Libertarian. Enjoys politics, technology, music, food and drink.
A year ago today the Lib Dems were jumping ship faster than their voters did after the tuition fees increase. In the morning it looked certain that a ConDem coalition would form and yet by lunchtime Tories were outraged that they’d been betrayed by their new best friends. Some sort of Labour and Liberal coalition seemed back on the cards (and Caroline Lucas, very valiantly offered her single seat to make up a rainbow coalition).
And yet by that evening, Brown gave his very graceful resignation speech outside No 10. At eight forty-five, David Cameron stood on the steps of Downing Street for the first time as Prime Minister. It was clear that a Conservative-Liberal coalition would lead us through the next few years of Parliament, but the exact details had not yet been revealed. Liberal Democrat friends of mine, although shocked that such an unholy alliance could be formed, were still relatively hopeful of the party that they had all sworn by. I was happy, along with other Conservative friends, that David Cameron was our Prime Minister, though perhaps worried about the concessions needed for the coalition to work. People everywhere whispered that it wouldn’t last a year.
What a year it has been. The Coalition came together under the ideal of the greater good, for we are a country with a huge financial problem that needs fixing (though the organisation of this Saturday’s Rally Against Debt shows that there are many who do not believe the Government have done enough). Michael Gove’s brilliant Academies Bill has been brought in as one of the Coalition’s shining successes. The poorest are being brought out of the tax as the income threshold grows. And we’ve had the first referendum in the country in generations.
Indeed it is last week’s referendum that seemed to be the most telling end-of-year review that one could hope for. Conservative support has been rock solid for a year in the polls and the party made gains in the local elections. The Liberal Democrats took a beating over tuition fees and other policies where leftists thought they had been betrayed. The English Liberal Democrat voters jumped ship to Labour. Two party English politics has returned. In Scotland, the SNP secured a majority in their parliament, which was practically impossible to do.
And the No to AV campaign destroyed the Yes campaign, with a turnout much higher than expected across the board. For the Conservative Party – from MPs through to activists – last Friday was a huge morale boost; finally some recognition that everything they’d been doing was right.
The Liberal Democrats on the other hand have been the clear losers. Nick Clegg will announce in a speech later today that the Coalition partners will continue to work together, but not in the shadows of one another. He will list the concessions that the Conservatives have had to make as a partner in this Coalition.
Strangely, Clegg will boast that he stopped Cameron’s reforms of the Human Rights Act. I say that this is strange because on the subject of civil liberties, it was one of the only areas that both the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats were usually on the same page. Indeed the Coalition’s Protection of Freedoms Bill will gain support from Lib Dem and Tory members. Many great things are already coming about because of this bill such as the scrapping of the ContactPoint database, the reduction of stop-and-search power, the reduction in time people can be held under the Terrorism Act, the scrapping of ID cards, and the other ongoing reviews into our DNA databases, CCTV and Automatic Number Plate Recognition.
It is disappointing that, considering the alignment of both political parties on the issue, this bill hasn’t been even stronger. This bill could have reversed the waves of the socialist nanny state that Labour had forced upon us. The bill is a brilliant start but we are still the nation with the most CCTV cameras installed. We are still a nation that could propose the censorship of the Internet. Over the past few months the Tories, despite Nick Hurd’s comments pre-Election, conducted the census. Body scanners are still being installed, with even more intrusive technology, around the country. And the list goes on (see: Big Brother Watch and The Freedom Association for regular updates).
Clegg will today come out and boast about Liberal Democrat policy he has brought in and Conservative policy he has blocked. For the Lib Dem image and morale I understand that this is important, but after this vanity exercise is finished, I want to see this Coalition come together in their natural alignment. It is time that Civil Liberties and the Protection of Freedoms Bill gets the attention that it deserves. I hope that the measures undertaken at the moment are just the beginning of what would become one of this Coalition’s greatest achievements for liberty in this country.