Sunday, December 12, 2010

lib dems: champions of civil rights. in opposition, anyway.

As we reel from footage of police batoning school children who had the temerity to hold placards, let's skip back 18 months to the G20 protests. A week after the protests the LibDems attacked the

"sickening and unprovoked attack" by police.

Their Shadow Justice Secretary David Howarth expanded on this point

“The ugly scenes of police aggression and intimidation witnessed at the G20 protests and the Kingsnorth demonstrations were a national disgrace.

“Tactics like baton charges, the seizure of personal property and the kettling of protestors for hours on end are fundamentally wrong. They are a threat to democratic rights, they cause distress and injury

Other LibDems decried the use of kettling as

the practice of highly aggressive advances in police lines against the demonstration, often by fully armed riot police or horses, which compresses the protest into a smaller space. It causes fear and tension and appears to have no justification from the point of view of preventing disorder. It is not surprising that being subjected to both these tactics can turn an otherwise overwhelmingly relaxed and peaceful crowd more violent, as people become agitated, frustrated then angry.

Their party conference last year - just last year, mind - passed a motion saying

The use of aggressive or intimidatory tactics against peaceful protesters is provocative, inappropriate, and counter-productive, since it increases the tension and likelihood of violence; the police must use aggressive tactics such as ‘kettling’, baton charges, and attacks with dogs only when they are absolutely necessary and proportionate; the seizure of personal property from demonstrators is not acceptable.

The same conference declared

The state must not be allowed to trample over an individual’s right to privacy, liberty, free expression and association.

and demanded

The immediate restoration of the right to protest in Parliament Square.

All fine words. Then they got elected.

This week we heard the sound of tumbleweed rolling through the Liberal Democrat press office.


Anonymous said...


merrick said...

Anonyperson, thanks for that. I stand partially corrected, and full marks to Huppert for not only taking a stand but doing it publicly. His stance on the fees vote is also commendable; if the abstainers had had the same balls as him, they government would have lost the vote.

I do still feel it's a far cry from the front bench team making long pronouncements. Would you advise anyone to hold their breath waiting for a motion at the next Conference?

Anonymous said...

I can't disagree with you. What is a liberal party (economic or social) for, if not to defend civil liberties?

Time to fight for the soul of our party.

merrick said...

The problem is that the soul of the LibDems is riven by that contradiction - they are social liberals and yet economic liberals.

One essentially means equity, equality of opportunity, defence of liberty. The other means the more money you have the more say you get. These two things cannot be reconciled.

Of course, in opposition every party always promises everything to everyone. Lower taxes and better services all round, rahrahrah.

Once in power, you have to choose which way to jump though. And of course, once you're in power those who are already powerful ring their pressure to bear, so the newly elected side with the powerful elite. If they weren't just their puppets to start with.

That said, we can't say we weren't warned when Labour put Blair in the driving seat and, a long way from power, they proclaimed that the job of politicians is to hand governance to the markets.

Ditto the LibDems whose Orange Book essentially planned to do to that party what New Labour did to theirs.

Dunc said...

"The problem is that the soul of the LibDems is riven by that contradiction - they are social liberals and yet economic liberals."

They have a soul? They're professional politicians, for fuck's sake.

It's not just that power corrupts. It's not just that power corrupts remarkably quickly and thoroughly. It's that anybody who seeks power comes already pre-corrupted.