LibDems leave over support for secret trials; I resign from the party

Philippe Sands, a professor of international law and prominent practicing lawyer, has resigned from the UK Liberal Democrats party. He is the third well-known party member to leave the LibDems this month. Dinah Rose, a respected human rights lawyer who represented Guantánamo detainee Binyam Mohamed, quit last week, and Jo Shaw, who ran for the LibDems in 2010 resigned from the party after giving a speech at the party conference in Brighton last weekend.

These principled people have quit over the LibDems' support of the "justice and security bill," which establishes a system of secret courts in Britain in which people who sue the government over torture and kidnapping will not be able to see the government evidence offered against them. The LibDem leadership supported this law, whipped their MPs to vote for it, and all but seven of the sitting LibDem MPs did, despite the enormous public outcry against it, including a condemnation from Lord Neuberger, the country's most senior judge.

The Lords -- a chamber full of senior lawyers and judges -- has rejected this legislation and sent it back, calling for a system of safeguards to be put in place before upsetting the principle of open justice going back to the Magna Carta. Parliament has ripped up the Lords' amendments, refusing even the most basic of safeguards in this legislation.

We voted for the LibDems to be the "party of liberty," but they've been anything but. With this latest betrayal of party principles, the leadership has scuttled any credibility it had left. There is simply no case for this measure. The proponents of the law act as though there is a flood of baseless claims of torture and kidnapping that the government has had to settle in order to avoid revealing the secrets of Britain's spies. The truth is that the government has had to apologise for lying about its role in illegal torture and kidnapping, and that most of its victims are unable to get justice even today. Indeed, we don't know for sure that the practice has stopped, and we can't, because we've had more than a decade of "war on terror" nonsense that says that the public must be spied upon at all times, but that politicians and police must be able to operate in unaccountable secrecy.

Here is some of Professor Sands's resignation, published in the Guardian today:

This part of the bill is a messy and unhappy compromise. It is said to have been demanded by the US (which itself has stopped more or less any case that raises 'national security' issues from reaching court), on the basis that it won't share as much sensitive intelligence information if the UK doesn't rein in its courts. Important decisions on intelligence taken at the instigation of others are inherently unreliable. We remember Iraq, which broke a bond of trust between government and citizen.

There is no floodgate of cases, nothing in the coalition agreement, nor any widely supported call for such a draconian change. There is every chance that, if the bill is adopted, this and future governments will spend years defending the legislation in UK courts and Strasbourg. There will be claims that it violates rights of fair trial under the Human Rights Act and the European convention (no doubt giving rise to ever-more strident calls from Theresa May and Chris Grayling that both should be scrapped). Other countries with a less robust legal tradition favouring the rule of law and an independent judiciary will take their lead from the UK, as they did with torture and rendition.

I accept that there may be times when the country faces a threat of such gravity and imminence that the exceptional measure of closed material proceedings might be needed. This is not such a time, and the bill is not such a measure. Under conditions prevailing today, this part of the bill is not pragmatic or proportionate. It is wrong in principle, and will not deliver justice. It will be used to shield governmental wrongdoing from public and judicial scrutiny under conditions that are fair and just. The bill threatens greater corrosion of the rights of the individual in the UK, in the name of "national security".

I've read each of these peoples' resignations with growing unease. I am a member of the LibDems, raised funds for them in the last election, campaigned for them, endorsed them, and voted for them.

I cannot, in good conscience, remain a member or supporter of the LibDems. There comes a point where the broken promises and corruption overwhelms the pretty words in the party manifesto. Deeds speak louder than words. The LibDems are the party of talking about liberty and voting in tyranny.

I resign from the party.

Update: Mark Thomspon sez, "Me and a Labour friend Emma Burnell record a weekly podcast called 'House of Comments' which is an informal chat about the week's (mainly UK) politics. I thought you might be interested in the latest one. I couldn't make it but Emma chatted to former Lib Dem Jo Shaw and current Lib Dem Linda Jack about Secret Courts and having edited it yesterday I think we got some very interesting insights into what has been going on behind the scenes on this issue."

This is a fascinating analysis of the bubble of unreality that the LibDem leadership now inhabits.

Philippe Sands quits Lib Dems in protest at support for secret courts


  1. The American Democrats are the same way, unfortunately. Obama is very good at talking about transparency but pushing all that nasty stuff. 

    Oh, well, decent government was good while it lasted.

      1. Hey, the Bill of Rights was ratified in 1791 and it wasn’t until 1794 that the Army marched on Pennsylvania to put down the revolt against the 25% tax levied on whiskey.

  2. I grew up under apartheid in South Africa. Back then, the media that got through the censors/what I read on the internet held up the UK and the US as the shining and leading examples of freedom and equality. I understood how those nations leaders and people made damning commentary towards, and encouraged my then government to change… And I found it inspiring. Both directly and because it allowed me to believe there were “good” places in the world.

    Now, those same nations do the same things they once condemned. Extrajudicial killings, indefinite detention, horrific torture, spying on their own populace, controlling information, etc, etc.

    How times have changed. How sad that is.

    1. While your sentiments are admirable, I have to admit I find them a little naive. “Extrajudicial killings, indefinite detention, horrific torture, spying on their own populace, controlling information, etc, etc.” are all longstanding practices of US and UK imperialism that have waxed and waned over the years. Currently waxing, and I applaud all people of conscience that seek to withdraw their cooperation from such practices, but let’s not pretend they are fundamentally new. What’s perhaps new is the extent to which these practices are justified as reasonable exercises of the duties of the state that are universally applicable, whereas they used to be far more covert), and (in the US at least) the extent to which the legislative and judicial bodies have been supine in challenging the extreme prerogatives claimed by the executive. 

