labour Party has come out sharply against David Cameron:
David Tennant has urged people not to vote Tory, warning that life under David Cameron would be a “terrifying prospect” for the future of Britain.
The Doctor Who star branded the Conservative leader a phoney who jumps on every bandwagon going and insists Gordon Brown is the man best placed to look after the interests of all Brits, not just a privileged few.
In an emotionally charged interview, Tennant said: “Clearly, the Labour Party is not without some issues right now and I do get frustrated. They need to sort some stuff out, but they’re still a better bet than the Tories.
“I would rather have Gordon Brown than David Cameron. I would rather have a Prime Minister who is the cleverest person in the room than a Prime Minister who looks good in a suit.
“I think David Cameron is a terrifying prospect. I think he’s a regional newsreader who will jump on whatever bandwagon flies past.
“I get quite panicked that people are buying his rhetoric, because it seems very manipulative.”
It’s a great line, and one which skillfully bypasses Brown’s numerous deficiencies. And it’s going to be a decisive issue in May. Whilst there are terrible things being done in the name of New Labour (Digital Economy Bill, ID cards, ISA, policing), the same would be true under the Tories but far worse. Gutting the BBC as well? Chumming up with the vilest racists and homophobes in the EU Parliament? Repealing the Human Rights Act? No thanks. I’m with The Doctor on this.