Wednesday, 19 May 2010

The greatest reform act since 1832. Come off it.

David Cameron promised an end to the age of spin. Clearly Deputy PM Nick Clegg wasn't listening. In his hyperbolic speech today he describes his decision to reduce police access to DNA and CCTV, and to settle for the Alternative Vote instead of proportional representation as the "greatest shake-up of democracy since 1832."

What ahistorical rot. This is to ignore the changes to the House of Lords after their attempts to usurp the Liberal government in the 1911 Parliament Act. It is to pretend that the extension of the franchise after the Great War with universal suffrage in 1918 and 1928, trebling the electorate, never happened. It is to forget that the last government introduced devolution in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, freedom of information, an end to the hereditary principle in the Lords and proportional representation for many non-Westminster polls.

But perhaps this hyperbole is a mere cover for the confusion at the heart of government over civil liberties and the police. For Clegg's speech comes a day after Theresa May rightly imposed control orders on two Al-Qaeda suspects who could not be deported (something the Liberal Democrats would abolish) and on the day that she wants to give 'frontline police officers more discretion' in charging people . So, the police will be able to charge people for minor offences more easily (though, presumably, only if they meet a requisite evidence requirement) but they will be denied access to DNA and CCTV evidence that has been so crucial in not only convicting people recently but also in uncovering miscarriages of justice. And, those of us green enough not to drive cars will still have to produce passports when our ID is demanded, as happens frequently, as we will not even be allowed to buy a government-approved ID card. I feel safer and freer already.

No comments: