No Liberal Democrat on Question Time again – who will speak up against the Snoopers’ Charter?

Question TimeAnother week, another Question Time with no Liberal Democrat on the panel. Tonight’s episode, from London, will feature Conservative health minister Anna Soubry, former Labour  Home Secretary Alan Johnson, the New Statesman’s Mehdi Hassan, Downton Abbey author Julian Fellowes and UKIP’s Diane James.

This is the second week running that there hasn’t been a Liberal Democrat on the panel. The reason it’s serious is because ever since last week’s horrific murder in Woolwich, there has been a clamour of voices in the media, one of the loudest being Alan Johnson’s, saying we have to put stringent measures on communications data in place now, if not yesterday. The unique Liberal Democrat viewpoint is that this is unworkable and disproportionate. Why are these arguments not being given an airing on one of the BBC’s flagship political programmes?

It’s not the first time that there has been no Liberal Democrat on a week where we have a unique view, either.

The arguments for the Snoopers’ Charter are easy to demolish, as Nick Clegg showed us in robust fashion on today’s Call Clegg phone in – of which more later.

LBC had taken the extraordinary step of lining up the Defence Secretary, one of Clegg’s own cabinet colleagues, and Ian Blair, the former Metropolitan Police Commissioner, to record messages telling him he should back their position. Nick was calm, measured and confident in dealing with them. He went through the proposals in turn, dismissing the need to log every website we visit as disproportionate, tracking foreign ISPs as unworkable and something not done anywhere else in the world. Where the Government would take action, he said, was on matching up IP addreses to individual devices.

In reply to Hammond and Blair, he simply said that it didn’t help to make sweeping, emotive statements in the light of  a tragedy and that it might lead to knee-jerk legislation that we would later regret.

Later in the programme, he talked about what he felt was the best way to tackle extremism:

Abhorrent ideologies are best defeated when they’re argued against and shown to be as perverted and corrupt as they are. I believe that moderation, strong argument, non violence, is the best way to ensure our safety.

As I say, a unique point of view which will be missed tonight. Readers who agree with Nick’s point of view might want to think about ways in which to spread his message in both real life and across the internet.


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  • I’m reasonably certain Mehdi will speak against it; however it’s a pity the Liberal voice is absent from this programme.

  • “The arguments against the Snoopers’ Charter are easy to demolish…”

    I think you mean the arguments FOR.

  • The pressure is on the BBC to maintain balance on this one, it is up to them to solve the problem. the easiest way would be to defer the question to the next time there is a Lib Dem.

  • BBC has appeared to promote this for legislation. And still give too much time to UKIP. I am not sure they particularly care about this sort of balance.

  • Mohammed Shafiq 30th May '13 - 12:27pm

    Majid Nawaz is a member of the lib Dems and was in last week.

    He is on the leadership programme too.

  • Eddie Sammon 30th May '13 - 12:37pm

    I’ve got a question: would the Lib Dem grassroots ever take the side of security over freedom? Can you not see the fundamental floor in your philosophy?

    The BBC will never be perfect, the only solution is to privatise it because the government should have no involvement with the media.

  • I find it amusing that on the same page as this, you have a post about banning lad mags.

  • Majid Nawaz is a great representative for our party, in my opinion, but was he acting on behalf of our party then? I thought he was there as part of one of his other many responsibilities.

  • Eddie Sammon 30th May '13 - 1:01pm

    Flaw not floor, sorry.

  • This is the second time that Diane James has been on QT. Fair enough she came second in Eastleigh and is standing for European Parliament, but seems like they’re overdoing it a bit with her. I suppose she’s one of UKIP’s more articulate operators.

  • hahaha, hahaha, hahaha.

    Maybe they wanted someone to speak up against secret courts and the government stealing people’s social security.
    Maybe they wanted someone to speak up against the government breaking human rights law.

  • Alex Harvey 30th May '13 - 2:12pm

    “who will speak up against the Snoopers’ Charter?”

    … Labour?

  • This government has already allowed snooping into every aspect of people’s lives if they need to claim on their national insurance for social security.

    So while I would agree with Nick Clegg’s works, his actions do not match.

  • *words*, not with a k!

  • Question Time should have a panel that is relevent. A proper member of the government, a Conservative MP of course,
    a Labour MP, a member of UKIP plus a guest of merit.

  • nuclear cockroach 30th May '13 - 2:54pm

    @Gareth Aubrey

    “three voices of the far right and one voice of the centre-right”

    That’s just name calling – and wildly inaccurate.

