Only two members of the Scottish Liberal Democrat conference voted against a motion opposing the introduction of secret courts. One of them was Jim Wallace, whose name is on the Government’s bill.
The leadership didn’t put up a fight, which in some ways is more frustrating. Why won”t they come forward and engage in the debate? It’s clear they have no intention in taking the slightest bit of notice of the vote, or the previous votes carried by enormous majorities at Federal Conference.
There was only one speech against and that was from someone who opposed secret courts in principle but felt that it would turn our MPs into hypocrites if they had to go out on the doorsteps with a manifesto promising to repeal something they had voted for. A situation of their own making, some might say.
There were some powerful speeches in favour: Hannah Bettsworth talked about how our government might start receiving the sorts of letters she writes to foreign governments about Amnesty; Katy Gordon, not a natural rebel, said that she could not support secret courts; Kavya Kaushik said the measure went against our core principles on civil liberties, protecting the vulnerable and internal member democracy; Hugh Waterfield reminded Conference (jokingly, I hope) what happens when leaders abuse power, with a reference to Charles I.
I will post my own speech later, but here’s a snippet:
The fundamental principle behind the secret courts provision is so fundamentally wrong that it is impossible to amend it to make it acceptable. I think the best you can say is that they’ve turned it from a cowp to a midden. Mike Crockart is unable to speak in this debate because he has been committed for some time to another event at the Conference but I have his permission to tell you that he is fully supportive of this motion. Conference, there are some things you just can’t polish. This legislation should never have seen the light of day, and certainly never with a Liberal Democrat’s name on it.
* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings