Lib Dem diary: Snoopers' return

Charlotte Henry: 'Nick Clegg has continually vetoed the deeply illiberal measures'
Charlotte Henry: 'Nick Clegg has continually vetoed the deeply illiberal measures'

Like some kind of high tech hacker cockroach, the communications data bill, more widely known as the snoopers' charter, has reared its head once again in the aftermath of the Woolwich terror attack.

Nick Clegg has continually vetoed the deeply illiberal measures after they were signed off at the highest levels of the Conservative part of the coalition, There is no doubt though that he is under more pressure than ever before to cave in.

Prior to the Woolwich attacks I was told by sources close to the deputy prime minister that all attempts to bring in the snoopers' charter would be scuppered, and I have no reason to believe that does not remain the case.

Nevermind the rights or wrongs of the legislation, which are adequately covered elsewhere, this is another touchstone issue for Lib Dem parliamentarians to get right in order to keep the troops on board.

It may seem strange to outsiders, but issues like this, on which the right and the left of the Liberal Democrat party are united, have greater potential to destabilise the current leadership than any row over the economy or welfare.

It would be near impossible for the ministerial team, bound as they are by collective responsibility, to face their upcoming party conference should the bill ever see the light of day.
Shutting down legislation like this, legislation that fundamentally goes against core liberal beliefs, reminds activists why they knock on doors and deliver leaflets. It reminds them what the point of fighting to get into government was.

In the Blair days we would no doubt have seen reams of supposed anti-terror legislation being passed in the immediate aftermath of Drummer Lee Rigby being hacked down in the street. The nuances of coalition mean that thankfully such kneejerk reactions are no longer possible.

Instead, Nick Clegg assembled key people from across various communities to discuss the consequences of the attack, and to try and further work towards reducing the threat of attacks by extremists in the UK.

There is little more galling than the politicians using tragic events to pursue their own dubious agenda. It is a shame that Theresa May was unable to see that.


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