Thursday, May 20, 2010

Nick Clegg pledges most radical constitutional changes for 200 years.

Alan Johnson has dismissed Nick Clegg's claim to be introducing "the most ambitious changes to British democracy since the early 19th century" as hyperbole, and it's hard to disagree with that analysis.

In what he described as the most significant reforms in 178 years, Clegg pledged to abolish the national identity card scheme, biometric passports and the Contact Point children's database, ensure CCTV was "properly regulated", and place restrictions on DNA storage.
All of the above is to be applauded, but it hardly represents "the most ambitious changes to British democracy since the early 19th century".

Indeed, it reminds me of Bush asking that his government be applauded for attacks which did not take place on it's watch. Usually governments are measured by what they have actually achieved, not by things which did not happen.

Clegg appears to be wanting praise for not introducing the national identity card scheme. As someone who has always opposed it, I am pleased that we see this the same way, but scrapping something is relatively easy. It's certainly not an achievement not to do something. It might be welcome and common sense, but it's not an achievement.
"This will be a government that is proud when British citizens stand up against the illegitimate advances of the state. I'm talking about the most significant programme of empowerment by a British government since the great enfranchisement of the 19th century, the biggest shakeup of our democracy since 1832, when the Great Reform Act redrew the boundaries of British democracy, for the first time extending the franchise beyond the landed classes."
It's bizarre. I am actually all for what he is saying, but I recoil from the language which he is using. Johnson is being overly polite when he describes it as "hyperbole".

Although I note that Clegg is sticking with the plans to move the majority needed for a no confidence vote in the Commons to 55%.

"That is a much lower threshold than the two-thirds required in Scottish parliament but it strikes the right balance for our parliament, maintaining stability, stopping parties from forcing a dissolution to serve their own interest," he said.

I feel sure that he won't get that through, simply because there are enough Tory backbenchers who loathe being tied to the Liberals and who are reluctant to give up their right to dismiss this partnership at a time of their choosing.

Clegg might very well get a referendum on AV, and that will be of significance, but most of what he is talking about is not pushing through plans which Labour suggested and most of it's supporters disagreed with.

As I say, it's to be welcomed, but it's hardly re-inventing the wheel.

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