Wednesday 22 December 2010

Of Cable, Mail and Telegraph

Let's get the quasi-judicial thing out of the way. The legislation for these things is written and enacted by politicians, and they know exactly what they are doing when they provide for a decision to be made by one of their own rather than by a judge, whatever naive legal purists might tell you. Judges, of course, are no more neutral than newspaper editors. Whatever naive legal, or jaw-droppingly naive journalistic, purists might tell you.

Bringing us to the fact that, as things stand, Vince Cable's party of government is exempt from an important form of scrutiny. No Lib Dem has a Fleet Street column. There is room for Charles Kennedy, Simon Hughes, Sir Menzies Campbell, Susan Kramer, Evan Harris, Olly Grender, Paddy Ashdown, Mark Oaten and others. Really, every national newspaper, except perhaps the Mirror Group ones (although, then again, why not?) and clearly the Murdoch ones, should have a resident Lib Dem. I repeat that this is because they need scrutiny.

Scrutiny of schemes to join the euro. Or to grant an amnesty to illegal immigrants. Or to abolish church schools. Or to raise the income tax threshold, but without the wholesale restructuring that would guarantee everyone a tax-free income of at least half national median earnings at the given time. Or to reverse the erosion of civil liberties, but without therefore restoring proper sentencing and proper prison regimes because we could once again have confidence in convictions.

Scrutiny of schemes to give the vote to prisoners. Or to allow 16 and 17-year-olds to appear legally in porn films that would then haunt them on the Internet for the rest of their lives. Or to advocate in this country openness, decentralisation and the election of everything, and that by means of STV, while also subscribing to European federalism. (The Assange-like attempt to stitch up Mike Hancock by the Eurofederalists of the New Cold War - the two are inseparable, as this week's demands for Belarus to be forced into the EU testify - is merrily falling apart this very day. Jolly good.)

Those, remember, are only the things that have managed to become party policy. Lib Dem columnists would give an insight into the milieu that produced such policies, into the ideas that circulate around them and provide their context, and thus into the minds and character of the people involved in that process. Where are they? Where is the scrutiny?

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