      1. You’ve basically analyzed my comment while removing it’s context (both in relation to the article and internally to itself), falling into the logical fallacy that creates, to then assert naivety. Then reasserted much of the context yourself, afterward.

        Not sure what the point of that was. But, I guess, thank you for clarifying/specifying it further, then?

        1. “Now, those same nations do the same things they once condemned.” “How times have changed.”
          Um, no, I’m suggesting that times have not changed as much as you seem to think. Only that it’s become slightly more overt. I’m also asserting that the the “UK and the US as the shining and leading examples of freedom and equality” has never been the case beyond the purposes of propaganda and that those that have bought into that propaganda are, to put it kindly, naive. I could put it less kindly.

          Seriously, have you never heard of the British Empire? And what do you think the Americans were doing when they were supplying the apartheid government in South Africa with weapons and funds? Supporting “freedom and equality”?

          And of course I didn’t remove any context, that’s just a stupid claim. The context is all around for absolutely everyone to see. It’s the comment thread of a blog post for pete’s sake, it’s surrounded by context!

          1. … You’re actually asking a native of South Africa, if they’ve heard of the British Empire? *sighs*

            Most people, would (and seemingly have) understood the context of the article, and my comment, to not be to the scope of imperialism, but rather focused on domestic issues and in regards to their local populace/enforcement on their own citizens.  Further, most people have seemingly understood the context to imply “overt” versus your baseless assumption of “never having occurred at all”. As well as the shift in culture/media/political ideology which was the focus of the comment. Not to mention the number of other things you seemingly need spelled out for you.

            You really need to work on your critical thinking and comprehension abilities, not to mention interpersonal skills. (You could have, for example, simply asked if I believed/was implying your strange interpretation, instead of repeatedly seeking conflict/removing context/making assumptions.)

            I’m afraid I’m not going to reply to you again now, as I can’t see it being worth the time or effort.

            Be well.

          2. “Most people” don’t like to have their own privilege questioned, such as their generally exclusive concern as to “their local populace/enforcement on their own citizens.” I understand that. “Most people” fail to understand how their perceived privilege often doesn’t actually apply to many of the people that are legally also “citizens” (just ask black people in the United States or *ahem* South Africa *pauses for dramatic sigh from the privileged white South African*). “Most people” also fail to understand how such attitudes tend to redound upon the home populace once the state has been so empowered by privilege-seeking populations. I also understand that. And you’re correct, in this case, they seemingly have, but you know what? I don’t base my opinions nor judge their validity on ephemeral approval ratings from the Internet. If you do, I feel sorry for you. 

            Also, the more in sadness than anger faux-indignation of this: “I’m afraid I’m not going to reply to you again now, as I can’t see it being worth the time or effort.” just cries out “you hurt my fee-fees,” and makes me laugh at you. The equally dishonest and condescending “Be well.” only compounds the laughter.

  3. Some day a country will appear on this earth that challenges the status quo by promoting a free country of it’s people, by it’s people, and for it’s people.  It will be promptly bombed into a craterous glass sheet.

  4. Just to throw in the other side of it – there’s nothing really defensible in the policy, and our MPs didn’t vote for it out of support for secret courts. This one was pure politics of the ugly kind. Labour and the Tories both want secret courts, so if we’d voted it down then Labour would have initially voted against it to make the government look bad, and then “reluctantly” reached a deal with the Tories which would have looked an awful lot like the original bill without the stack of safeguards that did go into it. The Tories would then have retaliated by shooting down one of our policies (hard to predict which one, but equal marriage is the most likely target).

    I’ve got plenty of complaints about how it’s been handled, but this one was lost before it ever began, and it was a lose-lose scenario for us: the choices on the table were “secret courts with some amendments to water them down and our MPs voting it through”, or “secret courts that are even worse and lose another big policy”. Both of those options are awful.

    1. There are always more than two choices.

      The third choice was “stand on principle and refuse to remain part of a government that would promote it.  See whether Cameron’s actually willing to call an election right now.”

      I’m betting he’s not.  But even if he is – if you actually believe in democracy or justice, it’s not just the right thing to do, it’s the only thing to do.  An MPs duty is to be the voice in the wilderness, if necessary.  That the overwhelming majority are too cowardly to do so makes it more their duty, not less.

      If Labour would have betrayed its principles to vote in favour – then that’s no surprise; they’ve done it for years.  Let them defend that.  Their wrong does not excuse another.

      1.  Tynam, +1. The third choice could involve not just standing on principle and refuse but make a HUGE fuss about it, incite active campaigns against it and gain media exposure of your arguments against secret courts, turning the general public as well as the chattering classes against them.

        You can do a lot if you’re a big party with many MPs, much more than any activists or civil right groups. The Lib Dems did not, instead they bowed their necks and aided and abetted this new element in the destruction of British democracy and civil society. The LibDems failed.

        1. Efforts were made by people in the party to do this sort of thing. The response from the general public was disinterest, and where people do care, they tend to support secret courts. It was quite frustrating.

          1.  Not from where I’m sitting, they didn’t. What activism? When? There’s been lots of activism against the Government’s despicable policies in the North. The Lib Dems have been notably lacking from it.

          2. I sympathize intently with your frustration; I feel it too.  At the same time: I don’t remember seeing any news about it.  I don’t remember hearing about the critical issue that might break up the coalition.  I can’t think of any member of the public I know who would support secret courts – a badly biased sample, sure, but still a hint.  How much of the public were engaged on this one at all?

            A lot of that’s on the press, of course, but it’s still incumbent on us to try.  And if not, to admit we’ve lost and refuse to be a part of it, not to help whitewash the crime.  Actual people are going to suffer actual injustices from this law.  If you can’t help them, then you owe it to them not to help their oppressors.

            I appreciate that’s an uphill battle, but that’s exactly why this should have been an issue on which the party uses the one megaphone it possesses – the ability to break up the government.

