Do Liberty want rid of their Liberal Democrat members?

I have spent the last few months campaigning hard against secret courts. That’s in no small measure down to the energetic and informative campaign against Part II of the Justice and Security Bill run by Jo Shaw and Martin Tod.

On two occasions, Liberal Democrat Conference has overwhelmingly rejected the Government’s plans. Hundreds of us signed a petition and wrote to MPs and Lords. I don’t intend giving up until this measure is consigned to the dustbin. If it passes into law, I will campaign against it until it’s repealed.  Is that a good enough statement of intent?

I am hopping mad with Liberty this evening because they have put up on their website what they call a Liberal Democrat Roll of Honour.  So, I clicked through hoping to see people like Stephen Tall, who’s written many times about this, George Potter and Sarah Ludford who questioned Nick Clegg on Saturday in a slightly tetchy session, the Magnificent Seven MPs who voted against the party line last Monday night, Paul Strasburger who’s been vocal in the Lords, Ros Scott and many others who rebelled when it was debated there in November,  Martin Tod and Charlotte Henry who have also been the backbone of Liberal Democrats against secret courts. None of these people are there. It only contains the people who have resigned from the Party. They are no less Liberal or Democrat for having done so and we shouldn’t be losing people like Jo Shaw, Philippe Sands and Dinah Rose. We are poorer for the loss of their expertise. However, to imply that those of us who stay are not equally brave and principled is quite disingenuous.

I can’t say I’ve decided to stay in the Liberal Democrats because my membership was never in question. They are stuck with me till the bitter end and I’m the last cake-eating cockroach left. I’ve given 30 years of my life to this party. I love it and the people it contains. I am incredibly annoyed with any of our parliamentarians who voted for secret courts, but that doesn’t negate all the good stuff they have done, like shared parenting and putting mental health on a par with physical health in the NHS Mandate and giving extra money to disadvantaged kids.

I’m a member of Liberty, too. I pay them money every month. I’m not going to stop doing that, but it really grates on me that they have decided to honour the brave and principled Liberal Democrats who resign without recognising the equally brave and principled people who are still in the Party. We all share a common aim to get rid of this unfair and illiberal legislation and should be working together. Why are Liberty putting out vibes that suggest that there’s something lesser about card-carrying Liberal Democrats? Are they suggesting that we’re somehow less welcome to take part in Liberty’s events and campaigns? Given the number of people who are members of both organisations, I think that might be counter-productive.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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57 Comments

  • Eddie Sammon 12th Mar '13 - 6:32pm

    “I don’t intend giving up until this measure is consigned to the dustbin. If it passes into law, I will campaign against it until it’s repealed.”

    Caron, with the greatest respect, we are a political party and not a pressure group. I think it is fine that we campaigned against this measure but please let’s not blow this issue out of proportion; our first duty is to represent our electorates

    Our excessive focus on this piece of legislation puts the average voter off the party.

  • “They are stuck with me till the bitter end and I’m the last cake-eating cockroach left”

    I’ll probably be baking the cake. I’m resigned to the fact that resigning isn’t an option for me right now.

  • Richard Dean 12th Mar '13 - 6:47pm

    What Eddie Sammon says. Absolutely right.

  • David Evans 12th Mar '13 - 7:12pm

    Eddie, R ichard,

    Sorry you are completely wrong on this. As is Nick.

  • Eduardo Reyes 12th Mar '13 - 7:13pm

    I think it is up to us who are still in the Lib Dems to show what we will do next. If we oppose Clegg’s position, and fail, what do we do next? If conference vote against secret courts, and our MPs vote for them – then what consequence flows from that? To be honest, if our only answer is that we tried, and although we had most of the party with us, we failed, I can see why our critics aren’t silenced.

    Personally, I’d like to change the leadership. I may be in a minority there – but if that is not the right response for loyal party members, then I urgently need to know the alternative. Because simply saying “we tried” is a bit passive for me. It feels like “check mate” for everything I believe in.

    So – what now, fellow travellers? I mean it I’m still in, but it has to be worth it.

  • Harry Hayfield 12th Mar '13 - 7:13pm

    Quandary (that I hope that other people can answer): I have been a Lib Dem since June 1992 (I joined in response to the headline “Plaid Cymru GAIN Ceredigion and Pembroke North” at Election 1992) and said that I wanted to do two things. 1) Help get Ceredigion back into Lib Dem hands and 2) See the Liberal Democrats in government. One was completed in 2005 (Lib Dem majority of 219) and Two happened in 2010. Since then I was elected (well, appointed) to my local community council in Wales but have been sidelined due to having sciatica which means that sometimes I can walk to the meeting and sometimes I can’t. So therefore when things such as secret courts come up, I find myself wondering “I am a Lib Dem, therefore in favour of clear and open justice, and yet does that really affect a small village that most people have never heard of?”, so that is my quandary. Am I a Lib Dem (because I am a member) or am I not (because I cannot see what impact things have on a small village in Wales)?

  • Caron

    Frankly, I think your reaction is ridiculous. Liberty is obviously just trying to honour these people for their principled stand. That doesn’t imply criticism of those who haven’t resigned. This is one of several pages of comment on their site, which includes praise of David Howarth, for example.

    However, I don’t think people who support the party – especially actively – can wash their hands of its actions, however much they may disapprove of them. That continued support inevitably involves some degree of responsibility for the way the party is behaving.

  • Matthew Doye 12th Mar '13 - 7:43pm

    Whilst I agree with what Caron says, the behaviour of the parliamentary party leadership makes me question whether they want Liberty members to stay in the Lib Dems.

  • Sadie Smith 12th Mar '13 - 7:44pm

    It is a very important issue, but it is not the only one.
    I think more progress could be made in the Lords, but I have no idea how the Labour Peers will react, though some have clear positions on record.
    The resignations which felt, at a distance, orchestrated and from single issue individuals not only discounts all the work the rest have done but makes the Lords more difficult. I find this frustrating.

  • Richard Dean 12th Mar '13 - 7:57pm

    David Evans. Your assertion is not an argument. Eddie and I and others who write similar things are correct. We are a political party, not a pressure group. Caron is correct too, she is learning of the unfair tactics that pressure groups sometimes use to manipulate emotions. Sometimes people we thought were personal friends do it too. We need to support her stance on this, and stand up for our right to exist as a political party that can include pressure group as parts, but which is focussed on the ordinary people are focussed on, and which is greater than the sum of its parts.

  • @Richard — Blandly asserting oneself to be “correct” is not an argument either.

  • Richard Dean 12th Mar '13 - 8:11pm

    @David. Your are correct in general, but you missed that I did not do that. Instead, I used the journalistic approach in which the conclusion is stated at the beginning, and the arguments in support are then described. Many people adopt this method. It is also a good way for politicians to speak, because it lets people know in advance what the argument is about.

  • Tony Greaves 12th Mar '13 - 9:13pm

    Let us be clear – the legislation has already been through the Lords. The return there is merely to consider Commons amendments (the amendments made in the Commons including their rejections of some Lords amendments).

    Tony Greaves

  • Richard Wingfield 12th Mar '13 - 9:14pm

    I agree with Caron as well. Despite the shameful actions of most of our MPs in relation to the Justice and Security Bill, we are still by far and away the party with the strongest record on civil liberties. It has been our party’s presence in government that has led to the abolition of ID cards, reduced pre-trial detention to 14 days, reformed the DNA database, and much, much more. Neither Labour nor the Tories can be trusted with civil liberties. Only we can, and that remains the case, even with the passing of the Justice and Security Bill. I hope that our Lib Dem peers will fight for further protections in the Bill when it returns to the House of Lords.

    Liberty are a pressure group, first and foremost. I’m disappointed that they’ve chosen to focus only on the small number of Lib Dems who have left the party on this issue and have not included the many, many Lib Dems who have fought against this Bill but have remained members.

    There are two things I would like to see happen in the future: first, it should be a manifesto commitment that a Liberal Democrat government would repeal Part 2 of this legislation. Second, there need to be consequences when Liberal Democrat MPs and peers vote directly contrary to party policy. I’m not saying they should lose the whip or face disciplinary procedures, but they should be required to justify that decision either in writing or in person at the next party conference. Only Ming Campbell has done so in relation to the Justice and Security Bill and, whilst I do not agree with his conclusions, I respect the fact that he has fully explained the reasoning behind his votes.

    We party members do not spend our free time campaigning for the party, giving it our money, and delivering leaflets on cold, rainy days just for the fun of it. We do it because we believe our party would make the best government and would create a more liberal country. When MPs vote against party policy, it’s a slap in the face to the members. That the leadership has been so non-communicative on this issue suggests they just don’t care how the party activists feel and that’s very worrying indeed.

  • Will members thinking of resigning please think again. The inevitable consequence of their action is that they weaken the hand of like minded persons who stay in to fight on. Leaving the Party involves the surrender of any influence they might have had, second only to endorsing the very policy which they oppose; is this what Liberty wants?

  • “Leaving the Party involves the surrender of any influence they might have had, second only to endorsing the very policy which they oppose; is this what Liberty wants?”

    What influence might they have had? What influence has a near-unanimous vote by conference had on the leadership, or the parliamentary party?

    It’s all very well saying people should “stay and fight”, but they never say how. How?

  • Stuart Mitchell 12th Mar '13 - 9:57pm

    I’m sure you cheered on Liberty all those years they were sticking the boot in to Labour. At least they are being consistent. Do you expect them to applaud Lib Dem MPs for bringing in secret courts?

    Personally (on a related topical note) I lost all respect for Liberty when they tried to get the European Court to declare all speed camera convictions illegal.

  • “There are two things I would like to see happen in the future: first, it should be a manifesto commitment that a Liberal Democrat government would repeal Part 2 of this legislation.”

    How could anyone take that seriously? The Lib Dems are in government now. This was not in the Coalition Agreement, and if they had simply refused to agree to it, it could not have become government policy, and it would not become law. The parliamentary party can’t bring itself to vote against it now. What’s more, the parliamentary party can’t even bring itself to vote for opposition amendments that would ameliorate it.

    It’s just no good saying Labour and the Tories can’t be trusted on civil liberties, but the Lib Dems can. It’s obvious that none of them can be trusted on civil liberties.

  • “How do activists and members achieve change ?” Patience and Perseverance. Perseverance by refusing to give up when justice is on your side and Patience while support grows,( albeit too often at a disappointing slow pace )

  • “How do activists and members achieve change ?” Patience and Perseverance. Perseverance by refusing to give up when justice is on your side and Patience while support grows,( albeit too often at a disappointing slow pace )

    But it’s not a question of support needing to grow, is it? Virtually the entire party outside parliament appears to be united on this issue already. But the majority of the parliamentarians simply will not take any notice. It’s not as though this is the first time conference has made the party’s position on secret courts clear. What more can anyone within the party do, if the MPs just refuse to listen to the party’s view?

  • That’s a slogan — a fortifying, perhaps encouraging, and to some extent wise slogan — but it’s not a method.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 13th Mar '13 - 7:26am

    Geoff, I’m working on that:-). I’m hoping they will reply.

  • Chris – I am sure Mike C is both talking in a more general sense about “support growing”, and also in the general, but relevant, population outside.

  • David Evans 13th Mar '13 - 7:32am

    It’s a simple question of how difficult members, and by that I mean members in a public arena like conference, are prepared to stand up and make life difficult for the MPs responsible. As a party we believe we are a party that stands up for liberty and democracy, and usually rally round when we someone affected by it in the outside world. However, when democracy and liberty are curtailed by the leadership of our own party, we are deferential and unwilling to do anything substantive about it.

    Almost everyone who cares about the party and its values know we are in the mire and if we don’t change we will suffer massive losses at the next General Election, unless the leadership changes. Losses of 25% of our membership in 2011 and another 10% (apparently) in 2012, losses of over 1000 councillors and more in May and more resignations to come show how bad it all is.

    How about asking for an article on the public site from someone like Jo Shaw, setting out how she has been ignored and badly treated by Nick etc throughout? It would be a start that the press would notice. It might act as a rallying point for those of us who care about the long term future of the party more than we care about the short term comfort of Nick.

    Someone or some group needs to show some leadership in the matter and not just hold fringe meetings and whinge in the background. I had hopes for Liberal left, but that didn’t show up at Brighton this time. If things don’t change soon there won’t be any Liberals left.

    Finally a motion at conference decrying the behaviour of the party leadership in these matters would be an option. But the key question is does anyone with some national profile in the party have the courage to do anything that would be noticed?

  • Richard Dean 13th Mar '13 - 7:50am

    Some people perhaps don’t realize how off-putting it is to see a party in impotent internal strife over an issue that appears to be irrelevant to the main concerns of the electorate.

    A party moreover that is mired in legal scandal and doesn’t seem to have cared, or known how to follow its own principles in protecting women from abuse.

    A party that is so politically inept that it ends up voting in parliament against a policy that it supports.
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-21745529

    Those would be more credible reasons why LibDems are losing support in the ballot box. And who would want to join a party that’s in dispute with itself?

    Nero fiddling while Rome burns?