    Anna Soubry is a rather typical Wet, whom the wild eyed folk in her own party are liable to call a social democrat. I would see myself as having fairly typical views for a member of the Lib Dems – yet I find myself agreeing with Soubry about as often as disagreeing with her.

    Julian Fellowes is just a boring old Tory fart, who probably doesn’t think too much about his politics, just agrees with whatever the party line is, or whatever the “decent cove” next to him says. I will rarely agree with much he will ever write or say, but I wouldn’t take him seriously either. I certain think it very unfair to label him “far right”.

    Diane James? Well she is a Kipper, fair enough. However, she is a cipher at the moment, her perosnal views have yet to be decrypted. She currently represents the quiet voice of sanity within her party of oddballs, further than that, I think it is fair to say we know nothing.

    Alan Johnson, a voice of the centre-right? Don’t be silly. A Securocrat’s Rent-A-Parrot perhaps. But not of the centre-right by any stretch of the imagination.

  • Mike Barnes 30th May '13 - 2:56pm

    No real loss, most Lib Dem guests just nod sagely in agreement to whatever the Tory says 95% of the time… “mess we inherited, making tough choices, working in the national interest” blah blah etc etc

    As a viewer I find it so boring and absolutely pointless having two government members on to say the exact same thing. It’s unfortunate when one topic, such as national security, comes up that does actually split coalition opinion, but I’m not really interested, I’d rather hear what UKIP has to say, I genuinely have no idea what their opinion on security is and it could be a laugh watching Mehdi make fun of them.

  • nuclear cockroach 30th May '13 - 3:07pm

    @Eddie Sammon

    “I’ve got a question: would the Lib Dem grassroots ever take the side of security over freedom? Can you not see the fundamental floor in your philosophy? ”

    I’ve a question for you. Have you ever given thought to the question of balancing conflicting liberties? That is the heart of coherent liberalism. Increasing one man’s liberty often impinges on another man’s liberty. Getting the balance right is the keystone.

    The Liberal Democrats will support reasonable legislation which increases the nation’s security from any real threats. The proposed communications bill, though, is a chimera. It wouldn’t have prevented the murder of Drummer Rigby – the security services were already aware of the threat posed by his murderers and had all the powers they need to protect him. Yet they failed him. Address that and you will address a real problem. The communications bill, however, will just allow some pervert from the Milk Marketing Board to jerk off at your knicker drawer.

  • Eddie Sammon 30th May '13 - 3:24pm

    Yes I have.

  • Malcolm Todd 30th May '13 - 4:19pm

    nuclear cockroach: “The communications bill, however, will just allow some pervert from the Milk Marketing Board to jerk off at your knicker drawer.”

    Wow –really? Where does that powerful but bizarre image come from?

  • nuclear cockroach 30th May '13 - 4:30pm

    @Malcolm Todd

    I am sure you are not thick, so I doubt that you really need the metaphor explained. On the off chance, though, it’s a metaphor for abusive intrusion by the uninvited.

  • Definitely 3 Conservative/UKIP, one left-wing, and one authoritarian former home secretary. Very confused about the decision making process here – Julian Fellows is a Conservative Peer.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 30th May '13 - 6:37pm

    Mohammed, Majid was fantastic on last week’s Question Time but he wasn’t there as an official Lib Dem speaking on behalf of the party.

  • Question Time is well past its sell by date. In the age of the Internet the Beeb could easily create a format that allows more audience participation and more challenging disruptive questions. Even with a stack of channels, the Beeb choose to show it extremely late as if to help those with trouble sleeping rather than a decent hour on a less popular channel. Sadly we are stuck with it because its “an institution”.

  • “Question Time is well past its sell by date”

    True. The Harry Enfield sketch sums it up perfectly these days.

  • Eddie Sammon 30th May '13 - 11:01pm

    I’m watching QT and I don’t know who to believe. I would listen to the Lib Dems if they were on but you know that the Lib Dems just like to scaremonger and exaggerate the level of intrusion from these bills.

    Perhaps this is why the public just switch off from most politicians; where’s the unbiased party the public is screaming for?

  • @Henry 30th May:

    “Very confused about the decision making process here – Julian Fellows is a Conservative Peer.”

    The mix of Fellows and Mehdi Hussein is a far nearer thing to a proper Lib Dem view than I have ever seen from any Lib Dem spokesperson on QT.

  • Malcolm Todd 30th May '13 - 11:49pm

    “the unbiased party the public is screaming for”?

    Mr Sammon, I do hope you’re being funny on purpose!

