So, how liberal are the Liberal Democrats? That was the title of a Free Society debate at the 2008 Lib Dem conference and I think we all know the answer. However, in the wake of recent polls, it may be prudent to ask the question again.
According to journalist Henry Porter - the man behind last year's Convention on Modern Liberty - the manifestos of the three main parties suggest that the Liberal Democrats are leagues ahead when it comes to civil liberties.
The party will introduce a freedom bill, regulate CCTV, reduce local council surveillance, restore the right to protest, protect free speech, offer guarantees to investigative journalism, scrap ID cards, end plans to spy on email and internet connections, scrap ContactPoint, reduce pre-charge detention to 14 days and scrap secret evidence. The Lib Dems go much further than the Tories on the DNA database and offer wholehearted support for the HRA.
Full article HERE.
Against that the Lib Dems were the first party to pass a motion favouring a blanket ban on smoking in public places and a week ago the Guardian featured an interview with Nick Clegg in which he declared:
"Smoking ban? I'd leave it as it is," he says, without hesitation. Isn't that a strange stance for a liberal? "It goes right back to the liberal tests of harm, to John Stuart Mill. People should be free to do what they want but not when it harms other people," says Clegg – who admits he still smokes the odd cigarette.
Asked about proposals to ban people smoking in cars, he hesitates. "Hmmm," says Clegg. "No. If you get to that point you may as well ban tobacco." For Clegg being a liberal means he has to draw a line – and he does not believe the state should step into people's private space. "I hope people realise that [smoking in front of a baby] is a very selfish thing to do," he says, perhaps naively.
As for alcohol, he supports further regulation, describing it as "completely unsustainable and unjustifiable" that he sees small bottles of vodka on sale for less than the price of VAT and duty combined. He insists the Lib Dems would not allow alcohol to be sold as a loss-leader, below cost price.
Liberal? I'll let you be the judge. Full article HERE.
PS. I can't believe the weekend polls are anything other than a blip but it certainly brings the election to life. I never thought I'd say this, but I'm actually looking forward to this week's televised debate.