  • David Evans 13th Mar '13 - 9:00am

    Absolutely Richard,

    The question is, with all this mess going on, who is supposed to be in charge and stopping it from happening? Is it Jo Shaw, a dedicated principled woman, but a mere PPC, or is it Nick, our leader?

    Nick is failing on so many counts, it seems to me he is the one fiddling, while the party burns around him.

  • James Sandbach 13th Mar '13 - 12:26pm

    I work in the world of social justice and civil liberty pressure groups and they are right to feel let down by our Party’s performance in Government on many issues – but I do despair of their tactics and political nous sometimes when, not for the first time, they think the only way for campaigners within political parties to take as stand on issues they care about is to resign their membership,.,

  • Paul in twickenham 13th Mar '13 - 12:53pm

    A few years back if asked to provide a 5 word description of Liberal Democrat fundamental principles I would have said “keynesianism and civil liberties”. Today based on real outcomes I would say “supply-side economics and progressive-ish social policy”.

    How many Lib Dem activists if they were starting to engage with politics now would choose to join the Liberal Democrats based on their record in government?

  • David Allen 13th Mar '13 - 1:01pm

    Liberty have obviously touched a raw nerve. It is rather over the top to complain about who they choose to include on a “roll of honour”, especially when (as Chris points out) they are quite happy to praise other Lib Dems in other contexts. Clearly, those who care about this issue and have not resigned over it are themselves worried as to whether they have done the right thing.

    Well, there aren’t any easy answers. I have been campaigning as an anti-Cleggism and anti-coalition Lib Dem for five years now. I like to think my stream of comments and postings on this website have gradually helped more people to understand just how comprehensively Nick Clegg and his acolytes have traduced our principles. But I don’t expect anyone to put me on a “roll of honour”, and I shan’t be whingeing when they don’t.

    What I do think is that, if you decide to stay and fight from within, you need to find real ways to fight. Flocking to Eastleigh from all over the country (and supporting the “local” campaign!) gives our leadership quite the wrong message. It sends the message that we will all pull together to help the Cleggites out of the mess they have themselves created, and that survivalism beats principles any day. It sends the message that the Cleggites don’t need to listen to the members, because they’ve got them in their pockets.

    What can you do? Well, try the things that I have done. Matthew Huntbach calls it “going on strike” as a Lib Dem, and he is right. We should form a band of strikers.

    You can resign your Party posts. I resigned as Chairman of my local party when Clegg announced (long before coalition) his commitment to massive cuts in tax and expenditure.

    You can stop writing, organising or delivering Focus. It’s painful to watch things slow down and support fall, but, if you believe your Party needs to change, you slowly come around to accepting that defeat is your friend. You hope, against hope, that the defeat from which the Party will learn is one that comes soon, and not the obliteration that will come in 2015 if we do not change.

    You can find a seat that no other Lib Dem wants to fight, and stand as an independent opposing the Coalition. That’s what I did in 2011. I got 46% in a “safe” Tory ward. It is only a pity that we did not have tens and hundreds of others doing likewise up and down the country.

    If you don’t do any of these things – then I think Liberty are right. You don’t care enough.

  • “If you don’t do any of these things – then I think Liberty are right. You don’t care enough.”

    But Liberty hasn’t actually said that anyone “doesn’t care enough” – or criticised anyone for remaining in the party. It has simply praised the stand taken by these particular people. In much the same way that Caron herself dedicated a whole article to “An Appreciation of Jo Shaw” following her resignation:
    https://www.libdemvoice.org/losing-one-of-our-best-an-appreciation-of-jo-shaw-33618.html

    When it comes down to it I think attacking Liberty for a perceived slight, because they’ve praised some people and not some others, is the last thing people should be doing in the present circumstances.

  • I’m afraid you may have to get used to people judging the organisation as a whole by the actions of those at the top(or perceived to be). The leader and most of the parliamentary party back secret courts. Until that changes the Lib Dems are going to be perceived as in support of them. I wonder how many Labour members supported Iraq, I’m fairly sure this that didn’t got the bad press too….

  • Our party is not one which normally elevates ‘conference’ to a position of supreme authority, as with the Labour Party of yore. However, it is not acceptable that the clearly expressed wishes of the activists at our conferences are treated with such contempt by our leadership. I have been a member since before Nick Clegg was born and I am not going to be driven out by, to coin a phrase, a ‘here today, gone tomorrow politician’. I have been pondering whether the vote on secret courts in Brighton might actually be the catalyst which begins the process of calling the leadership to book, something which has seemed impossible before now. I get the sense that there are many people like David Evans, Matthew Huntbach and David Allen on this thread who are groping towards a way of achieving this. One idea that came to me was that could be a Liberal Democrat Activists Pledge List, hosted perhaps by the Social Liberal Forum, which we could sign to say that we will not campaign for, give money to, or help in any other way those MPs who have consistently flouted the wishes of conference delegates. Yes, it’s divisive and probably counter-productive in many ways, but what is the point in belonging to a democratic organisation in which those at the top treat democracy and the other principles on which the organisation is founded with contempt. We are here to campaign for our values, not to keep Nick Clegg in his job.

  • Chris – Sorry, you are right. Liberty have not made the explicit judgment I wrongly suggested they had made. It is perhaps implicit however that if you don’t resign on a point of principle, then you should instead fight from inside – as,of course, many are doing.

    Tonyhill – Yes, something like that. A couple of minor cavils. First, to assert that conference can dictate policy is perhaps somewhat weak ground: there have been rather better examples in the past when the leadership argued that they had good reason to override conference. Perhaps it should apply only when the conference majority is massive (as here) and it is also a basic point of principle (so for example, conference might demand a 29% window tax rate, but if the leadership said only 30% was practicable, then I don’t think the disagreement would be a crucial issue of principle!) Second, let’s not make it sound as if we would put the emphasis on helping one MP and not another. For me at any rate, it’s a “general” strike against a party which is no longer acting as a force for good, but is acting as a force for harm.

  • Richard Dean 14th Mar '13 - 12:36am

    How can any sensible person believe that supporting a party is done by mounting a multi-year campaign against its leader?

    With “supporters” like that, who needs enemies!

  • @Richard, you’re giving me whiplash. Just the other day you were saying that party leadership should be the puppet of “the people” (by which you meant any opinion poll that happens to agree with you on a certain issue). Now you’re saying that the party members should be the puppets of the leadership. Why not just admit that you don’t actually have a position on the correct relationship between the citizenry, party members, and party leadership, but just make these things up to fit your personal ideological preoccupations, without the slightest compunction about abandoning one position in favor of another?

    Here’s my position, which I believe I have been consistent on. A party is a portion of the people (from French parti, originally meaning “portion, separated part”) who believe that they have a preponderance of common ideas about the best forms, methods, and policies of governance and government. This has been the case from the very origins of party politics in England, 335 years ago. These parties are sometimes top-down — where a small cadre of leaders declares what the party’s values are — and sometimes bottom-up — where the members set the values of the party and the leadership is committed to following them. The Liberal Democrats were supposed to be a party of the latter type, but at present there’s a notable and critical discrepancy between the values of the party base and the values of the party leaders. If the Liberal Democrats really are a bottom-up party, then it is not just the right but the duty of the party base to, first, attempt to persuade the leaders to accept the views of the party membership, and if that fails, to remove the leaders from power and replace them with others.

    What makes this problematic is that the leaders have double or triple offices: as MPs in the House of Commons, or as ministers in the Government. As MPs, they are answerable not just to their party but to their constituents. As ministers, they are in theory answerable to the Queen, in fact answerable to the PM and to each other. So there is a certain amount of uncomfortable balancing going on, which is understandable; what is not understandable is why so many Lib Dem MPs have forgotten not only about their responsibilities to their party but also their duties to their constituents.

  • Richard Dean 14th Mar '13 - 4:08am

    @David.
    No comment of mine has used the word “puppet”, or implied that governments should follow inaccurate opinion polls. You have criticised someone you imagined, not me.

    IMHO, the idea that MPs should follow orders from the party conference is inconsistent with the LibDem’s belief in individual freedom and conscience; that belief is expressed in the famous Preamble. Conference has to get used to this, not least because no MP can be effective unless he or she is free to think and exercise judgment and conscience.

    IMHO, the idea that LibDems should ignore the will of the people, and instead follow the will of a pressure group, is totally inconsistent with the idea that the LibDems are a party of democracy; that concept is also in the Preamble. Conference has to understand that it takes second place to the people.

    IMHO, the idea that party members should wage war against MPs that were elected by the people is totally inconsistent with democracy. The people effectively elected a coalition, and so the people’s choice was that some of the LibDem manifesto commitments were not to be accepted.

