Daily archives: May 12, 2010

I Will Support This Government

Having now seen the coaliton agreement, I can say that I can broadly support this government and am convinced that it will be an improvement on the bunch of authoritarian war criminals who have been replaced.

Here are the parts of the agreement that to me constitute a radical change for the better in the political possibilities for our country:

Civil Liberties

Scrap the ID card scheme, the National Identity register, the next generation of biometric passports and the ContactPoint Database.

Outlaw the finger-printing of children at school without parental permission.

Extend the scope of the Freedom of Information Act to provide greater transparency.

Adopt the Scottish approach to stopping retention of innocent people’s DNA on the DNA database.

Defend trial by jury.

Restore rights to non-violent protest.

A review of libel laws to protect freedom of speech.

Safeguards against the misuse of anti-terrorism legislation.

Further regulation of CCTV.

Ending of storage of internet and email records without good reason.

A new mechanism to prevent the proliferation of unnecessary new criminal offences.

End the detention of children for immigration purposes.

Add to that a fully elected House of Lords under PR, and fixed term parliaments, and this does represent real truly important change for the better.

The full coalition agreement is here.


Lifting the basic tax allowance towards £10,000 and restoring the state pension link to earnings are also major changes.

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Lib-Cons Get Off Virtually Scot Free

Amazingly, there seem to be only two Scots in the cabinet – Liam Fox, who is detested in Scotland, and the hapless Danny Alexander in the ghetto of Scottish Secretary – a token position devoid of power. Have I missed anyone? How many times have there been this few Scots in a Cabinet since 1707?

I had already noted that the election result and the Lib-Con coalition will be a great boost to Scottish independence. This puts the seal on it.

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Torture Supporter Peter Ricketts as National Security Adviser

Even worse news. Cameron’s much vaunted National Security Council will be headed by the FCO’s pro-torture Peter Ricketts, who is personally up to his ears in the policy of complicity in torture, and in its continued cover-up – including being personally involved in the censorship of this vital FOI release last week.

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The appointment of Ricketts to what is touted as a key government position is a major blow to those like me who hoped that complicity in torture and attacks on civil rights will be rolled back.

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Very Bad Signs for the LIb Dems – Cameron, Osborne, Hague, Fox and May dominate the great offices of state from the far right

The Great Offices of State are called that for a reason. They dominate any government, and to a large extent other ministers’ room for manouvere is massively constrained by them.

Look at the line-up. Cameron, Osborne, Hague, Fox, May. How on earth did the Lib Dems agree to support such a very right wing line up? Why did they fail to land even one of the great offices of state in the negotiation, when two are occupied by right wing political pygmies like Fox and May? This does not bode well at all for the Lib Dems.

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Who Will Be Home Secretary?

It is now plain that there is deadlock between Cameron and Clegg over who will be Home Secretary. That is hardly surprising. I have argued before that the most important political dividing line in this country is not left and right, but between libertarian and authoritarian.


New Labour was the most authoritarian government this country has seen since the days of Lord Liverpool. Home Secretaries David Buinkett, Charles Clarke, Jack Straw and John Reid led a full-on attack on civil liberties in this country. I have no time whatsoever for those commenters who would have preferred the evil men of New Labour o remain in power.

The Lib Dems are strongly tilted to the libertarian side, though they do have authoritarians, and that wing is close to Clegg.

But the Tories are absolutely split down the middle on libertarian/authoritarian lines. A lot of Tories want to ban immigrants, deport hundreds of thousands and lock up very many more people than our prisons can hold. Cameron would be in huge problems with his right wing if he put a Lib Dem in charge of the Home Office.

But equally the Lib Dems could not accept a Tory right winger. The ludicrous neo-con, second home flipper and cheerleader for uninformed Islamophobia, Michael Gove, will get the job according to Iain Dale. I do not see how the Lib Dems can live with tat, nor with Chris Grayling and his dodgy attitude to gay rights. David Davis’ genuine belief in civil liberties alarms some of his own party. This is an important development to watch.

I have not yet heard any mention of reform of the House of Lords. I would have thought that should have been a fundamental point for the Lib Dems.


Perhaps predictably, Cameron has resolved the situation by appointing a non-entity, Theresa May. She has always struck me as vacuous and unpleasant. But the great offices line up of Cameron, Osborne, Hague, Fox and May looks very right wing indeed. I think there is going to be a great deal of unhappiness in the Lib Dems about this – including me.

May has a mixed record – for example against ID cards and war on terror legislation, but also anti-gay rights, and pro Iraq war.


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Strange Adventure

Well, here we are on the first morning of a new government. I continue to wait to see what the government actually does. What we know for certain is that we have got rid of a government of war criminal torturers who attacked our civil liberties. Some commenters were indignant yesterday that I refuse to presume this government will be worse. It hardly can be worse – but we shall see.

In terms of cabinet posts, the Lib Dems do not appear to have got that much. Nick Clegg is to be Deputy Prime Minister. That post has to date been famously powerless, even when it was “beefed up” nominally to put Prescott in charge of everything you could name. More to the point, we are going to have the odious George Osborne as Chancellor. Spending cuts are required, but are not made more acceptable by being delivered with a patrician sneer. The Tories seem like they are going to have all the “Great offices of state” – PM, Chancellor, Foreign Secretary, Home Secretary and Defence Secretary. That will dominate the government agenda. The Lib Dems appear to have sold their soul for scraps.

Danny Alexander has been given the most thankless task of representing a Tory government in Scotland. I still believe this coalition will be an electoral disaster for the Lib Dems – and their being wiped out in next year’s Holyrood elections will be the start of it, which is a shame as I like Tavish Scottt.

Danny Alexander will be pitted against Alex Salmond. Alex is the most charismatic and talented politician in the UK – and gives the lie to the idea that a modern leader has to be “telegenic” to be popular. Scotland has a more collectivist view of society and will hate the spending cuts – which if Scotland could access its own hydrocarbons would not be necessary. The growing political distance between Scotland and the UK will in retrospect be the most important narrative of the next five years, with a hapless Danny Alexander able to do nothing about it.

It would seem to be too much for the Lib Dems to be given the other graveyard of political ambition, Northern Ireland, but don’t rule it out. Vince Cable’s precise role is unclear just yet, but plainly it will be subservient to George Osborne. The Lib Dems will also get given schools and something like paperclips. There will be a plethora of junior ministerial posts, but junior ministers have no influence at all on their Cabinet minister bosses.

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