I’m a liberal and I’m sticking up for Nick Clegg over David Miranda and The Guardian

Civil liberties. It’s the issue that unites Lib Dems like no other. While you’ll find a range of views within the party on big issues that matter more to the voters — such as the economy or the NHS or even tuition fees — personal freedom, the right to live your life as you choose, is at the heart of liberalism. Nick Clegg made his name within the Lib Dems as shadow home affairs spokesman by proposing measures like the Freedom Bill and threatening to go to prison rather than carry an ID card.

Yet civil liberties is also the issue that has tripped him up, causes him most grief within the party. A year ago it was his initial support for the Draft Communications Data Bill (aka snoopers charter) – eventually dropped under huge internal pressure. Then it was his continued support for the Justice and Security Bill (aka ‘secret courts’) – eventually approved despite huge internal pressure.

The upshot is Nick has spent in government the credit he accumulated in opposition. I’ve been struck by the reaction of Lib Dem activists to the news that broke this week of the detention of David Miranda, partner of Glenn Greenwald, the Guardian journalist who published Edward Snowden’s intelligence disclosures. Much of it has been hostile, much of it directed personally against Nick Clegg.

It’s not a reaction I think remotely justified in this instance. Nick Clegg was not informed of Mr Miranda’s detention before it took place; though both the Prime Minister and Home Secretary were. His official statement made it quite clear the events should be properly investigated to get at the facts of whether the police abused Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000 – that’s being done by the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, David Anderson QC.

There are some activists who think Nick should have joined the rush to judgement and condemned the police’s actions outright here and now. It’s not because he holds the office of Deputy Prime Minister that I think that would have been the wrong thing to do (though it should give anyone who wants to retain credibility pause for thought). It’s because due process requires a proper investigation, the collecting and sifting of facts. Due process: a liberal principle that needs to be upheld.

Not catchy, I know. Not rabble-rousing. Not even very inspiring. But while it’s fine for pundits to compete to be first with the most certain opinion on events of which we have only partial knowledge, I don’t want that from my politicians – because their actions actually matter, affect real people’s lives. If the police have acted unlawfully, then that should have serious consequences; and where there are serious consequences at stake I want proper consideration, not knee-jerk outrage from law-makers.

As for the destruction of the Guardian’s computers containing leaked information that the paper has decided not to publish for fear of its national security implications, I think Nick chose the least worst option, as Caron Lindsay explained here. Let’s not pretend the images of the British government taking a hammer to newspapers’ hard drives is a good look: it’s not. It’s a bloody awful look.

But I find it bizarre that liberals who rightly get angsty about government collecting data on citizens for fear their privacy will be breached if CDs and memory sticks are misplaced are so sanguine about a newspaper holding on to top secret information which could put the lives of British citizens at risk if it gets into the wrong hands. You may trust the Guardian’s IT security more than you trust HM Government’s: I prefer to be sceptical that either of those institutions can be wholly trusted with data relating to private individuals.

Yes, there are lessons to be learned from this week for the Lib Dem leadership. The fact that Nick Clegg, home office minister Jeremy Browne, party president Tim Farron, and civil liberties champion Julian Huppert have all been away on holiday at the same time has left the Lib Dem response looking late and feeble.

But I think Lib Dems need to cut the leadership a bit more slack than has been evident this week. Holding them to account is great; scepticism is fine; but the outright hostility has been unfair. What’s clear is that on the biggest decision of all – the decision to detain David Miranda – the Deputy Prime Minister was cut out of the loop. Maybe there was a good reason; more likely a poor excuse will be found. It shows Nick needs Lib Dem members’ support in putting liberal values into practice in government, not just our condemnation. Hold his feet to the fire by all means, but let’s not put him on the pyre.

* Stephen Tall is Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice, and editor of the 2013 publication, The Coalition and Beyond: Liberal Reforms for the Decade Ahead. He is also a Research Associate for the liberal think-tank CentreForum and writes at his own site, The Collected Stephen Tall.

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46 Comments

  • “As for the destruction of the Guardian’s computers containing leaked information that the paper has decided not to publish for fear of its national security implications, I think Nick chose the least worst option …”

    Why do you think that, though? Why was it better for government ministers to send civil servants to threaten journalists behind the scenes, rather than simply going through the courts? Isn’t that what we should expect if we are living under the rule of law?

