15 February 2010

Missed Off The Shopping List?

Apparently the Lib Dems will not go into a coalition, but would support a minority government who makes concessions in four key areas - the Lib Dem 'shopping list':

• Investing extra funds in education through a pupil premium for disadvantaged children.

• Tax reform, taking 4 million out of tax and raising taxes on the rich by requiring capital gains and income to be taxed at the same rate.

Rebalancing of the economy to put less emphasis on centralised banking and more on a new greener economy.

• Political reforms, including changes to the voting system and a democratically elected Lords, that go further than proposed by Labour.

These sound like the same four objectives outlined by Nick Clegg last month.

I support all four, but to my mind there's one glaring omission: the restoration of civil liberties.

Throughout this parliament, the party has spent a lot of time talking up a Freedom Bill that would reverse the countless erosions of civil liberty by consecutive Conlabourtive governments. The party created an in-depth website that goes into the history of civil liberty, the detail of the 20 freedoms we'd restore, along with a petition and quiz. During the leadership contest, here's what Nick Clegg said would be his first bill as Prime Minister:

...and here's what Chris Huhne said:

So it always seemed like a top-level priority to me. And so it should be. Civil liberty is a crucial element of liberalism. It is central to our values, and is fundamentally what unites the social- and classical-liberal wings of the party.

As mainstream British politics comes to a broad consensus around economics, the dividing lines are becoming increasingly about the amount of government intervention necessary for society. By not giving the proposals set out in The Freedom Bill their deserved place in this shopping list, it seems that all this good work in setting out our stall for the general election may fall at the last.

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