Liberal Democrats and Civil Liberties…..
Yesterday I blogged on two seemingly unrelated topics; the attitudes of the Conservative Party membership to ‘ethnic screening’ and Nick Clegg’s attitude to the war in Afghanistan. Condemnation of the former is less controversial in Lib Dem circles than the latter however the two are linked through the ideological construct of the ‘war on terror’. It would be nice to think that the Liberal Democrats could be bold and radical and critique the ‘war on terror’ from the standpoint it has eroded our civil liberties and that it has led to pointless and costly ‘wars of intervention’.
Instead it is assumed that these developments are due to the inherently ‘anti-liberal’ nature of both the main parties. When criticising Labour especially this shades into a right-wing critique of ‘welfareism’ but is supported by a raft of legislation including the proposal for compulsory ID cards. However, in a lot of cases this legislation has been a direct product and result of the ‘war on terror’ and the unfolding response of the state (something that any party would have enacted to a greater or lesser degree).
For example, with compulsory ID cards it was the victory of the Labour Party in 1997 that stopped the Conservatives introducing them. Even immediately after 2001 they were not introduced and it was reported a majority of the Cabinet opposed the proposed introduction of ‘entitlement cards’.
It is something of a logical leap to assume that the erosion of civil liberties does not make us safer where as the Afghan war has done or is. People have thus far been prepared to accept both on that fundamentally similar premise however both were wrong; the success of the terrorist attacks was due overwhelmingly to intelligence failures (not the lack of, for example, ID cards) and well we all know that our interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq are the best thing that has happened to Al-Quaeda for a long time.
Now in the region they have successfully merged with the Taliban completely and they have managed to win new adherents worldwide who can act with relative autonomy (as 7/7 in Britain proved). Until we recognise that the ‘war on terror’ is one of the most fundemental causes of our loss of civil liberties and oppose it forthrightly our critique will have a hollow and empty ring to it.