  • Well – Now that it’s happened – Thanks Mehdi Hasan for showing what a real liberal can do. A Party spokesperson these days would just have been a pale imitation. (Honourable mention too for Diane James, who showed that even UKIP has its rational face!)

  • A Social Liberal 31st May '13 - 2:07am

    The problem with the Snoopers Charter is that it will not do what it says on the tin.

    If the bill is passed, all the naughty people need do (be they terrorist, criminal or simply someone not wanting the government to see who they are talking to) is sign up to one of the more popular MUGs. Nearly all of them have the ability for vocal communication, all of them have the ability for written communication and very nearly all of them have servers which are outside of the UK juristiction.

    For instance, Johny Drugrunner wants to organise a shipment of cocaine. He logs on to the American server of Everquest and enters a private conversation with Juan VendedordeDrogas (who is in Bogata) and orders a mule to be sent. Having a date and time for the mule coming to the UK Johny uses the ingame email facility to inform ‘Arry Gopher of the mules imminent arrival.

    MI5 become aware of Johnnys nefarious doings and orders his ISP to give up Johnys internet travels. Even if they suspect that he is using EQ as a comms device they cannot identify ‘Arry because tens of thousands of UK citizens play the game. Further, they cannot order Sony to hand over info of Johnnys gaming on EverQuest because the game owners are in Japan, as are the servers.

  • The Libdems should have fielded Mike Hancock.

  • Malcolm Todd 31st May '13 - 9:05am

    nuclear cockroach
    Yes, but why the Milk Marketing Board for heaven’s sake? That’s the point where you lost me. (Apologies if I’m stepping into some childhood trauma here, but you are the one who raised it…)

  • Liberal Democrats sensible balance is essential in such a debate to combat the authoritarian paternalistic Labour and Tory attitudes, who believe that the best way to protect out freedom is to give it away. Thank you Nick Clegg for speaking out against the snoopers charter, the BBC denying us a platform reveals the assumption of a two party system remains!

  • nuclear cockroach 31st May '13 - 10:23am

    “Yes, but why the Milk Marketing Board for heaven’s sake? ”

    The Snoopers Charter attempts, as I understand it, to extend access to the collected data to a vast number of public bodies, few ow which are in any way responsible for the security of the nation.

  • @Malcolm: I think he picked the Milk Marketing Board because it is so uncontentious and boring sounding – he is making the point that most of these bodies will have no real reason to access this information, and yet they can do so anyway.

  • Mack(Not a Lib Dem) 31st May '13 - 11:48am

    Surely it is fair that the government should be represented by only one representative on Question Time? I have always thought it decidedly unfair to have the government’s “line to take” position respresented by two MPs to Labour’s one on Question Time and and on Any Questions. When Labour were the Government you wouldn’t have expected to see it being represented by two M.P.s on Question Time or on Any Questions would you?

  • nuclear cockroach 31st May '13 - 12:09pm


    Not every Conservative or Liberal Democrat MP is actually in the government, though.

  • “The Libdems should have fielded Mike Hancock.”

    using a muckspreader, no doubt!

  • Mack(Not a Lib Dem) 31st May '13 - 4:04pm

    @Nuclear Cockroach

    “Not every Conservative or Liberal Democrat MP is actually in the government, though.”
    Not every Labour MP is in the Shadow Cabinet but you wouldn’t expect to see two of them representing it on Question Time.

  • Labour was in a majority government, this is a coalition government, so it a completely different situation.

  • nuclear cockroach 31st May '13 - 4:36pm


    True, but the point surely is that government is held to account by the rest of Parliament, from both sides of the House. And further, with a Coalition government, you typically have two very distinct views on policy. If all that QT does is to represent the views on one side of any issue, the public is poorly informed as to the actual state of the debate.

  • You’ve got a conservative on there, you vote in favour of everything they say, what’s the difference? Surely this just gives Lib Dem MPs more time to abstain from important votes and the like.

    Although if there was actually a Lib Dem with an opinion about something, they might get invited on! Mad thought, I know, but still, can you imagine?

  • Helen Dudden 2nd Jun '13 - 8:20am

    @Simon, I agree the Lib Dems would vote with the Conservatives, to open an envelope.

    The politics of this Government gave us UKIP, where I live there is organized petitions on housing, Lib Dems and Conservatives, but little done to agree situations on the need to build. Building will help the economy, also help with the dire situation on housing. At present, we have the Building Inspector, I would state, good luck to him.

    I feel this simply prevents action until after the next election, building in Bath, is not wanted. Not on the agenda for winning an election.

    Both these parties still do not understand the outcome of what has been done, I most certainly would not do a protest vote, that is a waste of time.

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