The Huhne – Oakeshott two-step

Over the weekend we saw two stories, two prominent Liberal Democrats, two public staking out of positions on issues that are the subject of much debate within the coalition in Whitehall:

David Cameron was warned yesterday by a senior Lib Dem not to delay the introduction of legislation banning non-doms from making donations to political parties in Britain. In a sign of strains within the coalition, Treasury spokesman Lord Oakeshott said there was “absolutely no reason” to delay the legislation. (The Guardian)

and

Chris Huhne, the Liberal Democrat energy secretary, reiterated his party’s strong opposition to retaining a policy that he had previously condemned as “Kafkaesque”. The words potentially put Mr Huhne and his Lib Dem colleagues on a collision course with Theresa May, Home Secretary, and Whitehall security officials, who are close to concluding a review expected to recommend retaining the power to impose control orders on national security grounds. (Financial Times)

It would be tempting, but wrong, to read too much significance into the fact that two such close political allies chose similar times to speak out in opposition to what some Conservatives want the government to do. However, that they both did speak out is an external sign of the internal thinking that is going on over moving somewhat away from the ‘always love in public all the coalition does’ approach taken until now.

(Another observation on the control orders question – as with student tuition fees, it does illustrate the problem of setting up a review when the real issue is not one of details but of beliefs. Reviews to sort out the details when the overall course has been determined often work very well, but reviews where there is fundamental disagreement over direction in policy just put off the inevitable disagreement.)

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3 Comments

  • Hi Mark.

    Channel 4 is tonight reporting that Control Orders will be kept.

    The interesting thing will be to see how long Chris Huhne will keep the ‘Kafka-esque” rhetoric.

  • I’d like to just comment on the control orders issue. I think it’s vital that the Lib Dems stand strong on this and force the removal of them. I have no connection to the party, although I vote Lib Dem and I’m a devout liberal, but I really hope that those who are active in the Lib Dems put huge amounts of pressure on the leadership to make sure we get rid of control orders, as I personally look to the Lib Dems as being the only party that truely understands why civil liberties are important. For me it’s not just they are nice things for people to have, but they are the guarentor of a free society and when we abuse them, even in a small section of society, it makes the likes of Nick Griffin seem that bit more reasonable. Control orders don’t seem that efficient and I can’t believe that there are not ways of stopping potentially dangerous people from facilitating terror that don’t include breaching fundamental principles of justice, so we are weakening the strength of our free society, without gaining much inreturn, which is pretty mad.

  • tonygreaves 2nd Nov '10 - 12:59pm

    It’s important that people start saying loud and clear that “it’s coalition politics, it’s different, and the rules are different. Debate in public is a strength not a weakness (or a “strain”).

    Tony Greaves

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