    IMHO, something is wrong, and it is not the MPs. Most of them are respected by the electorate. Has this party been taken over by a pressure group? Is the pressure group actively engaged in damaging the party, by getting members to campaign against the party leader? Does this campaign extend to doorsteps? Does this campaigning and the internal strife generated by this pressure group offer the best explanation of the low LibDem poll ratings?

  • @Richard Dean

    …the idea that LibDems should ignore the will of the people, and instead follow the will of a pressure group…

    The problem here is that senior Lib Dems ignored the will of their own Party and voted for secret courts.

  • Simon Hebditch 14th Mar '13 - 12:41pm

    I echo the points made by people who say – what should do now that the party leadership has ignored the will of the party conference? Many spend hours/days of their time trying to influence annual conferences, preparing motions, seeking subsequent election to the FPC or FE but my problem is that all this effort is simply sidelined by the party leadership.

    So, the only way forward is to change the party leadership or leave. The jury is still out for me.

  • Richard Dean 14th Mar '13 - 5:26pm

    Ignoring the will of a conference is not a problem if the conference has been taken over by a pressure group that focusses wrongly. MPs are not supposed to be puppets. Ignoring such a conference is the correct thing to do, and is something that happens when you get MPs that are free to think and have conscience and be responsible.

    The main concerns of the electorate are likely to be

    Jobs
    Health
    Education
    Welfare
    Security

    The party needs people who are willing to develop policies on these core issues, people willing to work to provide better service to voters on these core issues. It needs committees who address these core issues, conferences who discuss these core issues, and needs MPs who address these core issues.

  • “Ignoring the will of a conference is not a problem if the conference has been taken over by a pressure group that focusses wrongly”. That’s a pretty desperate argument – akin to the ‘people coming in off the streets’ who were supposed to have swayed the Liberal Party’s vote against Trident which so angered David Owen in the SDP days. How about accepting that the view of conference delegates on this matter is actually considered, principled and legitimate, even if you happen to think it is wrong?

  • @Richard Dean:

    The Liberal Democrats made a great play for the hearts & minds of people who didn’t want ID cards, and introduced them to the wider concepts of civil liberties. Which brought me in.

    I don’t want to go into details because this is my real name, but I have previously been involved in an overseas-based facility where people were detained whilst the government and the military decided what to do with them. Secret evidence was part of the reason some individuals were held in limbo for months and sometimes years, and I came away from this era of my life believing that governments should either shit or get off the pot.

    Anyway, now the Lib Dems are part of a government, it seems that all those words are just that. People like me who joined because of the focus on civil liberties have swallowed all the other compromises and shelved plans so far because the Party stood firm on liberty. Until now.

    So you don’t think it’s a big deal. Bully for you. I happen to disagree, and if the Party thinks that its now okay to charge its citizens using evidence that it isn’t fully prepared to make visible to defendants or their agents, then it may as well get a big magic marker and scribble out the word ‘liberal’ from its name.

  • Richard Dean 16th Mar '13 - 8:14am

    @Martin Lowe
    That’s interesting. The apparent abuses you witnessed or were involved in occurred under the existing PII system. So keeping this existing system would presumably not be what you want. The new system is different. In what ways might it make things better, and in what ways worse, and how?

  • @Richard Dean

    Clearly, opposition to the position of “we can detain and try people with evidence we’re not prepared to reveal” is something you will never understand.

  • Richard Dean 16th Mar '13 - 10:56am

    That’s a rather odd answer to my questions Martin Lowe! I had assumed that your experiences at that overseas-based facility you mentioned might have given you some special insight, was this not the case?

  • Martin Lowe 16th Mar '13 - 5:28pm

    That was my insight, Richard.

    I’d previously been a supporter of the State in detaining anyone who it thought was a threat, and then I became part of a system that was detaining people who it thought were threats but weren’t prepared to prove it.

    This troubled me. The question I asked myself was “would I be happy to be treated in this way?” Ultimately, the answer was “no”.

    ‘Safeguards’ like monthly reviews meant little when people were remaining in detention for extended periods of time – essentially because someone wasn’t prepared to make a decision between release or pressing charges. That system was an illiberal fudge which let key decision makers off the hook,, and these current proposals are an illiberal fudge that still lets key decision makers off the hook.

    Laws like this are breathing room for the lazy, the incompetent and the cowardly within the apparatus of the State. I didn’t join the Liberal Democrats to sign off on such things.

  • Dont forget to put HOUSING on your list Richard – I know that it could be linked to the issues of Security and Welfare but I feel that this is one of the most important issues if people are to develop potential, feel secure, have opportunities and generally live in a Liberal Society………

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