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Sunday, March 13, 2005


True divisions

Max Hastings does not pull his punches in his piece in Saturday's Guardian, on the subject of New Labour's recent conduct over the so-called Prevention of Terrorism Bill.

"Heaven knows what we are supposed to make of the bleating sheep that pass for backbench Labour MPs, who have voted for this rotten measure at the whips' behest every time it has been sent back to them from the Lords. Their only credible excuse is that they know they possess no possibility of alternative employment which pays half as well, if they are cut off from the gusher of public largesse by falling out with Tony."

"The men and women in whom we have been invited to place our confidence have shown themselves quite unworthy of it. No matter how successfully Labour has managed the economy, massaged public service statistics, indulged interest groups and guided the British people into a coma of mindless contentment which should secure the party's re-election with a handy majority seven weeks hence, its moral bankruptcy is plain. The stench from Hutton and Butler, Mandelson and Campbell, a hundred dirty deals and shoddy compromises, seeps relentlessly upward from the drains below Downing Street. Blair's moral conceit suffices to sustain his own will to rule, but does nothing to make the rest of us believe a word he says."

"When [Blair] appointed as director of SIS John Scarlett, the intelligence officer most conspicuously involved in the WMD fiasco, he inflicted a crippling blow upon the credibility of Britain's intelligence community. How can any of us trust the judgment of those who will implement Blair's new anti-terrorist law, when these are the same people who brought us the last cartload of horse manure, which took this country to war under false pretences?"
Trenchant stuff from a Tory sympathiser, which further underlines my view that the formal boundaries between political parties reflect less and less the true divisions between our politicians. The best libertarian speeches in recent weeks have come from Tories such as Ken Clarke and Douglas Hogg, Labour MPs such as Clare Short and Brian Sedgemore, and Liberal Democrat peers such as the Lords Goodhart and Thomas. Sadly, the Lib Dem 'Shadow Home Secretary' has been unable to match their moral clarity and passion, preferring to take the credit for a deal with the real Home Secretary.

The mounting anger among grassroots Liberal Democrats over the pusillanimous stand taken by certain Lib Dem MPs can be the only logical explanation for an extraordinary e-mail sent to party members on Friday by the party's Chief Executive Chris Rennard, in which he stresses,

"We can be very proud of the stance we have taken and the results we have achieved in altering Labour's plans."
Not such good results as would have been achieved if more Liberal Democrat MPs had voted on 28th February.

Call me an old cynic, but I'd say someone's trying to head-off an internal revolt.

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