Thursday, September 20, 2007

Fighting the Real Enemy?

Lib Dems
One Redeeming Feature
If I was to be completely objective about what I've taken away from this weeks activities at the Liberal Democrats party conference, I'd be either full of a mixture of derision and disgust, or alternatively, considering the instincts of the Lib Dem voters who I know, just disheartened at the way the party is steering a course away from these very reasonable and principled people.

Obviously, I was never going to lavish praise on this weeks proceedings. At Westminster elections I have always voted Conservative, or not voted at all. For some time though I have paid close attention to Lib Dem positions as they were coming close to something that I could bring myself to bring myself, albeit half-heartedly, to support.

Orange book economics were not ideal, but could hardly be called lunacy, were better than those offered to us by our current lords and masters, and with one more step would at least be competitive with current Conservative thinking. More recently younger and more progressive voices in the party seemed to be in the ascendancy on matters European too. I'm sure their blind faith in the EU remained undimmed, but at least the understanding of the need for some form of consent from the people seemed to be emerging.

Sadly Ming's one real act of dynamism in his tenure at the head have the party seems to have been a dramatic handbrake turn on these issues, asserting an old and tired form of so-called libralism over those who seem to understand the changes that his party need to make. These changes will almost certainly be temporary however I cannot see them as a positive force in British policies as long these attitudes hold sway.

For all that though, I still have a strong respect for many in the party and those who support it so I will finish on a high note, in contrast to how their own proceedings wound up.

The debate preceding Mings lacklustre address on the broader issues of individual liberties was wonderful. Speaker after speaker, young and old, MP and activist, rose in intelligent, if sometimes nervous, denunciation of the casual disrespect for individual freedoms demonstrated by the administrations of both Brown and Blair.

Their contributions were not simply a regurgitation of the very true, but somewhat overused arguments against prevailing stupidy over DNA profiles, ID cards and the whole apparatus of the surveilance society. Each had a new insight, often a very personal one, and in some way mined a new seam of rational argument against the mindless arguments for those in favour of limitless extensions of these technologies.

This is an area where I have always admired Lib Dem attitudes completely, utterly and without reservation, and much as I may shake my head in bewilderment at some of the rest of their agenda.

It was a shame that Ming chose to hark back to the ancient history that Michael Howard once briefly toyed with the idea of an ID card scheme to claim the moral high ground. On these issues, whether it is politicaly comfortable or not for the Lib Dems, I get a strong feeling, albeit from outside the party that these issues are becoming key articles of faith reflecting as they do an assertion that the rights of the individual must, where possible, prevail over those of the state.

To a generally Conservative voter of my age, these are values that I believe are part of the core credo of modern Conservatism just as much as they have been, much to Liberalism's credit, always been part of their's.

These are not issues to split hairs over. These are issues where active concerted opposition to the government of the day is needed.

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