To depart so dramatically from party policy is one thing. It isn’t the first time it has happened during this Coalition. I’m sure it won’t be the last. But to do so on civil liberties – a topic many see as close to the core of liberalism and a topic particularly dear to the hearts of many activists – is barely credible.
As Jonathan Calder pointed out at Liberal England yesterday, one of the biggest issues in this sorry saga has been the lack of communication. Nick Clegg took a very long time to agree to meet Jo Shaw, who has been leading the campaign against the Bill. There has been little attempt to explain why the majority of the party in the Commons decided to vote against the wishes of Conference.
Paddy Ashdown is undoubtedly right when he is quoted in one of today’s papers as saying that Parliamentarians are representatives rather than delegates. They therefore have the latitude to depart from party policy when it is deemed necessary. But when they do so it would be good to have an explanation as to why it was deemed necessary.
I witnessed a couple of attempted explanations yesterday at Conference, neither of which brought clarity to the situation nor calmed activists’ anger. [Read more...]