A cracker of a beginning. Stunning actually.
In my report on the UK elections I said that I suspected that the Tories and the Liberal Demcrats would form a coalition government, even though Labour was courting the Lib Dems. That happened. I was cautiously optimistic that the coalition "will form a more liberal [in the classical sense] government than the UK has seen in a very, very long time."
I felt there was a chance this coalition would make each of the two parties in government better than they would be governing alone. I am still optimistic, but more so, especially after the stunning announcements of Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, of the Lib Dems. This is a man I've had my eye on for sometime and previously noted that he has been moving his party in a free market direction, without compromising their social liberalism. The big problem tends to be that parties are quite libertarian sounding when out of power and very statist when in power.
But Nick Clegg made an announcement that is absolutely breath-taking—one I can't remember any politician doing in my lifetime. He called on the public to submit recommendations for what laws need to be abolished. He didn't say reformed, he said abolished, as in axed, in the ashcan, obliterated from the books, ended, cease to exist, gone! This wasn't a pre-election speech but a post-election speech.
He said: "This Government is going to transform our politics so the state has far less control over you, and you have far more control over the state. This Government is going to break up concentrations of power and hand power back to the people, because that is how we build a society that is fair." Has he read my mind, or my blog? While I doubt that is the case, that is entirely the point I make about power, that it destroys fairness and harms the most vulnerable in society. If you have the heart of a modern liberal then you need the policies of a classical liberal to achieve your goals. Freedom helps people! It seems Clegg gets it.
He promised a "fundamental resettlement of the relationship between state and citizen that puts you in charge." Here are a few bits from the speech (if anyone finds a video of it let me know).
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.The London Telegraph reports the reforms announced:
Because thousands of criminal offences were created under the previous government. Taking people’s freedom away didn’t make our streets safe.
Obsessive law-making 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.”
...will involve the end of the controversial ID cards scheme, the scrapping of universal DNA databases – in which the records of thousands of innocent people have been stored – and restrictions placed on internet records. The use of CCTV cameras will also be reviewed.I'm gobsmacked and thrilled. In my heart I'm dancing around the room shouting. The Daily Mail reports that Clegg "pledged the boldest rolling back of the state in modern hisotry. They say that Clegg said: "Incremental change will not do. It is time for a wholesale, big bang approach to political reform." He says: "We will end practices that risk making Britain a place where our children grow up so used to their liberty being infringed that they accept it without question." Wow! Because this is such a stunning announcment I will publishe the entire speech below:
Dubbed the “Great Reform Act”, the measures will close down the ContactPoint children’s database. Set up by Labour last year, it includes detailed information on all 11 million youngsters under 18. In addition, schools will not be able to take a child’s fingerprint without parental permission.
In an attempt to protect freedom of speech, ministers will review libel laws, while limits on peaceful protest will be removed.
The measures to repeal so-called surveillance state laws will be included in next week’s Queen’s Speech. Under the coalition agreement, Mr Clegg and David Cameron said they would end “the storage of internet and email regulations and email records without good reason”. This is likely to mean the end of plans for the Government and the security services to intercept and keep emails and text messages.
The £224 million ContactPoint database can be accessed by 300,000 people working in health, education, social care and youth justice – leading to fears it could be exploited or fall into the wrong hands. Mr Clegg will add: “It is outrageous that decent, law-abiding people are regularly treated as if they have something to hide. It has to stop. “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.”
I have spent my whole political life fighting to open up politics. So let me make one thing very clear: this government is going to be unlike any other.
This government is going to transform our politics so the state has far less control over you, and you have far more control over the state.
This government is going to break up concentrations of power and hand power back to people, because that is how we build a society that is fair.
This government is going to persuade you to put your faith in politics once again.
I'm not talking about a few new rules for MPs; not the odd gesture or gimmick to make you feel a bit more involved.
I'm talking about the most significant programme of empowerment by a British government since the great enfranchisement 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.
Landmark legislation, from politicians who refused to sit back and do nothing while huge swathes of the population remained helpless against vested interests.
Who stood up for the freedom of the many, not the privilege of the few.
A spirit this government will draw on as we deliver our programme for political reform: a power revolution.
A fundamental resettlement of the relationship between state and citizen that puts you in charge.
So, no, incremental change will not do.
It is time for a wholesale, big bang approach to political reform.
That's what this government will deliver.
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, no 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.
And we will end practices that risk making Britain a place 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.