I know this is very early on in today's parliamentary proceedings but I am feeling a bit woeful.
This is exactly the moment when this country needs a strong, heartfelt liberal voice to counteract increasingly ridiculous suggestions on how to deal with the appalling theft & violence we've seen over the last week.
There are petitions all over the place calling for those convicted to be sent to Afghanistan or to lose their benefits. Tory MPs are calling for tear gas, water cannon and baton rounds, for offenders to be rounded up the Army & taken to Wembley Stadium, for the shutdown of Facebook & Twitter and for a marriage tax break and they are pretty much going unchallenged.
I would not expect the Labour party to mount much of a challenge to this. I expect more from Liberal Democrats. It annoys me that the only person so far warning against militarisation of the situation has been Diane Abbott. Jack Straw, one of the most illiberal home secretaries in my lifetime, was positively drooling at the thought of sending more people to jail, like it was going to work.
Now, I have no doubt that our ministers will have been arguing for the most liberal & proportionate response to what's happened. I wonder if terrorism powers might have been invoked without them there. They are doing a good job.
The contributions made by Liberal Democrat MPs so far have been full of sense & credibility. They have been entirely rational. But there has been precious little yet which has challenged illiberal notions or passionately put forward a distinct Liberal Democrat position.
Yes, it was good that Bob Smith asked for extra time for affected businesses to file their tax returns, for Jenny Willott to suggest that any enquiry took note of the places where violence was averted, that John Leech talked about media footage being used to identify perpetrators.
Better were Tom Brake for challenging the Tory policy of electing police commissioners, Stephen Williams for bringing inequality into the discussion and Julian Huppert for robustly defending social networks.
There's been nothing so far, though, that truly sets us apart from the others. This is one of those times when we really need a strong liberal democrat voice to balance some of the nonsense flying around. We must not allow ourselves to be constrained by being in Government. I'm hoping that in the Debate later that some of our number will step up in the hours ahead and present a liberal case that will resonate with people.
We can't afford to pass up the chance to do so. For the national interest, not just narrow political ends.
Update: I've literally jumped up and cheered twice this afternoon. Once was for Stephen Williams, the second was for Jo Swinson, asking the Chancellor to assure her that if he had any extra money he'd put it into infrastructure or skills development and not subscribe to the "voodoo economics of tax cuts for the rich". Osborne's answer implied that he'd just love to do that. It's good to see that Liberal Democrats will do all they can to stand in his way.
- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad