Week from Hell

Is there a worse week in the year than the week of Lib Dem conference?  For most of the year you can – if you work at it – avoid ever coming across a liberal in the papers or in the streets.  But during their conference, they are everywhere.  So, given that we can’t get away from it, we might as well have a pop at them.

First off is Ming’s podcast.  Today’s starts with the immortal line “It’s not just the weather that’s good here – its the political weather!”  Oh, how the Lib Dem spinners are trying.  Dick Morris always said that spin isn’t about changing a candidate or a policy, its about putting the best bits up front.  With Ming, there aren’t any best bits.

As for the agenda – there is something for everyone.  For those of you that like being angry about the Lib Dems, look no further than the motion on Small Business.  Far from being a motion to debate the low pay or poor holiday entitlement of workers in that sector, it bemoans the “burden” of rules for business.  They even want a deregulation Cabinet minister.  Or there is the tax proposals, which have been written about extensively elsewhere.  How these can add up is anyone’s guess – cutting tax for the poor and the rich and the middling well off types.  Tax cuts all round!

Far be it for the The Daily to accuse the Lib Dems of trying to be all things to all people – we’ll let Graham Watson, Lib Dem leader in the European Parliament, do that: “Our party has been guilty of such populism at all levels of government. Other parties can repair cracked paving stones or improve local eyesores as well as we can, and campaign on a platform of doing so just as effectively”.  Quite.

One downside to Lib Dem conference this year is the lack of amazingly silly motions to be debated.  It is a disgrace that the Lib Dems have let us all down by failing to debate allowing school kids to appear in hard core porno films, or discussing standardising the distance between motorway service stations.  The Daily’s favourite – also missing from the conference agenda – is whether we should let murderers, rapists and paedophiles have the vote.

Even when they are trying to be sensible, the Lib Dems are letting us all down.

15 Responses to Week from Hell

  1. I wonder if Mark Oaten will be given a chance to expand on his radical idea to abolish prison – as outlined in the weekend papers?

    Interesting that the top brass refused to let him discuss this idea when he was their Home Affairs spokesman.

    It’s not clear what would have happened to murderers under the plan. Maybe community spirit citizens would have been asked to adopt them.

  2. Benjamin says:

    Ah, such a partisan post. As for the crime and punishment stuff, I am not against prisoners getting the vote. It’s a gift to New Labour and the Daily Mail brigade, of course (so not necessarily good partisan politics) but I am not against it on principle, nor am I against finding alternatives to prison where appropriate.

    With the attitudes of displayed here, is it any wonder that Britain now has the highest prison population ever, with Labour enthusiastically bringing private prisons online – banging people up for profit. You might consider another country witha ludicrously high prison population, and a burgeoning private penitentiary industrial complex – the USA. Labour also plans to downgrade the inspection regime, and fragment and part privatise the probation service.

    Now all that’s what I call out torying the tories!

    Its not that I agree with all the Liberal Democrats say either, I just wish the consumer had a bit more real choice in the political market place, and a bit more open, honest debate, without all this partisan nonsense. Drugs and prostitution are other areas where honest debate would be a good thing – but you won’t get that in craven Britain it seems.

  3. Matthew says:

    What is partisan about saying that rapists should be denied the vote? It isn’t the wrong policy because the Lib Dems have it, it is the just the wrong policy. If you committ a serious crime, then don’t expect to continue having a say over the society you harmed is run. Its weird to say that is a Daily Mail policy, a big majority of Labour voters and MP don’t want rapists to have the vote.

  4. Nick says:

    If we gave all prisoners the vote, most prisons are large enough that they would constitute at least one entire council ward, and I will bet any sum of money that they will elect BNP councillors. I don’t think that someone who, say, committed a racist murder should allowed to vote. The problem is that the Lib Dems wanted ALL prisoners to get the vote.

    I don’t think anyone’s against finding alternatives to prison where appropriate (indeed the Govt have brought in a wide variety of community-based punishments) but the debate is over when it is appropriate.

    As for prisons – I’m thoroughly in favour of ensuring they do more to rehabilitate prisoners and give them education, job skills, etc and I am passionately in favour of overhauling the disgracefully bad drug treatment programme. That’s more important than the number of prisons or even who runs them.

    But it’s worth also remembering that though the UK has a high prison population, it also has one lowest rates of imprisonment per conviction and one of the highest rates of crimes per prisoner – it is actually very hard to get sent to prison for a crime in the UK compared to other European countries.

    The reason Britain has so many prisoners is that we have so many criminals.

    The left must address the causes of that, not try to hide the symptoms.

  5. Benjamin says:

    Matthew

    I meant the overall tone of the post is partisan not just that bit. I prefer to examine the arguments rather than broad brush attacks on parties.

    Re rapists, what you are actually saying is that you don’t want people in prison to have the vote, not necessarily all rapists, becuase some rapists don’t go to prison, and of course (especially now) there are many more people in prison than just rapists. There are rational arguments for and against prisoners getting the vote. Its probably a vain hope, but perhaps folk should examine those rather than batting the emotive stuff about.

    I don’t like Labour’s constant resort to a basically authoritarian statist argument: when people object to a Labour policy regarding the justice system (often a restriction on liberty of one type or another) then the Labour response is you are “soft on crime”. We have been that route before, and it doesn’t always lead to a decent place.

  6. The politicians... says:

    Lib Dems have been letting us down for years.

    They just let were down, all the time.

  7. Ian G says:

    Benjamin, I didn’t see anything in the article which advocated authoritarian law and order policies, apart from ridiculing the idea that prisoners should have the vote. Nick has given a very good argument why this is daft.

    Can you think of any logical reasons why prisoners should have the vote? Do you think that local councils should have ‘prison wards’? What else in the article do you actually object to?

    I see no reason why people shouldn’t attack Lib Dem policies when they disagree with them. If the Lib Dems were honest about their policies and put ‘votes for prisoners’ on their Focus leaflets, we wouldn’t need to.

  8. Henry G says:

    I think prisoners should be allowed the vote actually. They are still citizens, albeit guilty of an offence. I always worry when people rely on the most extreme cases for their arguments. It’s the equivalent for saying we shouldn’t have universal child benefit because someone in the royal family would be entitled.

    Sure people convicted of serious crimes would be allowed the vote, but there are just as many hideous people guilty of dreadful acts outside of prison that do have the vote. Similarly, people have been jailed for civil disobedience against the poll tax, opposing nuclear weapons, or simply not paying their TV license. Their should be entitled to adult suffrage as part of their existing human rights, or should they be forfeited too?

  9. Nick says:

    I’m not being funny but we’ve already taken away most of the rights associated with citizenship through putting them in prison in the first place, so I don’t see what’s particularly different about voting rights.

    It’s one thing to say that those imprisoned for, say, failure to pay fines should be allowed to vote (and I believe that this is, in fact, going to happen under existing Govt policy) but it’s quite another for those convicted of serious or numerous crimes. And the average prisoner has committed 140 criminal offences.

    The Lib Dem scheme was for ALL prisoners to be given the vote and I strongly oppose that. I’ve not seen any polling on it but I suspect that a huge majority of the public do too.

    And that’s quite without the more practical matter of creating hundreds of BNP councillors whose only job is to represent convicted criminals.

  10. I’m not clear on the law at the moment on prisoners voting but I’m supportive of people who are in prison for a short time – and are likely to spend some or most of the electorate term being voted on in the outside world – getting a vote.

  11. Ian G says:

    There would at least be a fair amount of irony in the BNP’s ‘tough law and order’ policies!

    I must admit I don’t see why covicted muggers, burglers fraudsters, drink-drivers should be able to vote either. If people can’t follow the basic principles of existing law, why should they expect a say on future law that will bind others?

    I can see there is a counter-argument for those engaging in civil disobedience to protest at oppressive legislation, but that hardly applies to 99% of the current prison population.

  12. The current law is under review as the European Courts have ruled that it is illegal to prevent prisoners from voting. The Govt’s response has been to say that they will allow certain categories of prisoners to vote but I think they’re still deciding where to draw the line.

  13. Nick says:

    The BNP is virtually a criminal conspiracy to begin with – their ranks are riddled with career criminals and the BNP undertakes other criminal activity on an organised basis. Their tough law and order policies generally consist of being tough on things they don’t like, such as homosexuality…

    As for short-term prison sentences, I think that terms of between a month and a year should be largely done away with. They’re just long enough for the prisoner to lose their job, home, etc but not long enough to either allow rehabilitation or protect the public for any significant length of time.

    To be fair to the Govt, they have been trying to push in that direction.

  14. Just to bring things back to good wholesome Lib Dem bashing, I had to set aside 42 minutes last night just for chuckling at this: http://www.guardian.co.uk/cartoons/stevebell/0,,1875767,00.html

    Wonderful.

  15. Benjamin says:

    I’m not being funny but we’ve already taken away most of the rights associated with citizenship through putting them in prison in the first place, so I don’t see what’s particularly different about voting rights.

    I think your premise is incorrect. Prisoners are not stripped of most of their rights in prison. And anyway, your premise, even if it does hold some truth, soes not necessarily support the notion that its therefore correct to deny them the vote.

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