  • Mostly fair, Stephen, but despite your scepticism regarding governments’ and newspapers’ ability to safeguard data, you would apparently approve what appear to many of us to be attempts by the state(or states) to hamstring public debate of such issues?

  • I think this analysis is a bit naive. Others eg David Davies MP were equally ‘out of the loop’ but had no problem condemning the action, because it is obvious that this is a bad law and when used would easily lead to an abuse of state power.

  • Isn’t the root problem that the libertarian wing of the party is (mis)represented by managerial politicians who, unencumbered by a clear philosophical basis to their positions, would be equally able to make a home and career for themselves in any of the larger parties, while at the same time the social wing of the party is represented by no one at all.

  • Little Jackie Paper 22nd Aug '13 - 11:28pm

    Well…I realise that this might not win me a lot of friends on here, but here we go. Civil liberty, is an issue that to me seems to have lost its way. We seem to have grasped this conception of civil liberty as being about containing the power of the state. That’s all well and good as far as it goes I suppose. But it is leaving us with a strangely limited vision of civil libertarian goals. Freedom and liberty do not start and stop at the limits of the state. Oppression can come from elsewhere in Society. Autonomy does not per se follow freedom.

    The response to the Miranda Affair is in danger of reinforcing an idea that civil liberty as a political issue is almost a plaything of those with a high media profile, and the internet echo chamber. There have been more articles on here about Miranda than hours he was detained for. In contrast, has LDV had a single article about Herve Falciani? Yes, the Miranda affair shows that terror law is vulnerable to over use. But if people think that the circumstances of the Miranda affair are someway removed from their ‘real’ lives it is not difficult to see where they are coming from.

    There is a near-total failure to articulate a politics that looks at liberty in the sense of ‘lived liberty.’ Sorry if this sounds a bit old-fashioned but whatever happened to an analysis of oppression by capital? I’m looking at some buy-to-let adverts that my niece has been looking at – no pets, no children, no redecorating and the freedom to be made homeless on short notice. Surely this is a liberty matter? Why is oppression by capital in the rental market not seen as a problem in need of resolution as a matter of personal autonomy (which is more meaningful than ‘freedom’). No, it might not grab the media and internet’s attention like the Miranda Affair, but liberty has to be real and lived by, ‘the many,’ to be political in the ballot-box sense, surely?

    At best we are promoting a conception of liberty that blithely overlooks gaping asymmetries in social bargaining power. At worst we are promoting the freedom to starve.

    Now, before everyone leaps on me, of course the Miranda Affair has shown up important issues that must be subject to political debate and presumably examination in the courts. No doubt. But if civil liberty is to be a Lib Dem calling card then I think it need to be a bit broader-based than we have seen in the last few years.

  • Eddie Sammon 22nd Aug '13 - 11:30pm

    I commend you for publicly voicing an opinion that is unpopular within the party. It takes far more courage to do that than to join in the latest majority hounding a minority.

    One thing I have learnt is that the principled liberals are usually right to be annoyed about something, but they seem to neglect one big value: proportion. The electorate’s concerns are more important than ours and if we disagree then we may as well disband and set up a civil rights pressure group.

    I know what the counter-argument is, that if we didn’t have “illiberal” people or an “illiberal” leader in the party then such a huge fuss wouldn’t be kicked up, but I think expecting such purity is unrealistic. Maybe I’m wrong, but that’s what I think.

  • Eddie Sammon 22nd Aug '13 - 11:39pm

    I would like to add that I don’t want to get into an argument about “grown up” politics by mentioning realism. My overriding feeling is that I just don’t really care about these two stories and neither does most of the electorate.

  • On what basis do you call the information possessed by the Guardian ‘life threatening’? I have no doubt the information that was destroyed had something to do with the NSA and GCHQ, not the names and locations of spies and soldiers. That information wasn’t threatening to anything but the legitimacy of the government. I don’t think the national security excuse works in this case and that’s the problem with Nick Clegg’s legitimisation of the action.

    @Little Jackie Paper
    The problem with controlling rental prices is that you are controlling the price at which someone is willing to sell their own goods. The free market is supposed to force these kinds of people to soften up their prices if they are too harsh, but I guess the lack of houses has given landlords that kind of ability.

    @Eddie Sammon
    If the electorate want grey centrism, then the other two party’s have that in buckets and spades. Without our core differences, what reason is there to vote for the Lib Dems? All we would be is just a less-likely-to-be-elected clone of the other two main parties.

  • Kevin Peters 23rd Aug '13 - 12:03am

    Nick Clegg’s Liberalism is called into question yet again and all the King’s horses and all the King’s men cannot put Humpty back together again. This piece criticises a rush to judgement of Clegg but was there not a rush to judge Miranda as a terror suspect on the most spurious of grounds which will not withstand the test of a court of law. We are now supposed to take on trust the information Clegg has but no one else can see. This is reminiscent of Iraq, I am a trustworthy sort of guy was not a boast that Blair would dare try in the wake of that almighty lie. We were told trust me I know more than you do and the Miranda lie that he was a terror suspect does not wash, this was a government which sort to use any legal loop hole to corner someone it could not chase after using any other legal means.

    Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel and state security the last refuge of a cowardly politician with no argument. I do not opt for blind trust and with the greatest respect I suggest that Nick Clegg tries a better argument than the ones he’s currently trying on his party.

    Clegg was quick enough to use the Parliamentary lobby to attack supposedly naive members but he reacts with hurt pique when those self same Liberals question his Liberalism with damned good cause.

  • A Social Liberal 23rd Aug '13 - 12:18am

    Eddie

    Are you saying that we should only speak out when the public is engaged? There would be damned little speaking out if that were the case.

  • I suspect that Theresa May’s argument – if this man was carrying top secret stuff, disclosure of which would be injurious to national security, then the police were right to stop him – will be widely supported. The point that the statute cited did not actually cover those circumstances will not be appreciated.

    A prominent proponent of the latter point is one Charlie Falconer, who brought the Terrorism Act, 2000 into force, and I feel this is a laughable proposition, especially when it comes from him. If he was honest he’d say “I introduced a vague law that allowed the police to stop and investigate you without having to bother themselves with working out why. And that’s what they did, which is outrageous!” Remember section 44 of the same bill, under which photographers were harassed for taking pictures of St Pauls until Liberty finally had it declared contrary to the ECHR.

    And yet… it’s pushing things a bit to admit that the devices taken from Miranda held thousands of pages of highly secret material, and that everybody should accept that the notional journalistic seal on the ribbons around them should simply be honoured.

    And… Alan Rusbridger has said quite plainly that he acquiesced to the disk desctruction pantomime because he’d given up on the UK as a base for such journalism and did not want to go to court because of the accompanying gag. Machiavelli would understand that points of principle apply at many different levels.

  • @Simon Shaw – Yes that is my point, that we who are inclined towards freedom on both economic and personal issues are misrepresented by managerial politicians who are on the right of the party but for totally different reasons.

  • Eddie Sammon 23rd Aug '13 - 12:37am

    Social Liberal, no because we should lead as well as listen. I’m just recommending a bit more listening.

    Anyway I don’t mean to distract from Stephen’s article…

  • “And yet… it’s pushing things a bit to admit that the devices taken from Miranda held thousands of pages of highly secret material, and that everybody should accept that the notional journalistic seal on the ribbons around them should simply be honoured.”

    No one is arguing that. They are arguing the specific point that David Miranda should not have been detained as he was.

    Firstly on the grounds that, even under the current law, the Schedule 7 powers can lawfully be used only for the purpose of determining whether someone “is or has been concerned in the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism”, and that therefore it was not lawful to use them in this case.

    Secondly on the grounds that the current law is unjust and needs to be changed (in a much more radical way than is being proposed at the moment).

    The question for anyone who supports Clegg’s stance on this issue is whether it is remotely credible that the police were trying to determine whether David Miranda “is or has been concerned in the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism”. If not, their action was unlawful. Does Nick Clegg really need someone else to tell him the answer to that question?

  • Eddie Sammon 23rd Aug '13 - 2:28am

    Andy, my reply to you is the same as my reply to Social Liberal (which hasn’t been published yet because of auto-moderation, but I am not complaining about that): no I don’t think we should just follow the public, which is why I said I have learnt that the principled liberals are usually right to be annoyed by something, I just think we can look dangerously out of touch at times like this.

    Back to Stephen’s article: I think his advice for following the due process for things with proper investigations and proper punishments, rather than knee-jerk outrage from law-makers, is very good and resonates with me.

  • Thank you Stephen for being the voice of sanity in all this!

  • @stephen

    The problem is that there has been a lot of ‘voices of sanity’ contributions on here and other threads in a bid to mollify the real points about the whole legality of what happened, see @chris point above… It does stick in the throat to hear some Tory mp’s having an intuitive grasp of why this whole episode is so very worrying compared to Cleggs stance.

  • Iain Roberts 23rd Aug '13 - 7:08am

    Perhaps it’s unavoidable in the modern media-saturated world, but it’s still sad that we actually feel the need to criticise and judge someone for the “crime” of not rushing to pass public judgement on an event within hours of it happening, even when new facts are emerging by the minute.

    Naturally there’s a point where the evidence has settled and we should reasonable expect an official party line or a comment from a senior politician, and where that is will be a judgement call.

    But in the case of Miranda it was very obvious that new facts were still coming out. To give a couple of examples, the Police account differed from what the Guardian was saying, and the initial suggestion that Miranda was detailed purely because he was the partner of a journalist turned out to be false when he admitted to being a courier.

    I suspect this isn’t one that a politician can currently win. Come out at the start and you can guarantee the facts will change; wait and you’ll be accused of staying silent too long.

  • To an extent things may have changed. The allegation now seems to be that David Miranda was a “file mule” in a massive way. …Though I don’t believe a word of it. And the “criminal investigstion” which the plods have launched….I take that with a Siberian salt mine, too. It’s all sliding on a stream of bovine scatology into a secret court fudge.

  • I expect Clegg had about as much intention of going to prison rather than carrying an ID card then he did of voting against a rise in tuition fees. The position should be simple, if he really disagrees with the clause in the Act then he could state that by extension he disagrees with any arrest made using it.

  • “To an extent things may have changed. The allegation now seems to be that David Miranda was a “file mule” in a massive way.”

    That allegation is irrelevant. The Schedule 7 powers can lawfully be used only to determine whether someone “is or has been concerned in the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism”.

  • Nothing wrong with sticking up for Clegg if you think his detractors are wrong.

    However, aren’t you concerned that, despite the government being a Coalition of the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, and Clegg being the most powerful representative of the latter in government, that he’s cut out of the loop on security matters by the Conservatives?

    He’s required to put his name to whatever they decide, but they don’t engage him in decision making.

    That’s rather worrying, isn’t it?

  • What is constantly missed in these civil liberties debates, is whether successive governments can be trusted in the use of legislation, being used and abused for purposes that it was never intended.
    During the Thatcher years and the miners strikes, the police stopped minivans of striking miners on their journey to other regions as they travelled to help other miners (Flying pickets). Secondary picketing legislation, came in much later on, so what powers were the police using, to breach miners civil liberties?
    Fast forward to today, and we are a hairs breadth from using Terrorism legislation on protesters. Impossible you say?
    The most recent ‘flying pickets’, were protesting about the potential fracking site at Balcombe. So what if a government minister were to use the following logic?
    ~ Energy resources are becoming a national security issue.
    ~ Fracking for gas, is in the energy security interests of the nation.
    ~ Fracking protesters are thus involved in activity, counter to national security.
    ~ Therefore fracking protesters are a national security risk, and thus terrorists.
    Can’t happen ? Be very careful with the formulation of legislation, because some future government WILL use it, in ways you never imagined.

  • “I think Nick chose the least worst option”

    “But I find it bizarre that liberals who rightly get angsty about government collecting data on citizens for fear their privacy will be breached if CDs and memory sticks are misplaced are so sanguine about a newspaper holding on to top secret information which could put the lives of British citizens at risk if it gets into the wrong hands.”

