...a blog by Richard Flowers

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Day 2489: On Message; Off Liberty - The Prime Monster Cross-Dresses


Today it was Mr Frown's turn to put on a borrowed LIBERAL FROCK.

(Being a SECRET STALIN, of course, he naturally leaked to the Grauniad first.)

But – and this is IMPORTANT – being a Liberal Fluffy Elephant, I say: if a man wants to dress up in a new frock… there is nothing wrong with that!

People have noticed that the Prime Monster seems clinically incapable of pronouncing the words "Liberal Democrats", always in the House of Commons referring to the third party as "The Liberal Party". Is it just possible that this is actually a sign of AWE and ADMIRATION rather than PIG-IGNORANCE that we have previously assumed?

Or is this new "liberal Labour" just another knock-off that Mr Frown has picked up along with all the other ideas that fell off the back of Mr Balloon's "liberal Conservatory" lorry?

Mr Frown draws an elegant argument for the essential need for a LIBERAL revolution in our country, both as a natural progression from history and as the only really workable alternative in the face of totalitarian terrorism.

The problem seems to be that, having done so, he then jumps to the non-sequitur conclusion that what we need is MORE trampling over our liberties.

Headlines may trumpet that "Secrecy is to be rolled back!" and "Protest curbs are to be reviewed" but looking at what Mr Frown actually has on offer, I would have to say I am DISAPPOINTED.

It was PRETTY CHEEKY of Mr Frown to call his speech "On Liberty" and then to only mention Mr John Stuart Mill only once, and Ms Harriet Taylor not at all. Particularly since he appears to have spectacularly missed the point.

You can read the full text of the Prime Monster's speech here.

His first half reads like a gallop though a liberal history that, based in a struggle for religious tolerance, has seen us slowly and haltingly widen emancipation and stand against discrimination. It can best be summed up in Mr Frown's own words when he says:

"My starting point is that from the time of Magna Carta, to the civil wars and revolutions of the 17th century, through to the liberalism of Victorian Britain and the widening and deepening of democracy and fundamental rights throughout the last century, there has been a British tradition of liberty - what one writer has called our 'gift to the world'."

Contrasting British Liberty with what he sees as an American obsession with the individual, he links it to the idea of civic virtues, something he then, and I think wrongly, expands as shared responsibilities. The idea of responsibilities leads to requirement and compulsion, and these are the very antithesis of "virtues", which you do because they are GOOD not because you have to.

In fact, I think that this is one of the problems that the authoritarian culture of both the Labour AND the Conservatories has created. With the Conservatories thumping on about the "Me Me ME!" ideology of Thatchianity and the Labour emphasising the GOVERNMENT as universal NANNY, at once the benefactor who will provide all solutions AND the punisher who defines what is "good", the two party twins have UNDERMINED the very necessary culture where people want to do (and be seen to do) not just the right thing but good things and generous things.

Oddly enough, Mr Frown almost seems to see this too, when he comes to criticism of the right for reducing liberty to libertarianism and criticism of the left for seeing equality as more important than liberty.

And his conclusion would appear to be one that I HEARTILY agree with:

"I am convinced that both to rebuild our constitution for the modern age and to unify the country to meet and master every challenge, we need to consciously and with determination found the next stage of constitutional development firmly on the story of British liberty."

But then we get to some proposals. And here I notice that the GOOD STUFF is all couched in the language of "reviews" and "investigations" and "if, but and maybes".

So, the right to protest outside of Parliament is to be "reviewed" – if we're good little serfs we might get it back, do you think? But if we're too rowdy, then we clearly will not deserve it. Mr Jack Man'O Straw will "investigate" the idea of a "freedom of expression" audit for future legislation – whatever that means – and the entirely-sympathetic-to-the Liberal-point-of-view newspaper editor Mr Paul Dacre will consider the "Thirty Year Rule" that protects government papers from being published in, er, newspapers.

(This last may look like a great step forward for freedom, but really will just serve to drop Queen Maggie's government in it ten years early while not affecting Lord Blairimort's time in office – because Lord Blairimort never kept anything on paper anyway!)

Genuinely good news is the announcement that there will be no tightening of the regulations on Freedom of Information. The Government had THREATENED to reduce the number of questions that bodies like the BBC or newspapers could ask of them because it was too much bother, er, money to find all the answers. I am glad that they have not gone down this route, though really they would have made themselves look VERY VERY bad by closing down the already small chinks into Freedom of Information that they have opened.

