Monday, 4 February 2013

Letter to the Leader

Every week, I get an e-mail from Nick Clegg giving his persepctive on some of the Liberal Democrat achievements in Government and an insight into what goes on behind the scenes. Encouraged by Caron Lindsay and also Jo Shaw from "Liberal Democrats against Secret Courts", this week's "Letter from the Leader" received the following reply from me.

Dear Nick,

First, can I say that I (mostly) enjoy these weekly e-mails especially when they give an insight into the way the coalition works behind the scenes, as this week's does.

Secondly, I'd like to say that I was, and remain, a supporter of the coalition.

That said, however, there is one current issue which I am deeply disturbed about: the Justice and Security Bill. Two things concern me: the bill itself and your failure to engage with the party on the issue.

I appreciate that your time is limited (if you even see this e-mail) so I will not rehearse the arguments regarding Closed Material Procedures here. These can be found in more detail on the website of Liberal Democrats against Secret Courts
and on this open letter to you I wrote in January.

What I would like to know is how this bill was approved by you and Danny within the Quad, without the opposition of the party being anticipated and factored in - and why when the opposition became obvious you failed to engage and either seek to delay or amend the bill or to, alternatively, allay the very real fears we have.

This is all the more baffling, following the experience with the (Draft) Data Communication Bill - but with that you did spend some political capital in getting it published in draft and examined in detail: a move which effectively killed it in the anticipated form. Surely a similar procedure could have been adopted with the Justice and Security Bill.

In your Letter from the Leader of the 15 December 2012, on the subject of the Draft Data Communication Bill, you said:

"It is no use standing up for civil liberties in opposition if you then forget all about them in power."

"Liberalism for me is about protecting people from overmighty institutions while enabling people to get on in life. That’s not easy and we must always ensure that we ask ourselves tough questions, but I’m confident we are playing our part in getting the balance right. If you want to help the Liberal Democrats as we campaign for civil liberties you can support us here."

Coalition has given us lots of opportunities to implement some of our policies, moderate the extremes of the Tories and to put a Liberal stamp on the Government of Britain. This Saturday I will, along with many others including, I understand, yourself, be taking part in an Action Day trumpeting our achievements.

Sadly, this coalition government is in danger of putting a fundimental illiberal measure on the statute book: with little evidence of opposition from within the Quad or the Parliamentary party, no evidence of it being part of a deal for some other reform, little engagement with those outside and in more-or-less direct contradiction with the Coalition Agreement document.

It appears that you've boxed yourself into a corner - and there is little way out without a great deal of humilation and spending a huge splurge of political capital. Without it, though, I fear that you will have fundamentally damaged your reputation within the party and undermined our Liberal principles, as well as the principles which underpin our understanding of open justice and the rule of law.

Yours Sincerely,

Andrew Brown

Membership Number:

Update (14 February 2013): I've had a response.

No comments: