Friday, 7 January 2011

British liberties

"Experience should teach us to be most on our guard to protect liberty when the government's purposes are beneficient. The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in the insidius encroachment by men of zeal, well meaning but without understanding."
Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis

Nick Clegg has delivered what will no doubt be spun as a 'major speech' on the restoration of the our liberties, the text of which can be read here. It is a speech that, as usual with Clegg, is so full of hypocritical contradictions one knows not where to start.

Clegg begins by saying that he wants to talk about freedom and the hard-won liberties that Britain holds dear; on the historic hostility we in this country have towards those who seek to impose their will on others; about the right to be held innocent until proved guilty; each individual able to think and speak without fear of persecution; and he says he grew up certain of one thing, namely that you must treasure and love your country. It is a great pity that Nick Clegg seems so eager to cede that freedom and hard-won liberty to the European Union; that he and the rest of the political elite do not show a tad more hostility towards the European Union who see and do impose their will on us; that if he believes one of our hard-won liberties is the right to be held innocent until proved guilty, why is it that he is in favour of the European Arrest Warrant; and whilst he may have grown up believing one should love and treasure one's country, where was it that he had a change of mind?

Clegg talks about the divide in 'progressive politics' (whatever the blazes that is) and continues:
"Because, if you believe that the state has all the answers, you will always be pessimistic about citizens. If you believe everything must be controlled from the centre you will protect central power at all costs. Even when that cost is basic British freedoms. Liberals, and this Government, take a wholly different approach. Liberals believe in the dispersal of power: in the raucous and unpredictable capacity of people and communities to make the right decisions for themselves. We believe that social progress is driven not only by government, but also by confident, free individuals and communities, able to seize opportunities and take risks. People cannot do that when the state is forever on their back; when their freedoms are denied and their autonomy is undermined."
If anything showed the contradictory core belief in the LibDem creed it must be the sentences about the dispersal of power; in the right of individuals to make decisions for themselves and that people cannot do that when the state is forever on their back. And the difference between what Clegg wants and what the EU wants is? Later in his speech Clegg states that free people must be able to hold big institutions and powerful individuals to account - and just how does the individual person hold the EU Commission to account? He also makes the point that a free press is important and that it has a duty to unearth the truth, exposing charlatans and vested interests - and how exactly can this happen when our supposedly 'free press' is, metaphorically, in the pocket of politicans? How can we even hold our own politicans to account when the re-call option for constituents to do just that is dependent on the politician's agreement for the process to happen?

Readers are urged to view the entire speech and make their own minds up, deciding whether to agree with my criticisms or not.

Clegg and his Coalition partners may well wish to return the power of choice to the individual, but how that can be carried out when there are still over 900 'arms of government' - be they 'arms length bodies', executive agencies, public bodies and quangos - being funded by government to exhort and instigate the passing of laws that inhibit our right to free speech, thought and deed?

Spiked-online has a brilliant article (one that I would also urge you to read in full) and she makes a point that fully illustrates the problems caused by these 900 'arms of government':
"Together, these new institutional structures have transformed the essential relationship between state and society. A liberal-democratic state such as Britain worked on the assumption that, in general, everything was permitted unless it was explicitly banned, and the justification for banning an activity was primarily that it caused harm to others. Now this assumption has reversed: it is assumed that everything is banned, unless explicitly permitted. It is assumed that all unmonitored, unregulated social life is illegitimate and dangerous, a mere breeding ground for terrorists, paedophilia and crime. Only if we are on the official database, have a CRB check or are obeying the official guidance are we deemed ‘safe’. To do something freely, without going through official procedures (even something so simple as taking a photograph, holding a cake stall, or running a table-tennis club) is to invite catastrophe."
The 900 'arms of government' must surely be larger than that, if one includes all the 'fake' charities that have been created, most of .whom rely not on public donations for the bulk of their income, but state funding, Ed West makes the point most succintly in this post, on the subject of the YWCA, now re-named Platform 51 - a rather enigmatic name, as he points out, that could be a Wesley Snipes film, a band or the route to Hogwarts. This 'charity's income includes £3.6m as grants or contracts from local, national and European government or charitable trusts, to directly support their work, as against only £1.1m from other sources. It has to be said that if the YWCA wish to have the 'benefits' of charity status then it should be compulsory that their income originated purely from public donations. As with so many 'fake' charities, reliance on public donations would soon produce the required cull that is needed.

In any event the 'big quango cull' that was promised appears, with the usual political inability to get anything right, to have been bodged according to the report just issued by the Public Administration Select Committee. If public money is being used to fund these 'fake' charities, should not the granting of that money be overseen and monitored by parliamentary debate and decision? The website epolitix reports on the question of 'quango cull' and the Select Committee report here.

The attitude of our political elite, exemplified by Clegg and his latest utterance, demonstrates that which is so wrong with our society and system of government yet is what passes for 'politics' at the moment. Politics presently is comprised of 'smoke and mirrors' where political speeches are concerned; 'nudge' where action is required by their compliant, sheep-like population and when that fails, the introduction of yet more laws to ensure compliance to the political will. 

The sooner the public appreciate that 'government' has no intention of returning freedom and liberty to the individual, the sooner the revolution can begin!


microdave said...

I gather he said more organisations should come under the Freedom Of Information Act - including ACPO!!

Now that would be good news, not that it will ever happen....

WitteringsfromWitney said...

m'dave: whether it happens or not is probably beside the point. If the treasury wont even answer an MP, what chance do us plebs have? (see earlier post)

Anonymous said...

We mustn't forget the European Arrest Warrant, WfW, brought into life by his LibDem buddy Graham Watson.

I've actually come to believe that people like Clegg have warped minds - I think that they are 'hardwired' to not recognise any inconsistency as far as the EU is concerned.

WitteringsfromWitney said...

BJ: too true. No brains, just printed circuit boards!

In any event Clegg is over the barrel as being a former MEP he cannot criticise, not if he wishes to get his EU pension!