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Friday, September 18, 2009 

A response to the Heresiarch on the Conservatives and liberty.

(Apologies for the crap blogging of the last couple of days. Hopefully will be better next week.)

Left as a comment on the Heresiarch's post, but felt was reasonable enough to dedicate a post to as well:

I think you're being far too credulous. You're talking almost rapturously about a party that only recently was advocating a "21st century clip round the ear", i.e. the police "confiscating" mobile phones or bikes off teenagers summarily, almost exactly like the very worst proposals made under Blair. A party that thought David Davis at best an eccentric when he resigned, and at worst a lunatic. And just what exactly was the Conservative response to the police riot at the G20 protests? There wasn't one, mainly because when it's the police beating up crusties, hippies, greens and lefties the Tories couldn't care less and even cheer it on.

A lot of people seem to make the mistake that the current strain of authoritarianism began in 1997. It didn't. It can instead be linked back almost certainly to the murder of James Bulger, and while Labour made the most out of it, the Tories were no slouches either, as Michael Howard's record as Home Sec testifies. It was after all he who first proposed ID cards, even if they're nothing like the ones we may soon have to get used to.

I don't deny that on some things the Tories may well be better, and I expect they'll keep to their promises on the various databases, mainly because they'll be one of the easiest things to cut and shut down. I don't believe for a second though that as soon as the Sun starts screaming about the latest moral panic that they'll ignore it or argue against instant measures which must be introduced right now; after all, why bother getting an ex-tabloid editor as your spin doctor if you're not intending to govern with a firm eye on the tabloids? It might not quite be New Labour MKII but it probably won't be far off . That "principled opposition" to extending detention without charge will be forgotten in an instant if we get another 7/7 or worse. And as for that "British" bill of rights, well, it either won't thankfully happen or we'll have the HRA repealed and one of the very few excellent pieces of Labour legislation will be gone. Then there's the apparent Tory intention to further politicise the police, likely to make things even worse, not better, and Kit Malthouse's claim that the Mayor's the real one in charge of Scotland Yard is probably just the start.

All that said, there are some Tory policies which show promise - such as the recent green paper on prisons, which if implemented could do a lot of good, but I'm not exactly going to be holding my breath. To be not as beyond redemption as Labour isn't going to be difficult; to actually be better might well be.

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You're right, the last Conservative party did consider ID cards. They looked at the issue, and decided it was a bad idea. ID card enthusiasts at the Home Office were mightily pissed off, but they had better luck with Labour.

I hope I'm not being credulous. It's certainly important to watch very closely - and, as I said, not to give them a blank cheque. But I don't want to be downbeat all the time. Grieve's paper did contain several good things.

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