          3. I love how you brits just blithely smash up your government whenever it’s called for.  On this side of the pond, people freak out if mail delivery is an hour late.

          4. Public engagement was almost zero. People didn’t care. The few who did care are the soft Tories that we rely on for votes in most of our seats.

            Civil liberties are important to you, me, and about 5% of the voters. That’s not enough people to elect an MP. The harsh reality is that without proportional representation, it has to be a low priority, because that’s what the voting majority wants.

      2. Cameron wouldn’t have called an election, so that was just option 2: secret courts with Labour’s support instead of ours and no equal marriage. We could have done that – claimed the moral high ground at considerable cost to the people we represent. It’s hard to argue that anybody has a duty to make themselves look good at the expense of others.

        1.  You could have tried to turn the popular tide and made Labour and the Tories stand down. Instead you backed down, at very considerable cost to the people you represent.

        2. I said “refuse to remain part of a government that would promote it”, asuffield, not just “vote against this one vote”.

          Without the LibDem support, Cameron doesn’t have a majority.  It’s that simple.  Talking about “just losing this round” is moral cowardice – being unwilling to compromise power to stand for what you know is right.  The party could have withdrawn from government rather than be part of this.

          It does no good to remain in government if you throw away the things you wanted to be in government for.  It’s genuinely better to be powerless and working towards achieving the right things in future than to have the illusion of power gained by compromising those goals. If this isn’t where you draw the line, then where is it?

          (I will add for the pragmatist tactician in me – spun right, that kind of principled stand would have been the seed of future victory, placing distance between us and Cameron’s worst excesses, while reestablishing the lost sense that the party wields genuine influence in government.  As it is, the party is sacrificing all chance of future terms in office to hang on to a present power that chains us down.

          And if Cameron’s so stupid as to threaten the equal marriage bill to get his way on evidence-free courts, then the correct response is to call him on it loudly, publically, and repeatedly.  He’s perfectly aware that equal marriage is a done deal in the eyes of the public; the Conservatives can only get hammered for standing against it.)

          I second Cory’s actions, and will be withdrawing from the party.  Sometimes you lose, but that’s no excuse for not trying.  If you’re afraid to risk your power in order to use it, then you no longer have it – it has you.

          1.  Sometimes you lose, but that’s no excuse for not trying.

            Wow. That’s our Dem party right there. Glorious!

          2. “Sometimes you lose, but that’s no excuse for not trying.”

            That is precisely why I didn’t give up when we lost the fight over tuition fees and I’m not giving up because we lost this one.

            “The party could have withdrawn from government rather than be part of this.”

            Yes. It could have. The result would have been an even worse system of secret courts. You proposed being willing to sacrifice power in order to do what you know is right. I don’t know exactly what they were thinking, but that appears to be exactly what the parliamentary party have done: they’ve made their best effort to reduce the harm of this bill in the full knowledge that they’ll probably lose power as the very people they were trying to help punish them for it.

      3.  Exactly. The craven bullshit that comes from the Lib Dem party over issues like this is despicable. Time after time, there has been no outcry, no votes against the war on the poor, the sick, the marginalised. The Lib Dems were the ones who forged this agreement with the Tories; crying ‘Oh, poor us, they’ll destroy our lovely policy if we don’t vote through all their terrible ones!’ Fuck them.

    2. Firstly, this was not in the coalition agreement and it could not have been adopted as government policy in the first place without Lib Dem agreement.

      Secondly, the Lib Dem MPs were whipped to vote against the amendments that would have somewhat ameliorated the proposals. Arithmetically, if all the Lib Dem MPs had supported these amendments, they would have passed.

      1. Well, the impossible happened and it was adopted as government policy despite Lib Dem opposition.

        On the second point, a lot of LD amendments to ameliorate the proposals were in fact passed. That doesn’t make the final bill acceptable, but it simply isn’t true that all the ameliorating amendments were whipped down. (I don’t know why some of them were – I’d quite like to find out but probably won’t in the near future)

        1. And if you can’t even find out why the amendments were whipped down… what does that say for the party’s ability to stand up to abuse of power?

          In all three parties, the whip’s office is the worm at the heart of the apple.  As long as it is possible for an MP not to know why he’s voting in a given way, democracy is a sham, and a flimsy sham at that.

          1. Our government is built on ugly, flimsy shams. I’d love to change them. Popular support for constitutional reform is near zero.

            This is not what people vote for. As long as they won’t vote for it, we can’t do it.

    3.  This is the kind of compromise you can make only once. Some day soonish, you may disappear and nobody will know where you went.

      1.  Awful Liberal governments that’ve disappeared up their own backsides and left their rank & file supporters blinking in confusion? Yeah, we’ve had those.

  5. The problem is, they were (and even still are) the least worst option.  But by signing up to a full coalition with the Tories (remember the “Nasty Party”) they signed up to betray much of what their voters stand for.

    But what’s the alternative?

    1. The alternative is tearing down the support structures, institutions, and people that take away your freedom. Don’t support any government. You honestly don’t need it.

        1. You already are, Jardine.  Your wages, your working conditions, your life are dictated by a tiny and mostly unelected minority that own the economy. 

          Thaum isn’t trying to imprison you; just to show you the bars.

          “Least-worst” is not an improvement on “second-worst” – because if you’re forced into that choice at all, the scale will always slide downwards.  The more we can conceive of alternatives, the more leverage we have to improve the current system.

          1. Thaum isn’t trying to imprison you; just to show you the bars.

            More like Thaum is unwittingly trying to show Jardine another kind of (even worse) hell in place of the plutocratic governments of the U.S. / U.K. Naturally there are other countries who’ve done a much better job at maintaining civil rights and keeping that “unelected minority” from corrupting their governments. It’s funny how libertarians always point to governments that are corrupted by the wealthy elite as an indictment of all “government” yet at the same time believe that the wealthy have the “right” to corrupt governments and have undue influence over them. Neat self-fulfilling trick there. Kind of like American Republicans constantly undermining government while at the same time pointing out how bad it is. Gee, a bunch of rich old white men who hate the government are put in the government by other rich old white men and government strangely doesn’t work for the masses. Jeepers….golly…

          2. “yet at the same time believe that the wealthy have the “right” to corrupt governments and have undue influence over them.”
            I never said that. Don’t put words into my mouth. Has defending the status quo become so important that you feel you need to do that?

      1. You honestly don’t need it.

        Something that has never been true in reality and throughout history..

        Libertarian naifs…

    2. The regrettable nature of coalition government was also inevitable: consider that with two large parties dominating, any government involving the LDs would have to involve either the nasty party who hate the poor or the incompetent party who crashed the economy, both of which have spent the past few decades trampling civil liberties into the ground.

      In this environment, any prospect of being more than a protest vote will have to involve working with some people who are opposed to our fundamental beliefs and values.

      1. I can work with people I’m fundamentally opposed to, asuffield, but there has to be some issue where you are willing to draw the line.

        I’m perfectly aware of the vileness of the majority parties.  And I’ve been impressed by how much the LibDems have achieved, given the miserably poor voting resources available.

        But in hindsight, the critical moment was the party’s lack of protest over the shoddy way the Conservatives treated the voting reform referendum.  That was the key promise that made coalition possible, and it was kept to the technical letter while being violated utterly in spirit.  The party’s lack of fight on this set the principle that our side of the bargain could be ignored.

        It’s possible you don’t feel that this issue is important; not worth going to the mat for.  (I think that’s wrong, obviously, but it might be arguable.) 

        But in that case you must make the argument. So I ask in all seriousness: where would you, personally, draw the line?

        This law was passed for the sole purpose of ensuring that victims of government abuse are denied justice in any form.  If that’s not enough… what is?  What law would you refuse to pass?  What proposal would you rather resign from partnership than see go through?

        If you can’t name one, if you can’t think of any proposition they might actually propose so foul that you would refuse, then you are no longer “working with” your ideological opponents.  You are submitting to them.  You would do better to join the Conservative party and demand reform from the inside.

        1. We protested how the Tories lied about voting reform – but the media wouldn’t run it because nobody cared. People who vote (who are a minority), by and large, are interested in jobs, health, and the economy. They are not interested in constitutional reform and won’t vote for it. Personally, I fought for it – I got out a lot of literature during that campaign. My area returned a “yes” majority. It wasn’t enough.

          “This law was passed for the sole purpose of ensuring that victims of government abuse are denied justice in any form.”

          Well – no. The Tories do have an argument for it, and this isn’t it. Their argument is based on fear and hate: it’s that terrorists might sue the government, and the government would be unable to defend itself because of secrecy, so it would have to pay out damages to terrorists. This argument is nonsense and lies, but that doesn’t matter, because the important thing about this argument is that enough Tory voters believe it. This law was passed for the sole purpose of making those people feel happier.

          There are enough safeguards in the bill that was passed that it can’t actually be used to ensure people are denied justice. As such it’s basically useless to everybody and will only be harmful at random. Terrible piece of legislation.

          “What law would you refuse to pass?  What proposal would you rather resign from partnership than see go through?”

          Tax breaks for married heterosexual couples. Changing voting boundaries to make Tory majorities more likely. Renewing Trident. Privatise bits of the NHS. Repeal the Human Rights Act. Cut inheritance tax. Build more prisons.

          All actual Tory proposals that we shot down.

          What’s different about secret courts? Precisely one thing: Labour supports it too, so we’re screwed.

          1.  “People who vote (who are a minority), by and large, are interested in jobs, health, and the economy” In that case, can you please explain Lib Dem policy on screwing the economy, the working class and the NHS?

            Because I’m seeing very little besides the token bleatings of Campbell et al. who are being sidelined and ignored. Welfare ‘reforms’, the bedroom tax about to make huge numbers homeless, and cripple local authorities budgets (mainly in areas with large social housing .i.e not Tory ones. Funny that) by tying up courts with eviction processes, paying bailiffs, lawyers, court costs, etc – who will then pass these charges onto the poor who they are dragging from their houses. Bailiffs who are going to be met with significant resistance, at some risk to their own safety. Not that I consider that a terrible shame, if that’s the work they choose.

            And don’t tell me the private landlords are going to be hit the same. All they’ll do is what they did last time the housing benefit levels were capped; peg their rents at a rate where they’ll get the maximum from the system and forget the rest, which they never intended to collect anyway. The slumlords will be fine.

            Can I ask, as you’ve made it clear that human rights was a tough compromise that you had to let slide, so sad, what of the other bones of contention that people are up in arms about? Affordable housing, dignity for the poor, the sick, the disabled, decent medical care for everyone, libraries, playgroups, schools? What of them? Up here in Newcastle, there’s a private school recently became a state school, thus becoming part of the taxpayer’s budget as the parents could no longer afford the fees. We’re losing services left right and centre, and a failing business is effectively nationalised. What is your opinion of luxury schooling for the privileged being billed to local authorities when it goes tits-up at the expense of education for all?

      2. Labour didn’t crash the economy.  The credit bubble burst, crashing the economy.  Politicians are always so overly confident over their ability to influence the economy.  The influence comes in at the macro level – allowing banks to leverage too highly, and failing to have adequate oversight and understanding of what’s going on.

        Politicians are good at rhetoric.  They are awful at numbers.

        1. This. They got us into a fucking stupid war, and enacted some profoundly stupid policies, but their bullshit pales into insignificance compared to this shower.

      3. (As an aside while we’re on this subject: Thanks for being here and engaging with me on this, asuffield.  I’d rather have a debate with you than speak in an echo chamber.)

        1. It’s a good debate, too, so thanks to you both.

          Tynam, what would it take for you to fly on over here and take over Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s job?  Not that there’s anything wrong with her (other than that she misuses the word “literally” too often), but I do like the flavor of your fightin’ words.

        2. I’m happy to at least make the case (although honestly I’m not the best person to do it, and it’s hard to squeeze enough details into this comment thread). Flip side is that my connections and influence in the government are non-zero but quite small; I’m letting some points drop because I just don’t know enough about them.

    3. But what’s the alternative?

      Replacing Nick “Lapdog” Clegg might be a good starting point.

      1. Nobody wants the job. Anybody who takes it will have to be sacrificed at the end of this parliament. Unless you’re proposing that we bring down the government before getting things like the equal marriage bill through.

        1. This government should have gone several months ago, when it became overwhelmingly clear that austerity policies are not working. Unfortunately, LibDems know they’ll disappear at the next election, so they’re postponing the inevitable long enough to sort out their revolving doors and make the NHS fire-sale a fait accompli.

        2.  *Fuck* the equal marriage bill; as has been pointed out, it’s a done deal to the public. Which is fantastic. Apart from a few crazy assholes (mostly Tory voters, natch), we’re HAPPY as a nation for that to be passed. Whoever replaces them would let it sail through, for god’s sake. What about the destructive policies like the bedroom tax? The ridiculous new rules for the welfare of the sick and disabled that are, in fact, costing a bastard fortune in and of themselves? The aggressive approach to the poor in general? The vast tax cuts for the rich, and the ignoring of the tax evasion by big companies? What’s your opinion on them?

          1. (I don’t mean ‘fuck the marriage bill’, and I apologise to anyone who reads my comment as such. I do consider it disingenuous, to put it mildly, that it is being held up as an example of how the Lib Dems are reining in the coalition whilst letting secret courts, the war on the working class, the sick and the disabled, the eviction of people from their homes and the assault on the NHS to slide. Saying ‘Oh look, but we’ve done THIS!’ just doesn’t cut it)
            [Edited for spleling failz]

          2. It’s the same here. President Obama will end up being the Abraham Lincoln of LGBT rights while doing most everything else wrong. When did my people become a political trading card? Or maybe I should ask when we became such a valuable political trading card.

          3. My opinion on most of those things is that they didn’t happen – it’s mostly Grauniad editorial material about things that got amended out of existence.

            We killed almost all of the tax cuts for rich people. The tax evasion by big companies is largely a myth (corporation tax is *supposed* to work this way, and that tax was *not* evaded – it was paid in a different EU country).

            The ridiculous new rules for sick and disabled people are a mess. Labour passed those in 2009. We’ve been trying to undo them. It’s been proving hard because the Tories don’t want us to.

          4. Don’t give me sarcastic names for newspapers as a legitimate response. What ‘most’ did you kill?
              And it’s not just the sick and disabled, though yours ant the Tories’ joint treatment of them is vile enough in and of itself. The working, the unemployed, the poor, the marginalised. All losing out because there is NO opposition to the policies coming from Cameron.

        3. That’s exactly what I was proposing, asuffield.  The equal marriage bill is very important…  but it does us no good to promote one piece of liberty if we allow all others to be held hostage to it.

          1. Well, that’s mostly just a difference in strategy. You want a splashy media story about how we’re not being involved in the bad thing that’s happening, and you can tell how much we care because we rocked the boat over it. Our strategy in government is to get as many good things done as possible while accepting that 10% of the MPs can only do so much and that some of the mud is going to splash onto us while this happens.

            Also it’s more than one bill – that’s just the other big civil liberties one that’s currently on the table (and yes, I wrote half a dozen posts in half an hour and mentioned the same thing in all of them; that’s mostly my fault for being in a rush). Here’s a big pile of the things we’ve got through: 

          2. No, I want a splashy story about how the LibDems found their principles after all (down the back of the sofa?) and have finally come to their senses and withdrawn from the Coalition. In protest of what the larger half of the so-called partnership has been doing to:

            The disabled
            The poor
            Small businesses

            Face it, you’ve been party to pretty much screwing everyone in this country but the wealthy (and politicians, obviously… increase in allowances recently?)

            I walked out of the party after I was invited to stand for local elections several years ago.  I commented that I did not agree with party lines on a few matters and was told “Oh, just go to the loo when things like that come up for a vote.”  Really?  Really?  I assume that’s the way it works in Westminster as well as I see my own LibDem MP frequently listed as “non-voter” rather than completely rebelling against the party line.  Principles. What are they again?

    4. They didn’t sell everyone out and do a deal with the Tories? That would have worked for me. To my everlasting shame, I voted for them in the last election, as I could not, in all conscience, vote Labour after their lunatic approach to civil liberties and Blair’s toadying with Bush. Never again though. 

      1. I still regard getting Labour out as a worthwhile endeavor. You would have had a CCTV camera implanted in your brain if they had been in power another year. They were acting as if they had the mandate of heaven to do whatever they wanted with nothing to constrain them, including a thousand years of law.

        1. And now we get the chance to be fucked over, starved, treated with utter contempt unless we’re millionaires, and thrown out of our homes. Along with selling the NHS and destroying libraries, playgroups, social care and youth groups. Some choice. My vitriol for the Lib Dems remains undiluted…

          1. Yeah, it sucks.  But I still think that Cameron is less personally evil than Blair by an order of magnitude.

    5. Scottish voters get an alternative next year.

      Seriously, this is just another thing to add to the list of progressive policies that a Westminster parliament apparently can never deliver, but an independent Scottish government will supply almost automatically:

      * proportionally elected government
      * nuclear disarmament
      * serious renewable energy policy

      and now it seems:

      * some kind of respect for human rights

      I mean, Jeebus, it’s like the Lib Dems are secretly campaigning for a YES vote. Maybe the oil’s run out or something.

