Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Deputy Prime Minister Speech on great reform bill

More promising promises, from the Deputy Prime Minister in the new UK coalition government, on dismantling the Nu Labour surveillance state.
"I'm talking about the most significant programme of empowerment by a British government since the great reforms of the 19th Century.
The biggest shake up of our democracy since 1832, when the Great Reform Act redrew the boundaries of British democracy, for the first time extending the franchise beyond the landed classes...

Three major steps, that will begin immediately:
One: we will repeal all of the intrusive and unnecessary laws that inhibit your freedom.
Two: we will reform our politics so it is open, transparent, decent.
Three: we will radically redistribute power away from the centre, into your communities, your homes, your hands.
Big, sweeping change.
Not incremental, not bit by bit.
Our democracy has suffered at the hands of encroaching centralisation and secrecy for decades.
Take citizens' rights: eroded by the quiet proliferation of laws that increase surveillance, quash dissent, limit freedom.
Take executive authority: consistently increased by successive administrations to the point that we now have a neutered parliament and government that enjoys almost untrammelled control - over precisely the people who are meant to keep it in check...
Three steps to new politics.
First, sweeping legislation to restore the hard won liberties that have been taken, one by one, from the British people.
This government will end the culture of spying on its citizens.
It is outrageous that decent, law-abiding people are regularly treated as if they have something to hide.
It has to stop.
So there will be no ID card scheme.
No national identity register, a halt to second generation biometric passports.
We won't hold your internet and email records when there is just no reason to do so.
CCTV will be properly regulated, as will the DNA database, with restrictions on the storage of innocent people's DNA.
Britain must not be a country where our children grow up so used to their liberty being infringed that they accept it without question.
There will be no ContactPoint children's database.
Schools will not take children's fingerprints without even asking their parent's consent.
This will be a government that is proud when British citizens stand up against illegitimate advances of the state.
That values debate, that is unafraid of dissent.
That's why we'll remove limits on the rights to peaceful protest.
It's why we'll review libel laws so that we can better protect freedom of speech.
And as we tear through the statute book, we'll do something no government ever has:
We will ask you which laws you think should go.
Because thousands of criminal offences were created under the previous government...
Taking people's freedom away didn't make our streets safe.
Obsessive lawmaking simply makes criminals out of ordinary people.
So, we'll get rid of the unnecessary laws, and once they're gone, they won't come back.
We will introduce a mechanism to block pointless new criminal offences.
And, we will, of course introduce safeguards to prevent the misuse of anti-terrorism legislation.
There have been too many cases of individuals being denied their rights...
And whole communities being placed under suspicion.
This government will do better by British justice.
Respecting great, British freedoms...
Which is why we'll also defend trial by jury...
We will regulate lobbying in parliament.
Not all lobbying is sleazy.
Much of it serves a hugely important function, allowing different organisations and interests to make representations to politicians.
But let's get real: this is a £2bn industry, where, according to some estimates there are MPs who are approached by lobbyists a hundred times every week....
And that activity needs to be regulated properly and made transparent.
Which we'll do, for example, by introducing a a statutory register of lobbyists.
As long as money plays such a big part in our politics, we are never going to curtail the tyranny of vested interests.
So, the repeal of illiberal laws, the reform of politics, and the redistribution of power.
Our very own Great Reform Act.
Not everyone will like it.
Not every MP...
Not the vested interests that want government to stay closed, opaque, easily captured.
But this new government, this new kind of government, creates an enormous opportunity for those of us who have spent our lives fighting for political reform..
This is a moment to step back and look at every shortcoming in our democracy...
Before we launch into the most radical programme of reform, empowerment, enfranchisement in over a century.
A programme so important to me personally that I will take full responsibility for seeing it through."
All very encouraging and possibly even Churchillian, apart from the populist, dare I say it 'Blairite', bit that says "We will ask you which laws you think should go." Nu Labour were big on "consultation", better described as collecting opinions and ignoring all but the privileged few that, amazingly enough, coincided with their own worldview.  The "nothing to hide nothing to fear" brigade are already swamping the broadcast airwaves with their anger at the audacity of Nick Clegg's plans.

Promising but now let's see the detail and the energy to follow it through by a government that is, very shortly, likely to become extremely unpopular when the spending cuts start biting, and when the law and order junkies start screaming about the liberal Clegg being a friend of terrorists and criminals and the "nothing to hide nothing to fear" brigade come marching on again .

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