    When the government collects data on people, it can easily damage those people using that data. When the Guardian reveals the *data collection processes* that information cannot be used for blackmail or extortion. It just shows that the government is collecting far more data than they claimed. So I find this argument incredibly disingenuous.

    You have not demonstrated that the Snowden relevations have caused any damage at this point. All he has done is reveal how the government is an incredible liar and fantastically paranoid about the British people. The correct behaviour would be to respect the freedom of the press.

    “This government is going to be unlike any other.

    This government is going to transform our politics so the state has far less control over you, and you have far more control over the state.

    This government is going to break up concentrations of power and hand power back to people, because that is quite simply how we can build a society that is fair.

    This government is going to persuade you to put your faith in politics once again. ”

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/8691753.stm

    Who said that again? Oh yeah, it’s another lying politician. We NEED people like Glenn and publications like the Guardian to support freedom and civil liberties. I see very little support for those principles from Nick Clegg.

  • Julian Tisi 23rd Aug '13 - 9:37am

    Thank you Stephen – an excellent article.

    @Iain Roberts “Perhaps it’s unavoidable in the modern media-saturated world, but it’s still sad that we actually feel the need to criticise and judge someone for the “crime” of not rushing to pass public judgement on an event within hours of it happening, even when new facts are emerging by the minute.”

    Totally agree – and I think that’s part of the problem here. It’s amazing how many liberals don’t like the idea of due process and failing to condemn until the facts are clear. Then again I think some in the party are happy to use any stick to beat Nick Clegg.

    @ Little Jackie Paper “I’m looking at some buy-to-let adverts that my niece has been looking at – no pets, no children, no redecorating and the freedom to be made homeless on short notice. Surely this is a liberty matter?”

    Absolutely. Outside of our party we’re too often seen as rather odd obsessives about things that matter little to the vast majority of the populace. Unless we can broaden the kerb appeal of our key concerns we will always remain odd obsessives and we won’t win the public round. We need to explain better that civil liberties are not just the concern of people suspected of very bad things, terrorists and the like. We need link experiences like the buy to let advert that your niece has seen so that people can understand, empathise and extrapolate to the extreme cases that currently obsess only us.

  • Leaving the merits of the respective arguments pro- and anti- Nick Clegg to one side, the debate that is currently going on these threads is one that does credit to us as Liberal Democrats. Those who meditate, for whatever reason, not renewing their subscriptions to the party, or going as far as to join one or other of the two other major political parties, both of them to my mind just as conservative with a small c as each other, certainly will not find as serious and principled a debate on political sites elsewhere, and I hope that we do not lose sight of the fact that whatever our differences we share values that
    are not replicated outside our ranks.

  • Stephen’s article pretty much sums up my views on the matter.

  • “I think Lib Dems need to cut the leadership a bit more slack”

    This must be part of the standard template by now, alongside “I’m a liberal”, “Nick needs Lib Dem members’ support”, “putting liberal values into practice in government”, and “Good morning, ladies and gentlemen”

  • Michael Parsons 23rd Aug '13 - 12:42pm

    But since Cameron apparently authorised and was involved in the police raid (along with involving senioir civil servants) the argument that Clegg is somehow “holding off” political involvement is a blatant attempt to engineer unjustified party consent. And as to the dangers of the information falling into wrong hands it already has – the NSA and UK political and economic spy system. Breaking the Guardian’s hard drive is reminiscent of the old practices of smashinbg printing presses and punishing the publicatiion of Parliamentary debates, a long and despicable tradition of chicanery and secrecy that has marked our sorry, oligarchic party history. These oligarchs need some sort of external threat to stay in power, even one as weak as a couple of whistleblowers is now seized on and used for indefinite detention and the creation of rule by fear and self-censorship. We really do need to rid ourselves of them by withdrawing public consent now.

  • Paul Ankers 23rd Aug '13 - 1:24pm

    The leadership does need to be cut more slack. I have always been disappointed by activists not going out to bat for the leadership. It was what I noticed most about Labour activists circa 2008. The world was going to hell in a handcart, but it wasn’t Labour’s fault according to them.
    I mostly only follow LibDems now on social media, but have been left with the impression Nick Clegg approved the arrest, which is patently untrue. There is a regular stream of anti-Clegg messages on the laughably name Alliance of Liberal Democrats group on facebook. Ultimately, the weakness in Clegg’s approval ratings is because Liberal Democrats don’t stand up for him.
    Come 2015, the party will be boiled down to one man (or woman if something remarkable happens) because general elections are mostly presidential nowadays. That will most likely be Nick Clegg. He has been responsible for keeping an economy going and now growing. That will be further evidenced over the next two years. He has made society fairer and tried to improve civil liberties. You need to back a good man, for your sakes as much as for his.
    This rule that held David Miranda has been used on average 200 times a day. This is the first time anyone mentioned it. When a man brought government documents into the country and the government took them. I would be interested to know whether it works to our benefit, keeping us safer. If not, we should ask our MPs to do something about it. We should not bash our MPs first.

  • Simon Banks 23rd Aug '13 - 1:46pm

    I think the defence of Nick Clegg is reasonable, though I’d be fascinated to know what if anything he’s said privately to David Cameron and/or Theresa May on the subject.

    Liberty is a concept that cannot be restricted to protection against state powers: that’s where some right-leaning “economic liberals” go wrong, in my opinion. However, in looking at potentially oppressive action that could invade civil liberties, one cannot ignore the power of the potential oppressor. I’m certainly more worried that the state could misuse its power than that “The Guardian” could, not because the former is more likely to offend than the latter, but because the consequences of the former’s misuse of power being unchecked are more frightening. Besides, I’ve seen no reason to believe that the information held by the paper could threaten the lives of British citizens, whereas it’s perfectly clear that it could threaten the comfort of official snoopers.

  • David Allen 23rd Aug '13 - 1:51pm

    “On the specific issue of records held by the Guardian, the Deputy Prime Minister thought it was reasonable for the Cabinet Secretary to request that the Guardian destroyed data that would represent a serious threat to national security if it was to fall into the wrong hands.”

    This clearly requires a translation. Mine is:

    “The DPM knew that if he made trouble, they could put the frighteners on him. Woe betide him if he took action to prevent data destruction, and then the Guardian data actually did get leaked to terrorists. Indeed, there didn’t have to be any real data leak. It would be quite easy for the spooks to make one up, if they or their political masters felt like doing so.”

    We don’t, of course, actually have any evidence that Clegg needed to be browbeaten. For all we know, he signed up to Heywood and the heavy mob without a moment’s thought. However, his defence is implicitly that had he done otherwise, the securocrats could have exacted a severe revenge.

    I think that those who criticise Clegg do need to deal with that point. However, I certainly think it can be dealt with. Clegg must have had many options available. One would have been to declare in public that the Guardian were acting is support of a whistleblower, and that the means had to be found to enable that activity to function effectively. Another would have been to insist on the legal route (pointing out that, whilst that could have meant a draconian sanction, it was entirely at the Government’s option not to seek one.).

    Simply not bothering with any of the options is not what liberalism is about.

  • “But while it’s fine for pundits to compete to be first with the most certain opinion on events of which we have only partial knowledge, I don’t want that from my politicians – because their actions actually matter, affect real people’s lives. If the police have acted unlawfully, then that should have serious consequences; and where there are serious consequences at stake I want proper consideration, not knee-jerk outrage from law-makers.”

    The problem with that view is that the Home Secretary has said the police can properly use Schedule 7 against someone who merely holds information which could be used by terrorists. The law, on the other hand, says it can be used only for the purpose of determining whether someone is actually a terrorist. The implication of that is that the Home Secretary supports the police acting unlawfully.

    Even if he can’t work out for himself whether the police were really trying to determine whether David Miranda is a terrorist (!), Clegg should be saying very clearly that Theresa May is wrong, and that the police should use Schedule 7 only for the purpose specified in the Act.

  • Stuart Mitchell 23rd Aug '13 - 6:28pm

    “due process: a liberal principle that needs to be upheld.”

    Absolutely right. Excellent article.

    Paul Walter: “To an extent things may have changed. The allegation now seems to be that David Miranda was a “file mule” in a massive way. …Though I don’t believe a word of it.”

