Civil Liberties and Liberalism


I never thought I’d be writing this sentence, ever.

I miss the Liberal Democrats in Government.

I’m not about to rush off and join the Liberal Democrats. However, it is very clear, following the Queen’s Speech, what a brake they were on the Coalition Government. Of course, at the time it didn’t feel like that. The measures put through the last Parliament seemed to be very right-wing. It seemed Mrs Thatcher herself would have smiled upon most of the Coalition’s policies, and purred with pleasure.

Now free of the Lib Dems, the policies lined up by the Conservative Party are absolutely terrifying. You want freedom? If you are rich or powerful, there are many freedoms coming your way. The freedom to bring even more profit-driven interests into our education system. The freedom to offer workers poor conditions and work practices, safe in the knowledge that even if they get organised by a representative Union, new artificial barriers to ballots will completely neuter them. The freedom to remove desperately needed social housing from the available pool, but only if you can afford to buy it and backed up by a generous taxpayer subsidy. A plan, in short, to clear areas with high property prices of people of ordinary means.

Our civil liberties are being rapidly eroded. The snoopers charter will be brought forward, feeding the insatiable desire for our secret services and law enforcement to get deeper and deeper into our private lives. New laws to tackle extremism are proposed, broadening the definition of extremism to one that could catch a whole swath of anti-capitalist and environmental campaigners at the interpretation of the Home Secretary. Of course, serious analysis of the measures demonstrate that they are very unlikely to achieve what we are told they will achieve.

Many of the above measures were held back partially or fully by the Liberal Democrats. Since they have been send back to their constituencies to prepare for a generation on the side lines, who else will fight the oppressive and illiberal measures in the next five years?

Labour are in a mess, and every indication shows that a likely new leader will head for the centre ground of politics. History shows that Labour have done this before, and when they did they joined the Conservatives in an escalating battle that left civil liberties behind. Labour in Government, sadly, did not hold civil liberties to be important.

That leaves the forces of perhaps the SNP, if they can get out of their Scottish bunker, one Green MP and a hand full of Plaid Cymru parliamentarians. Of course, there are still eight Lib Dems – for now.

As country we are desperate for a rebirth of liberal values and civil liberties.

Who will step up to the plate?