It was embarrassing enough to watch him give the green light to so many of Labour’s illiberal anti-terror laws, but when he supports something which threatens to scupper a key concession won by the Liberal Democrats, it is time for us to actively campaign for him to go.
Theresa May’s Counter-Terrorism to-do list is a very scary thing indeed. She can’t wait to get the chance to snoop on all of our emails, even though only a tiny number of people will ever have anything to do with terrorism. However, Nick Clegg, after a slightly shaky start, listened first to the party then to a joint committee of Parliament whose conclusions were based on evidence from experts, and vetoed her plans. If he hadn’t, then she would have brought in this capability in 2012.
Nick has had to put up with her telling the Tory conference that Liberal Democrats were putting children at risk. Julian Huppert put her right on that one, though.
May and the Tories wanted to bring the Snoopers’ Charter back into the Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill and, again, Nick Clegg said “No.” He has spent 3 years steadfastly fighting this nonsense. We might like him to pick more battles sometimes, but when he does pick them he tends to win them.
While I might have my issues with the new Bill, I have to give credit to Clegg for holding firm on this and many more aspects. I actually heard that the Tories wanted to bring in 44 separate measures in this new measure and the Liberal Democrats have knocked most of them back.
So, along comes a group of peers, including Alex Carlile, with a swathe of amendments, up for debate in the Lords tomorrow, which would insert what would effectively be the Snoopers’ Charter into the Bill. The dangers are clear. If the Lords let them through, then it would be a very easy thing for the Tories and Labour to stitch up a vote in favour when the Bill comes back to the Commons. Our options to withdraw support for the Bill would be gone because all the Commons can do is consider the Lords amendments as they have already passed the rest of the Bill. Labour say that they’ll oppose the amendments tomorrow, but I wouldn’t put it past them,to do some deal with the Tories if they get through the Lords.
Alex Carlile has been speaking up for the amendments, telling the Guardian:
We have taken the view that if the head of the security service and the current Metropolitan police commissioner argue that these powers are needed urgently to retain communications data due to changes in technology, then we needed to act now rather than wait for reports that we do not know when they will be completed. We have got to give parliament an opportunity to provide these powers without delay and before the general election.
We have made a deliberate effort to remove the aspects of the draft communications bill that people found unacceptable, such as giving powers to local authorities, Revenue and Customs or water companies. The powers are confined to the police and intelligence agencies.
He is wrong. Innocent people should not have their internet and social media data retained. It’s a very important matter of principle. To add to that, it is irresponsible and unacceptable to introduce such a fundamental change to a Bill in its final stages. Laws made in haste are normally bad laws.
Alex Carlile has become an embarrassment to our party and no longer shares the values we hold dear. Now, Nick Clegg can’t throw him out of the Lords group and that’s probably quite a good thing. You can’t give leaders untrammelled power to exact retribution on people. The Lords group could throw him out, but it tends not to be the way they do things. However, I can’t imagine that there would be many Liberal Democrats who would weep too many tears if his resignation happened to land on Jim Wallace’s desk.
Carlile has outstayed his welcome in the party and I think he and we would find it more appropriate if he were sitting on the cross benches, not on ours. While I’d be very surprised if the Lords passed his amendments, the fact he has championed illiberal measures which affect every single one of us makes his continued presence in our party unacceptable.
* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings