Wednesday 14 April 2010

The little problem with liberalism is getting bigger...

I posted briefly yesterday on how Labour's manifesto policies on crime (see chapter 5 of the manifesto) pose a massive obstacle to winning or retaining the votes of liberal centre-left voters.

Rather than trying to learn something from the growing criticism of its record on civil liberties, the party's manifesto complacently reaffirms Labour's approach and, with a nice touch of Orwellian 'war is peace' bluster, comments that 'We are proud of our record on civil liberties...', as if there were really no criticism to answer.

According to Allegra Stratton and Patrick Wintour in today's Guardian, Nick Clegg has said 'he was shocked by the lack of reference to civil liberties in the Labour manifesto.' He is planning to 'go to war' with Labour on civil liberties, saying:

'It's a measure of the authoritarian streak of the Labour party that it didn't refer once to liberty in its own manifesto.....It makes a complete mockery of the claim by Gordon Brown that he can speak for progressive voters in other parties when his own party has turned its back on one of the cornerstones of progressive politics.'

I hope that in retrospect Labour will look back on chapter 5 of its 2010 manifesto as the final step in a rather dismal journey - to be promptly followed by a quick turn in the opposite direction.

Its not just that the indifference to civil liberties is objectionable on its own terms - which of course it is. Its also that if you are trying to defend a seat from a Lib Dem challenger, or persuade Lib Dem voters to support you tactically against a Conservative, this kind of unreconstructed authoritarianism risks being the kiss of death.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hilarious - is it not also an Orwellian piece of bluster to try and suggest that the issue of civil liberties is a cornerstone of progressive politics? After all, progressive politics is all too often about closing down, smearing and trying to legislate against anyone who doesn't adhere to the 'progressive' way of seeing the world. Ask anyone who tried to complain about immigration or multiculturalism (racist). Or the EU (xenophobic). Or to stick up for the conscience of Christians in public life (homophobic, bigoted etc.). Civil liberties, eh? Yeah right. You're as illiberal a bunch as any.