Up yours, Delors

I didn’t start this blog to gripe about Lib Dems doing dumb stuff, but those MEPs and Lords mouthing off to the media about Cameron’s Brussels veto are making our party look like naiive Euro-Federalists with no regard for our national interest. Oakeshott, Davies et al are running against the grain of public opinion and the press are seizing on this to damage the Lib Dems.

On the substantive issue, all the OMG about the veto is as much froth. This won’t change Britain’s relationship with the EU on a fundamental level: Europe needs Britain, Britain needs Europe. Most countries joined the EU for free trade and the common market, not French protectionism or German domination.

Whipping up a frenzy over the issue is purely domestic politics, on all sides: the British right wants to present this as a victory; Sarkozy has an election coming up, so has domestic reasons of his own for giving Cameron the cold shoulder and railing against the City of London. Diplomacy sometimes involve sticking to your negotiating positions. Compromise is not always possible. There wasn’t a politician around that negotiating table who didn’t understand that.

The British public are broadly Eurosceptic, and Cameron will have won himself a great deal of support. You only have to look at the popular press to see that. The media is also entirely hostile to the Liberal Democrats, so it’s no surprise that they are encouraging Europhile Lib Dems commit political automutliation on our behalf.

So we have extremist Europhiles Chris Davies MEP and Lord Oakeshott going on TV claiming to represent the Liberal Democrats. We have “senior Liberal Democrats” (although this could mean anything) briefing the press anonymously that this means that Clegg may not be able to control the party any more, there will be a Lib Dem revolt over this, and the UK government will fall. I believe that all they are doing is confirming public suspicions that the Lib Dems are not sound on Europe.

I don’t even vote Lib Dem in European elections, and I’m obviously not the only one: in the 2009 Euro elections the Lib Dems got 13% of the vote and came fourth. There are huge numbers of Lib Dem voters and members who still can’t stomach Chris Davies and our MEP contingent.

It’s always worth mentioning that Nick Clegg’s chapter in the Orange Book is about the EU, and remains one of the best statements of a liberal, British position on Europe that I have ever read. It starts from the position that the EU is broadly a good thing, but that it is an imperfect system and still in desperate need of reform.

British interests need fighting for, and it’s hard to see how any liberal could agree to a treaty that legislates against democratic, local budgeting decisions and enshrines in international law a strictly European People’s Party view of economic governance.

MPs like Nick Clegg and Simon Hughes are doing a good job of presenting a sensible liberal position on this, but their work is being undermined by noisy, unpopular Federalists.

Published in: on December 10, 2011 at 5:55 pm  Comments (2)  

Lib Dem villains of the month: Bob Russell and Mike Hancock

I’m pretty sure that no Liberal Democrat members volunteered time and money to put people into Parliament so that they could join notorious crook/idiot Keith Vaz MP in trying to ban computer games

But this month Bob Russell and Mike Hancock co-sponsored an EDM essentially calling for a ban on Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3, which is to say a ban on letting adults choose how they entertain themselves.

It’s hard to tell why they would do this. Maybe there was a splash about it in the Daily Mail or something. Maybe Hancock is concerned that the game portrays Russian spies in a bad light, just when he’s trying to rehabilitate their reputation as sexy secretaries rather than gun-toting fiends.

Of course this is nothing more than an EDM, the most pointless of Parliamentary documents, written by a dumbass and essentially signifying nothing, but as Zero Punctuation’s Yahtzee Croshaw put it, if someone who wants to legislate the censorship of arts and culture gets elected, then the next thing you know you’re picking jackboots out of your teeth.

It’s worth remembering that politicians all over the world, even those who call themselves Liberals, are gagging to regulate culture, and may one day require an organised response – such as the Video Game Voters Network in the USA.

In the meantime, though, it would be nice if some liberal Liberal Democrats could sign up to Tom Watson’s anti-censorship amendment to the motion, just to counterbalance the embarrassing actions of Bob and Mike. Julian Huppert to the rescue?

Published in: on November 23, 2011 at 9:01 pm  Comments (2)  

Lib Dem villain of the month: Annette Brooke

There’s a sentence I never predicted that I would write. Still, what else would you call an MP who is proposing a bill that would criminalise valid parenting choices solely in order to suppress environmentally friendly and healthy travel options?

Her new Private Member’s Bill- the Cycles (Protective Headgear for Children) Bill- will make it mandatory for children under 14 to wear cycle helmets when cycling on roads and in open spaces.

If I somehow became responsible for a child under 14 who was learning to ride a bike, I would try and get them to wear a helmet. If there’s one thing a helmet is good for, it’s for people who aren’t steady on two wheels and might be expected to fall off. But that would be my choice. We already have two paternalistic parties in this country: we don’t need Liberal Democrats joining in the game of who can interfere most in private decisions.

Ms. Brooke: parents do not need your help to raise their children responsibly. I say this in the nicest possible way, but please do fuck off.

The main, perhaps only, effect this bill would have would be to stop children cycling.

Going out on our streets is not an extreme sport.

In fact, it’s not legally required for you to wear a helmet while actually doing extreme sports, like skateboarding or parkour stunts. I can’t think of any other area of civilian life where the Government intervenes to force you legally to wear protective padding.

So if you make cycling out to be one of the most dangerous things a person can do, how will that encourage people to take it up? If the Government made it compulsory to wear Kevlar body armour to visit, say, Glasgow, do you think a) more, or b) fewer people would visit the city?

This will reduce the number of children cycling. And if children don’t learn to love cycling we can expect that when those children are adults, even fewer of them will choose to make healthy and environmentally-friendly travel choices.

Cycling is not dangerous. To the extent that it is dangerous, it’s the fault of bad drivers, negligent traffic police, and poor municipal traffic planners. Maybe Ms. Brook could have used her incredibly precious opportunity to sponsor a Private Member’s Bill to tackle that.

At this point, I would like to pronounce my Lib Dem heroes of the month: Firstly, sir Alan Beith, who has used his Private Members Bill to tackle blind spots on lorries.

Secondly, Julian Huppert, co-chair of the All Party Parliamentarty Cycling Group, who said of Ms. Brooke’s plan: “The Lib Dem transport team disagrees with her. I’ve tried to persuade her! Lib Dem (& coalition) policy is not to have compulsory helmets.”

Published in: on July 26, 2011 at 9:58 pm  Comments (5)  
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