Lib Dems should be criticising SNP as well as Labour over failure to oppose Snoopers’ Charter

The Party has produced a couple of graphic quite rightly having a go at Labour over their abstention on the IP Bill.

Labour right to privacy


Labour IP Bill graphic


A craven Andy Burnham made this extraordinary comment on the Daily Politics yesterday:

It would be irresponsible to  say we’ll just go into outright opposition because I don’t think that is right.

What do they think they are for? No wonder the Tories are making as much hay as possible. They should be fighting for every vote with such a small  majority.

He then went on to list a whole load of things he wanted to see changed about the Bill. Well, had he pressed that point a bit further, he might have got some concessions. Governments only change their positions if they think they might lose. As it happened, if Labour and the SNP had bothered to show up for business, this awful legislation would have been killed off last night.

However, it’s not enough I think to just talk about Labour sitting on their hands. The are actually enabling this Government to do horrible things. The effect of their vote is that they might as well walk into the Aye lobby with them. The list of things that could have been avoided had Labour been an effective opposition is growing. We could have had votes at 16 for the EU referendum and for local government. We could have avoided the cuts to Universal Credit and not have had to rely on George Osborne to pull his cuts to tax credits for one year only.

It wasn’t just Labour who enabled this intrusive nightmare bill to proceed further, though. The SNP, having talked a good fight for months about how they were going to oppose the Snoopers’ Charter, caved at the last minute and abstained. Their own record on civil liberties is questionable to say the least so it’s hardly surprising, but that’s a further dent to their credibility.

On issues like this that aren’t Scotland specific, I think that the Federal campaigns should absolutely have free rein to attack the SNP too. They are voting on issues that affect us all, not just Scots.

The main attacks, including Alistair Carmichael’s comments, have come from the Scottish team. they’re very good, but need to have a wider audience.


Alistair Carmichael said:

Yesterday in the Guardian, Joanna Cherry said the SNP would oppose the IP Bill but today declared that they will abstain at Second Reading.

This remarkable flip-flop shows the SNP are not to be trusted with civil liberties, but we know that already because of their intention to create a super ID database in Scotland and Police Scotland’s aggressive stop and search tactics. Your civil liberties are not safe in the hands of the SNP.

The SNP are the third largest party in our Parliament. When they make bizarre decisions like this, and their Sunday trading vote, they deserve to be called out across the whole country.

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

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • I agree Caron, we do need to draw media attention to both the inconsistent behaviours of Labour and the SNP and to encourage them to get their (opposition) act together, particularly over legislation that deals with the extent to which the state can legally eavesdrop on its citizens.

    With respect to the IPB, I’m glad to see the LibDems turned out en masse to be seen to oppose the bill. Let us hope the committee that will now go through the bill do a thorough job – fingers crossed that a LibDem as capable as Lord Strasburger gets appointed…

  • Matt (Bristol) 16th Mar '16 - 1:59pm

    In some ways, it’s nice to see an issue where the SNP (largely mis-understood as trendy maverick outsiders by many non-Scottish Guardian readers etc) is shown as not being in lock-step with its ‘sister’ parties, the Greens and Plaid, which both have had moments of greater liberalism than the tartan behemoth.

    In other ways, it’s obviously not nice, as the all the left and centre-left parties need to sock it to the government at every opportunity, to ensure proper scrutiny.

    I don’t suppose anyone knows how/if the NI parties voted? I’m not expecting much…

  • I am truly horrified. Labour and the SNP stand idly by and let the Tories legally entrench a surveillance state that the Stasi would have wet themselves over.

  • If you didn’t want to be part of an authoritarian UK you should have voted YES in September 2014 and helped us draw up a written constitution for the new country that would limit the powers of the state and enshrine the rights of the citizen. That was the liberal thing to do.

    What is happening now is only what No supporters voted and campaigned for so there’s no use gurning about it now.

  • Matt (Bristol) 16th Mar '16 - 3:51pm

    Al – I am an English Lib Dem, so that option was not open to me.

    In any case, it might (arguably) have been a liberal thing to do, but it was not ‘the’ liberal thing to do.

    And can you guarantee that a Scottish constitution would have been more liberal with regard to civil liberties than the current British dispensation?

    No, you can’t, particularly not with the SNP leadership’s stance on civil liberties.

  • Sorry Al, but what is it I should have voted YES to in September 2014 to stop this happening?

    I also note that none of mainstream news outlets are covering this, as the Budget is swamping everything.

  • Matt (Bristol) 16th Mar '16 - 3:54pm

    And come to think of it, I don’t think anyone who voted ‘NO’ last year would have seen the invisible smallprint saying ‘I authorise SNP MPs to abstain in the IP Bill vote and thus not oppose the Conservatives’.

    So no, what we are seeing and complaining about (the lack of opposition to the Bill proposed by the Tories) was not inevitable.

  • Well this was a Second Reading debate. Unless you think that the Bill should be rejected outright in its entirety then abstention and subsequently opposition and amendment at Committe and other stages is principled and practical ( and retains the ability to kill the Bill later). Both Burnham and Cherry gave considered and principled reasons for abstention at Second Reading which are inadequately reported by Caron Lindsay in this piece. Of course the Lib Dems can go in for gesture voting as they are pretty much an arithmetical irrelevance in House of Commons voting! And I’m not sure anyone in Scotland will take lectures on behaviour from Carmichael!

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