Sunday, February 03, 2013

Dear Nick - please sort out the secret courts mess - our message, in volume, over time

I suggested earlier this week that those of us who oppose secret courts should reply to Nick Clegg's Letter from the Leader this weekend, asking him to withdraw Liberal Democrat support from a measure that all the evidence suggests is illiberal and unfair.

I was pleased when Jo Shaw, one of the co-founders of the Liberal Democrats against secret courts  campaign, reinforced that in a campaign email to supporters. If enough of us do that, then somebody at HQ will take note and pass on our concerns. Yes, we'll all get an automated reply saying that Nick can't reply to us personally (although on this issue, he should), but the responses will all be seen by human beings who should pass on our concerns. Let's get this message to him, in volume, over the next day or so. 

I sent my email to Nick this morning and this is what it says:

Dear Nick
First of all, thank you for all the work you have done on the issues of childcare and parental leave. You talk often these days of the Liberal Democrat vision of a strong economy in a fair society enabling people to get on in life and these vitally important measures help to deliver on all three. Seeing Liberal Democrat policies being implemented, from Steve Webb’s work on pensions to raising of the tax threshold, which was, after all, an idea from an ordinary member of the party, to the pupil premium is great and something that we can be very proud of as a party.
There is, however, real concern across the whole party about the issue of Part II of the Justice and Security Bill. I know a lot of people and, so far, I’ve found nobody who isn’t a parliamentarian who has a good word to say about it. The Federal Conference, the sovereign body of the Party, voted overwhelmingly against it in September. One of the reasons we’re liberals is that we believe in protecting people from abuse by the large, powerful institutions whether they be corporations or the state. By refusing one party to a legal proceeding the chance to see and respond to the evidence against them, we fail spectacularly to uphold that key principle. We skew the system heavily in favour of the state. Even if the Government accepted all the JCHR amendments (and I can’t for the life of me understand why it doesn’t), I don’t think this Bill is acceptable.
This Bill will make it easier for Governments to be complicit in torture and kidnap. It makes it easier to hide official wrongdoing. If we’d had CMPs, would the families of the two pilots wrongly blamed for the 1994 chinook helicopter crash have been able to clear their names?
I find it deeply worrying that it’s a Tory, Andrew Tyrie, who is making all the running on this issue, who’s produced a report saying that this legislation is wrong. Even the Labour party, who were no friends of civil liberties in government, has said they’ll vote against this bill if the JCHR amendments aren’t incorporated. If ever we needed to be a strong liberal voice, it’s now.
In the light of Andrew Tyrie’s report, I think it’s important that you stand up for liberal values within the coalition and say that it’s time to reconsider Part II of the Bill. Secret courts do not represent who we are as Liberal Democrats and it’s deeply uncomfortable to be associated with them. Please can you sort this out. I don’t expect you to go through a 5 year term and not make any mistakes – but this is a big one that you need to put right.
Caron Lindsay

Will you do the same? You don't have to say anything more than "Nick - say no to secret courts, please". 

It's important that he gets the strength of feeling in the party on this issue. We can't give up on it, or a fundamental change to our legal system will put justice out of reach for people the Government have wronged. As Jo Shaw keeps saying, Kafka was a warning, not a manual. 

Oh and once you've done that, if you live in the constituency of a Liberal Democrat MP, please could you email them and find out their position on this Bill. I am significantly unimpressed that so few have responded to Lib Dems against secret courts - and even more so at those who won't respond to those who are not constituents. I think our parliamentarians do have some sort of obligation to account for their actions to party members. After all, they wouldn't be in their jobs without us. 

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