    I’m not sure why you should be so surprised. Alan Rusbridger acknowledged days ago that Miranda had been flying around the world working on Greenwald’s behalf, since (as Rusbridger put it) “it would be highly unadvisable for Greenwald (or any other journalist) to regard any electronic means of communication as safe”. Of course most people have chosen to overlook this in favour of spreading the myth that Miranda was detained simply for being Greenwald’s boyfriend.

    Back to Stephen: “personal freedom, the right to live your life as you choose, is at the heart of liberalism.”

    I’m sure it is, but I’m certain that most people in other parties would say they believe in those things too. All civil liberties issues are so much easier in opposition, as the Lib Dems have discovered over the past three years.

  • “Readers may be interested to read Nick Clegg’s first speech as DPM in May 2010:”

    As if by magic, Nick Clegg has provided, for the purposes of comparison and contrast, an article on the David Miranda case – written under his own name – in the Guardian of all places:
    http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/aug/23/david-miranda-rights-security

    I’ll be interested to see what other people make of this piece of typically inane waffle, but I think the subtitle – “If changes to the Terrorism Act are recommended, we will seek to implement them” (!) – serves pretty well as an indictment of this excuse for a Liberal leader.

  • @Chris
    Got to love the last bit “As long as Liberal Democrats are in government, I will ensure that our individual rights are not cast aside in the name of collective security.”

    So no rights were cast aside in the secret courts fiasco in the name of collective security then? Rightly or wrongly hiding evidence from someone is exactly that. Half truths and spin worthy of a Blairite..

  • Dave Eastham 24th Aug '13 - 11:08am

    Re:- http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/aug/23/david-miranda-rights-security

    I did not come across Nick’s article in the Guardian until after this appeared “• This article was amended at 21.05 BST for legal reasons” and the CIF comments was subsequently closed. Not, somehow I suspect, for the usual level of CIF bile and misrepresentation against Nick?. Did anybody see the earlier version and can give any idea why “legal reasons” have been invoked. That is without falling foul of those very same “legal reasons” of course!.

    By the way, I did think the version of the article I saw was fairly disappointingly vacuous . Sadly.

  • Liberalism is a gut thing for me. It’s not something I have to think about. It’s instinct. I thought that was something shared by other lib dems. My politics has always been shaped by the general question ‘is it liberal?’ I don’t in anyway feel Nick and co are any less liberal because of the constraints of coalition but I do feel we need to adopt a louder approach to the main thing which defines us. muscular liberalism’s time has come. We have nothing to lose however society has much to lose if we don’t stand up and be counted.

  • John Broggio 24th Aug '13 - 12:25pm

    @Dave Eastham

    I would imagine that the first article referred to claims about Snowden leaking material to the Independent, which has been denied by Snowden.

  • A Social Liberal 24th Aug '13 - 1:13pm

    David Allen said

    “However, his defence is implicitly that had he done otherwise, the securocrats could have exacted a severe revenge”.

    Now I thought that his defence was explicitly that he thought it reasonable for the government to strongarm the Guardian into destroying the evidence. However, taking the point made by David I have to say that in matters of principle (and civil liberties have to be of the highest principle) you stand your ground and do not let the actions or threats of others deter you from delivering what you consider to be the right course of action.

  • I agree with Ashley.

  • Can somebody explain to me where this neo-Liberal (ie: since being in Coalition) argument that liberty and liberalism and civil rights and privacy and the rule of law are no longer rights or protections or guarantees, but instead have become privileges selectively meted out, only if you tacitly concur with the UKG’s definition.

    Last time I looked, the UK is a democracy – not a dictatorship – and the government are representatives of the electorate, as are the police, and the civil servants, public officials and the agencies that we permit to operate in our name and pay for with our taxes. The data that Miranda is alleged to have been carrying was originally stolen from us by GCHQ and the NSA using illegal taps on transatlantic cables and in collusion (paid collusion) with internet providers and telecom companies that in return pay next-to-zero in taxes here.

    Definition of Liberalism as I understand (and support) it: “A political theory founded on the natural goodness of humans and the autonomy of the individual and favoring civil and political liberties, government by law with the consent of the governed, and protection from arbitrary authority.”

    ‘roo

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