Left Out Liberal

A left-wing/liberal look at the UK's General Election of 2005.

Monday, February 14, 2005

House Arrest?

I can't really tell whether this issue of what Charles Clarke is going to do over the plans to give him the power to place anyone under "house arrest" is resonating in the country. We don't seem to have much of a tradition of defending our civil liberties in this country, and normally when the token spokesperson of Liberty is invited onto a news programme, their views are dismissed as somewhat "peculiar" by the establishment.

But this is one issue everyone should be concerned about. More now than ever we need to show that the Rule of Law is an integral part of our nation. There is a threat from terrorism, but our reaction to it must be proportional to the risk. There is still only an infinitely small chance of being involved in a terrorist event, something like 1 in 100,000... while the chance of you committing suicide is around 1 in 9,000. Statistically speaking, you're more of a danger to yourself than the terrorists are a danger to you.

It is vital we uphold the Rule of Law, since if we start adjusting our country to deal with terror, we risk giving a victory to them. We can't just allow any Home Secretary to decide to detain people forever just because he says so. The whole process is open to abuse.

I am glad that the Conservatives look set to oppose these issues, at least at the moment. They are horrendously illiberal, and if they are pushed through before the election as most commentators are predicting, it will effectively mean the game is up for civil liberties in this country.

What shocks me the most is that all of this is being considered under a Labour government. It rather indicates just how far to the right the present Blair administration is. There needs to be a major change in the Labour party soon, but I fear this election is not going to provide the excuse we need to do so.

There must be another way.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Lib Dems on Crime

Listening to Mark Oaten on The Politics Show on BBC2 today, the Liberal Democrats spokesman on Crime, I couldn't help but agree with everything that was said. People are gearing themselves up to attack the Lib Dems for their talk of "tough liberalism" because the right-wing press like to set themselves in the position that only they can talk tough on crime.

But what he said about the Lib Dems taking the tough option was absolutely right. It's very easy to jail everyone. It's very easy to fine everyone. But what does it achieve? Sure, it takes people off the streets for a bit. And there will always be extremely dangerous people around who can't be rehabilitated who need to be locked up for life. But what about the vast majority of the petty criminals who go to jail? Most of them go on to reoffend within a few months. Is that a sign of a system that is working?

So it is "tough" to want to take the hard option of tackling the genuine causes of crime. It's an extremely simple concept to grasp. But it will not be painted as such. This election is gearing up to be one of the worst that anyone will remember. It will be characterised for relentless spinning and extreme concentration on the same issues such as immigration which will grind the electorate down. I am predicting this could be the lowest turnout ever, which will be a complete shame given that now more than ever we need to stand up and cast an important vote against the dangerously right-wing Blair.

Iraq Election Results

So we should all celebrate now that Iraq has the results for its constituent assembly. The lapdog media presents the whole thing, as usual, as the final stage in the process. The end of the problems and the beginning of the new Iraq.

I'd like it if it was true. We do ourselves no favours by deluding ourselves into thinking that the hard part of the journey is over. We must always remember that it is only just beginning. Since we've ruined Iraq, it would at least be worthwhile if we could get something out of this whole process, and so I'm as enthusiastic to see democracy in Iraq as anyone. But we must realise that what we've had so far is not true democracy. Most people didn't know who the candidates were. There was little in the sense of real campaigning. Most people didn't even know where they were going to be able to vote. Not to mention that a significant minority of the country didn't vote at all as they felt the process has no legitimacy.

So don't kid yourself. It's not a real election. It's the best we'll get at the moment, but don't assume it has produced a representative, democratic Iraq.

It says a lot, however, that the US-appointed Iyad Allawi's list seems to have floundered into 3rd place. The Iraqis voted for candidates who had as little connection with the US regime as possible. They want us out as soon as is feasible. We want to do exactly the same thing. But the Iraqis are not keen on anyone who may take actions to prolong that, and so Allawi suffered.

I found it amusing yesterday when "Uncle Don" Rumsfeld had the cheek to complain to Europe that one nation could not defeat extremism alone. Yet, isn't that what we were telling them before the Iraq war?

The Shia have elected candidates who move them closer to a religious state. This would be unacceptable to the Americans. So the US is going to be careful in getting a Constitution drafted that would ensure a conversion to an Iranian-style theocratic state is not possible. Yet, it's probably what most of the Shia want. Democracy is a fickle thing.

Iraq will continue to be an issue, and I hope that people will not forget the lies, spin and persistent wriggling that Blair has done ever since the Iraq issue was first raised. Much as we like to praise ourselves for bringing democracy to Iraq, it was never the aim in the first place. Some argue it should have been, but the politicians only started to bring this one into the picture when the other justifications of terrorism and WMDs disappeared.

Blair is going to try to bury this one. We can't afford to let him.