      1. I can’t comment much on Scottish politics because I know very little about it – but be careful what you wish for! You’re proposing a permanent SNP government, and how much do you really know about the way they would run Scotland?

        1. You’re proposing a permanent SNP government, and how much do you really know about the way they would run Scotland?

          Strange, scaremongery statement. We could look at their stated goals and objectives as well as judging them based on their past performance.

          And there are other parties in Scotland. Like the Tories and Labour and the Lib Dems. The SNP isn’t going to become the PRC. They could still be voted out even in an independent Scotland.

        2. That, of all things that could go wrong, is about the least likely. The SNP only barely got a majority in the parliament because Labour and the LibDems seemed determined to disappoint their traditional supporters for some reason.

          The point of proportional representation is that no party can form an entrenched majority of seats with only a minority of the votes.

          I expect that if we get independence, the four major parties (Labour, Lib Dem, SNP, Green) will have to cooperate and debate like grown-ups, and if any of them go off the rails, they risk losing votes to one of the quaint little fringe parties like the SSP or the Conservatives ;)

          An independent Scotland is likely to end up much more like Norway than Venezuela.

  6. I would have done so a long time ago and over the economy-destroying cuts and the threat to the NHS, if I’d been a resident of the UK. But I can understand why a lot of people’s decisions come now  – this really seems like the last nail in the coffin of the party’s liberal and civil rights credentials.

    1. I haven’t read Lenin’s Tomb in ages. I don’t know why the poor bugger persists as a party member to be honest.

      1.  Independent Scotland, independent Wales, independent Northern Ireland, perhaps to reunite with the South at some point. Britain is a wonderful place, but its future could probably be brighter and more diverse without the UK.

      2. Please, no. To do so will destroy any chance of real opposition to the Tories in the UK, and sacrifice all those who think like you south of the border.

        1. Oh, it’s the Stewart Lee argument, again.

          The only time in recent history that any opposition to the tories needed Scottish votes to secure their majority in power was back in Harold Wilson’s day. Before and after then, parties have taken it in turns to win power by courting the voters typified by the Daily Mail. Having a concrete example of social-democractic government in action north of the border, and it being successful, is probably going to do more for a left-wing opposition than continuing to try to use Scottish votes to soften the impact of right-led socio-economic car crashes.

          1.  That’s an interesting point. At this point though, I think a lot of people are just running scared. This government is basically pursuing policies of revenge after being voted out in the 90s, and is doing all it can to destroy everything that doesn’t fit with their ideology, consequences be damned. I think they’re fully aware they’re screwed in the next general election no matter what, so they’re getting their licks in while they can. I’d like to see them utterly destroyed at the election, and I’d love to have Scotland on our side in that is all. I know Labour are despicable, craven bastards who’ve sold out their history as a party of reform and justice, yes. But the alternative is Cameron or Clegg. And the answer’s no. We’re nearly as fucked as the Democrats in the States at this point, and it fills me with despair.

              I live an hour’s drive from the Scottish border (fuck, the Scottish border used to be here). I’m more and more tempted to just go and live there to be honest. I like Scotland a lot.

          2. Either they are aware that they’ve no chance in the next Election and are pre-emptively retaliating – or they genuinely think that what they’re doing is helping people. I’m not exactly sure which idea is more horrifying.

            While I wasn’t exactly tripping the light fantastic about the last twelve years of Labour government, at least back then when I read the news I didn’t think the only hope was to emigrate to Scandinavia. An independent Scotland seems like a good halfway house – proportional representation, the possibility of maybe having a government in service to its people, constant sunshine, the ability to contribute to international aid projects without the compulsion to behave like a global policeman…

          3. I would love to pay my taxes to an independent Scotland.  I might need to find a mail-order husband to get in, though.

        2. England is a problem. It’s been a problem for a really long time. And everyone else is sick of trying to clean up its toxic politics.

          1. I find it bitterly ironic that the EU is not offering an independent Scotland automatic EU membership, no doubt to kowtow to Spain’s terror of losing Catalunya.  Scotland has been engaged with mainland Europe since the middle ages, while England has a long history of isolationism.

            The pathetic excuse that Scotland will be a different entity (whereas the dregs of the UK minus Scotland will be the same?!?!?!?) will leave Scotland, whose people welcome EU membership, out, while keeping England, whose people largely hate Europe, in.

            That’s some fancy politics.

        3. You guys had your chance. And it was the Lib Dems who blew it for you. Move north, or hope that UKIP split the tory vote enough that PR in England starts to look like a good idea.

          1.  Aye, I know. It’s fucking awful mate. What’ll happen before they let UKIP take their super-crazies (read: rank & file) is oust Cameron and bring in Theresa May on the crest of a ‘Maggie Redux’ wave…

  7. Oh, Cory, to resign is such a mistake. Sure the leadership’s decision on this was stupid. The answer is to deal with it from within. Maybe get yourself into the position where you’re one of those casting the vote, or even determining the line the parliamentary party takes. If enough people with enough courage fight for what we believe in and refuse to compromise when the heat is on, then ultimately we will prevail. Please stay in the party. I’d love to meet you at the next conference.

    1. I always dislike this response. If someone like Cory stays, or Phillipe Sands stays, then it could sway people who are thinking of leaving, to stay.

      “Well if Cory still thinks these are guys are worth sticking with, maybe I should stay.”

      “If these guys have had enough, and they’ve come publicly with their disappointment, then I think things should change, and I should go as well.”

      Poor analogy but: it’s like your car has a flat tire and isn’t moving, but let’s stick around and see if it gets moving again somehow. Or maybe get out the car and get into another one, or get walking. But you sure as hell can’t fix it from inside the car.