(Freedom of Information legislation is what allows us to discover the SHIFTY goings on of people in power, people like Sir John Bourn (again), now to be FORMER Head of the National Audit Office after his resignation, who we discovered had spent £336,000 on his expenses on 45 trips in three years. Two weeks ago the Liberal Democrats described his travel bills of £16,500 spent on trips between April and September, paid for by taxpayers, as "absolutely shocking".)

Greater openness on the Security Services is to be welcomed too, with publication of the Government's security strategy and Parliament to have a role in selecting members of the Intelligence and Security Select Committee (the one that is currently hand-picked by the Prime Monster and reports only to him – you know, the one that Lord Blairimort assures us cleared him of wrongdoing, though of course we have to take his word for it that that is what they said).

But things take a more SINISTER turn when Mr Frown starts to talk about simplification of the (many) laws governing right of forced entry to private homes for the police and other public bodies. While I suppose it is true that simpler laws are fairer because they are easier to understand, I am not sure that making it easier for the police, or for that matter the local food hygienist, to break your door down is a complete guarantee of LIBERTY.

Equally, I am most DUBIOUS about Mr Frown's idea of what "protecting data" means. He alleges that identity used to be "protected" by registering of births, marriages and deaths – but that's NONSENSE: that was how data was CONTROLLED, and how the church USED that data FOR control, you idiot.

Identity data, including DNA data, can, says Mr Frown, prove very useful to a number of Government agencies (I'll just BET it can!) and might offer the chance for simplifying services to people, like pensioners (play for the sympathy vote), if it was more widely available.

All of this is a CODED endorsement of the Government's identity database plan, the suspicious MASTER COMPUTER behind the I.D.iot cards scheme.

Even Mr Frown admits that it could be open to abuse (I'll just BET it can, encore!), so he and Mr Man'O Straw have "asked the Information Commissioner, Richard Thomas and Doctor Mark Walport, Director of the Wellcome Trust, to undertake a review of the framework for the use of information".

We will have to await the outcome of this review to see whether it turns out good or bad.

Definitely BAD though is Mr Frown's statement that he is "…in no doubt about the desirability of a debate over pre-charge detention."

How, after the fierce debate last year that saw the Government have to concede to a limit of 28 days (itself a doubling of the only recently extended limit of 14 days), it is possible to say that there is "no doubt" that reheating this argument is "desirable" is completely beyond my FLUFFY BRAIN to understand.

And trying to work out how LIBERTY is protected by TAKING IT AWAY on a whim for up to three months… it is likely to make my fluffy brain just EXPLODE!

Finally, more alarm bells sound when we hear that Mr Man'O Straw is apparently "signalling the start of a national consultation on the case for a new British Bill of Rights and Duties". Duties? I do NOT like the sound of THAT.

A PROPER Bill of Rights is an agreement that limits the powers of the Government to those that the people it serves will ALLOW. A "Bill of Rights and Duties" ought to be a contradiction in terms.

The Labour have NEVER really understood this – they have always seen "rights" as lucky charms that the Government in its INEFFABLE GOODNESS sees fit to visit upon an UNDESERVING PROLETARIAT. Duties, naturally, are owed to the Government, and this is just to underline the point.

In fact, it is just the old, old DIVINE RIGHT of KINGS rewritten in a glossy new cover, with THE PARTY replacing the old monarch in a modern FEUDALISM. LIBERTY has nothing to do with this.

Mr Michael Wills, Justice Minister says a referendum on a Bill Of Rights would be "inevitable".

Oh, but the Conservatories mock that, after the Government's failure to offer a referendum on the tinkering with Europe treaty. (That would be the treaty that Mr Balloon won't promise to offer a referendum on repealing either.)

Mr Frown is a phoney, says Mr Balloon. You can make you own JOKE up here, to be honest.

So, is this the dawning of a BRAVE NEW AGE OF FREEDOM under Mr Frown? No, not really. In the end, I think we have to judge the sly old Secret Stalin by his ACTIONS not just his WORDS.

By invoking the SPIRIT of British Liberty, Mr Frown has set himself a HIGH STANDARD to meet – so far, though, his record is one of falling rather short of the standards he sets himself, so I do not recommend anyone holding their breath waiting for the new liberal Labour to appear!

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