The coalition agreement: civil liberties

Welcome to the second in a series of posts going through the full coalition agreement section by section. You can read the full coalition document here.

The section on civil liberties is, with one exception, a straightforward listing of many policies the Liberal Democrats have long argued for. Whether by principle or pragmatism, David Cameron has taken the chance of a hung Parliament to firmly put the Conservatives on the liberal side of the liberal versus authoritarian divide. There certainly are some in his party who would rather be on the other side, but they have been sidelined by this deal and by the choice of ministers.

One interesting political aspect of the deal will be its effect on Labour and the Labour leadership contest. Much of the civil liberties section involves undoing legislation which was voted for by various leadership contenders. How will they react on those votes which come up during the contest? Will they want to take Labour to the authoritarian fringes by voting against the coalition government or will they take the chance to repudiate their past and oppose the policies they used to support?

For the coalition members the one flash point may be in the final point: “We will establish a Commission to investigate the creation of a British Bill of Rights that incorporates and builds on our obligations under the European Convention of Human Rights, ensures that these rights continue to be enshrined in British law, and protects and extends British liberties.”

Within those words lie big differences of principle and instinct between Liberal Democrats and Conservatives. It’s one to watch.

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