      Bottom line is, you vote with your feet. People came to support the Lib Dems out of the blue, with their promises. With a taste of real power they’ve lost our trust within a couple of years. Tell them where to go. I’m ashamed to have voted for these guys.

    2. You don’t understand: these “resignations” are, de facto, the beginning of an ideological purge. The left wing of the party lost the battle for key roles, which is why certain topics can be brushed aside on simple procedural terms, which is the political equivalent of “this way or the highway”. Vince Cable is treated like a silly pet in the cabinet and doesn’t have the stomach for a leadership challenge. Chris Huhne, once the great white hope of the LibDem left, committed political suicide. This battle is over and one side is in complete disarray. All the party bigwigs are now officially wed to Clegg’s line (“government or bust”), there is no chance of anything changing in the medium term, and your staying just legitimises this stance.

      Parties are like the Catholic Church: you’ll never “change it from within”, you have to nail your theses on the door and go out to find allies to threaten its very existence.

      1. Something similar happened a while back with the FDP, the German liberal dems – they let the libertarians and the better-off take control of the party, leaving the civil liberties portion to wither. Eventually a lot of their voters have migrated to Bündnis 90/Die Grüne, part of that party’s transformation from a straight environmental party to one more rounded and mainstream. The flirtation with the Pirate Party foundered on that party’s inability to scale up to the Länder (similar to state) politics where they won, leaving former FDP voters only the Greens as an alternative.

      2. Parties are like the Catholic Church: you’ll never “change it from within”

        Nonsense. Mr. Clegg changed it quite handily. Maybe it would be more accurate to say that you’ll never change a party from within for the better.

        1. I don’t think that’s necessarily true. And to be honest, Clegg hasn’t changed the party very much. The compromises with the Tories are temporary things which will evaporate at the end of the government. Almost nobody inside the party likes them.

          The important thing to realise is the difference between wanting something to change and thinking that it’s a good idea to try to change it right now. You’re looking at the party from the outside, seeing that it isn’t moving in the direction you want, and assuming this indicates a lack of desire to move. It would be more accurate to say that people within the party have a fairly specific timeline in mind, we haven’t hit the right date yet, and we don’t air dirty laundry in public.

          1. If not now, when? You’re going to be dead last come the general election, just behind the Tories. And then we’re left with the grasping opportunists in Labour, who’s only token gesture to the Left is that they wear red fucking ties.

  8. It´s sad but by now I´m convinced that power corrupts everyone, or at least every organization, and that decent government is a pipe dream. Every now and then there is a single exceptional person that manages to stir up the scum bucket of politics and maybe inspire a few years of remotely respectable governance. They are few and far between and, just to be clear, Obama isn´t one of them.

  9. Politicians with spines and principles. A rare breed. We need more of these.

    The name Lord Neuberger caught my eye. Isn’t it a bit too teutonic for the germanophobic British? Schnell, schnell change it to Newmount or Mountnew or something.

    1.  I don’t know about “Teutonic” – his father, from a Jewish family, left Germany in the 1930s; his father’s brother Herman Neuberger became a well-known American rabbi, and his own sister-in-law, Rabbi Julia Neuberger, is a well-known public figure in the UK and a Baroness/member of the House of Lords  and LibDem herself.

      1. Yeah she’s the best example for this – House Sachsen-Coburg und Gotha aka Windsor. The Battenbergs are another one.

      2. Since her mother was Anglo-Scottish and her father’s ancestry is mixed, she’s more than half British.

    1.  The BBC’s basically Pravda, and doesn’t have a very good track record as far as showing up the incumbent party, whoever it may be.

      1. They were very critical (well, more mocking than critical) of Cameron when Labour was in power, but they don’t give Labour much coverage at all now that they’re out.

  10. I’m from the US.  I don’t really grok UK politics.  Now that you’ve resigned from the LibDems, is there an alternative party in the UK that voted against secret courts?  If there is, are their other positions supportable or at least tolerable?

    1. Not really. The whole thing with the Lib Dems, and why people are so let down by this, is because *they* were supposed to be the alternative party. 

      Before the last election (which gave us this coalition government) there was, as the perceived logic went, only two parties to choose from: the Conservatives or Labour. Then the Lib Dems stepped up their rhetoric and promoted themselves as agents of change, a new way, a ‘new kind of politics’. 

      So we figured, yeah why not? Let’s give them a chance. Not a year into power, Clegg the leader of the party backtracked on almost all the main elements of his pledge to change politics: student loans, the austerity measures, almost everything…

      The thing is, in Scotland, we had options because grassroots politics still mean something to people. So we’ve had coalition governments to varying success with Labour and Lib Dems, now SNP (Nationalists) are in government and they can at least provide a dialogue which is not the old 2 party options. It’s all crooked like all modern ‘democracy’ is, but at least people feel they can exercise they franchisement to some reasonable extent.

      I travel all the way home from London to vote in Scotland because I believe, and I know, my vote counts. Which I understand is a fading hope amongst people in England.

      1. Then the Lib Dems stepped up their rhetoric and promoted themselves as agents of change, a new way, a ‘new kind of politics’. 

        So we figured, yeah why not? Let’s give them a chance.

        Americans have recently had a very similar experience.  Well, at least the ones who aren’t still in deep denial about it.  Sorry, that only helps from a “misery loves company” perspective.

        1. It’s not really the same.  The US only has two main parties, the Republicans who are like the Tories, and the Democrats who are also like the Tories, though maybe not quite as much. 

          It’s not just like finding out that Obama’s as much a fan of illegal prisons and drone assassination as Bush was; it’s more like having Ralph Nader’s Greens win in coalition with Bush and finding that even they are fans of illegal prisons and drone assassinations in return for a bit less climate change denialism.

      2. Any coalition government will “backtrack” like that. Coalition means not getting all the things you wanted. Coalitions where you have 10% of the MPs and the other party has over 45% means getting very little.

        It’s a long way from “almost everything” though. We’ve done all the big 4 things that Clegg was talking about in 2010, and a lot of other things too.

        1. The Lib Dems had ONE CHANCE to get lasting democratic reform out of the coalition, and they fucked it up in exchange for a few temporary and limited economic concessions.

    2.  Obviously I can’t speak for Cory, but personally I feel there are no political parties left in the UK that I could vote for with a clean conscience. For a long time I was a Labour voter, but after the disaster of New Labour I switched my allegience to the Lib Dems. However, Clegg has now changed the Lib Dems in to litle more than an analog of the Conservatives, and in some regards I would say they are worse. At least with the Tories I knew I didn’t agree with their policies and so wouldn’t vote for them. Clegg made a load of empty promises and then jumped in to bed with the devil because it was convenient in terms of his quest for power. If the Lib Dems want to win my vote back the first thing they’ll need to do is oust Clegg, the only problem is I’m not sure there are many left in the party that would make a good replacement.

      It’s a great shame as I follow politics closely, yet feel that there is not a single party in the UK that represents my political opinions with sufficiently close alignment that I could actually vote for them.

        1. If enough of you are so disgusted, how about forming a new party?  Is that a feasible possibility in the UK?  A few years ago in the States, the Modern Whig Party was founded, largely by military veterans who had lost patience with the increasing distance and polarization between the Republicans and Democrats.  Three years ago, Time magazine called them one of the “Top Ten Alternative Political Movements,” but since the only electoral victory listed on their Wikipedia page is Ken Belcher as Constable of Lee County, Alabama, Time’s enthusiasm may have been… well, premature at best.

          Still, when you have so many high-profile people abandoning the party (and the people who joined that particular party in the first place probably didn’t want it to go down this road), could it be impossibly difficult to rally those disaffected souls round a new and as-yet unsullied banner?

          1.  Well, if we had a whip-round and had Rupert Murdoch, Paul Dacre and Rebekah Wade assassinated, maybe.
            (n.b. the above plan would be a useful thing even without the formation of a new party)

      1. There are in fact several people in the party who would make good replacements. The reason you don’t hear about them is because the big media won’t run our stories and you don’t live in a constituency where one of those people is the MP (or you’d hear about them from the local media).

        None of them want the job during this parliament, because it will taint anybody associated with it.

        We’ll get back to you about your vote when this parliament’s over. Nothing’s going to happen before then. Politics does not run on the 24-hour news cycle, it runs on the 5-year electoral cycle.

    3. By the way, ‘grok’ is a new one on me. Looked it up, I’m very happy I did. Thanks!

  11. The first thing that popped into my head reading about these proposed secret courts is Star Chamber.  My country currently sucks, so I’m not really in a position to cast stones, but is this what folks in the UK really want?  Again? 

  12. In 6 months I will be able to vote in the UK. Please let there be a party worth voting for. Pretty please?

      1. Now that says it all. EVERY Lib Dem MP can see the writing on the wall, and is playing lapdog in order to feather their nests when they’re booted out of office.

        1. All I can really say to this is that it isn’t true. I’ve got as much evidence for that as you have for your claim. Nobody’s got a sack of feathers to hand out.

  13. So what needs to happen to get a party in the UK that is in favour of Liberty and acts accordingly?

    1. It would help if the electorate took the issue seriously and voted accordingly when they get the chance. They continue to vote in huge numbers for Conservative and Labour parties. They voted against a chance of a more proportional voting system which would have opened  up the system for more parties. What chance does liberty have?

    2. If you’re looking for a party that spells liberty with a capital L, you might try the UKIP or BNP.

      1. But only if you’re a straight white male from England. They’re opposed to other people having liberty.

        1. Small L liberty and Capital L liberty represent quite different political tendencies.

    3. We’d love to do it. I’d love to do it. Here’s the big problem: if I put together a campaign for a parliamentary seat on this basis, we’d lose, and lose badly. It is not what people want to vote for.

      This is the ugly, practical side of politics now. People vote for jobs, health services, the economy, taxes, schools, benefits, and local amenities. Only tiny numbers of voters care about civil liberties. Huge numbers of people who come to sites like this care about them – but lots of those people won’t even vote! And they’re still a tiny segment of the population.

      We have to deliver the kind of politics that people will vote for. We talk up the case for liberalism as much as we can, but democracy means you and me don’t get to set the agenda.

      1.  We’ve had many, similar discussions in this country. I’ve had the same conversation with lifelong Dems. Is there any position you are not willing to sell out, so that you can get a tiny bit of movement on something else? We had the triangulation and Third Way under Clinton, and now we have the Repub Lite under Obama. The system is perfect: no true liberal will ever get near the helm. And, by coincidence I’m certain, the money continues to be siphoned upwards. As god intended.

        1.  He didn’t say policies.  Which is a good thing, because they haven’t delivered any of the policies that they promised or that people voted for. He said politics.

          I have to agree, there is still a deplorable tendency to tribal politics where people don’t even consider the policies or the past record but “If it was good enough for my parents, it’s good enough for me!” or “We’ve always voted for X, all the way back to my great-great-grandfather” etc. Idiots. The lot of them.  They* say you get the government you deserve. What they should say is that we get the government that idiots deserve and there’s sod all we can do about it.

          *Who are “They”? Send them my way. I want a word.

  14. I have voted LibDem every time I’ve voted. I’m disgusted by what has happened to the only party that ever really made sense (regardless of the media negativity). Right now the Greens are the closest thing to the best choice. The NHA party sound okay too, but haven’t had time to develop.
    The system needs a reboot.

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