« "The so-called recession" | Main | Monetary policy without the euro »

November 22, 2010

Comments

Prateekbuch

By and large I agree - thanks for supporting the libel reform cause, and for discussing the flagrant abuse of libel law that Cohen details - but I'm afraid I have to take issue with you on the accusation of Lib Dem lies.

We did not lie, we produced a manifesto (as all parties do) that we would have implemented had we won the election (I resisted the temptation to use capital letters there but I do want to emphasise that point...). We didn't win, we entered into a coalition instead and got the opportunity to implement much of what we'd promise - but not all. That is not lying, it's grown-up politics.

Why not accuse the Tories of lying over inheritance tax, over voting reform and over raising the personal tax allowance - all of these are things that Tories have had to depart from their manifesto in - why no accusations of lying there?

Leftoutside

"We did not lie, we produced a manifesto (as all parties do) that we would have implemented had we won the election (I resisted the temptation to use capital letters there but I do want to emphasise that point...). We didn't win, we entered into a coalition instead and got the opportunity to implement much of what we'd promise - but not all. That is not lying, it's grown-up politics."

Oh come on! Nick Clegg and top Lib Dems visited University towns and pledged, seperately from the manifesto, to oppose fee increases and to return to the status quo ante bellum before fees were increased. This was not an intimiation of intention but part of an electoral strategy to make good on gestating student enthusiasm for the Liberal Democrats.

In what way were Students who voted Lib Dem because of their position on fees not lied, given that it was not the manifesto they based their support on but the promises and policies of the Lib Dems over the last decade?

The manifesto is a red herring. The Lib Dems lied.

___

This comes back to what I said on the Minaret debacle in Switzerland, freedom and democracy needs to be built on a thick understanding of equality; not just material, but in a person's capacity for independence (some of which is material, but this is seperate to other egalitarian concerns).

Tom

Prateekbuch: The pledge, signed by Clegg, Cable and the others, said they would oppose any rise in tuition fees *and pressure the government to introduce a fairer alternative*. That is, quite clearly, not reliant on winning the election.

Chris: I agree about the problems with libel, which definitely needs reform, and the consequences, though it's a very difficult balance to strike. If you go too far, you run the risk of a similar problem: people can claim any newspaper article about them is simply a tissue of lies. At the moment, someone sure of their story can simply tell them to put up or shut up, and if someone is not prepared to sue despite the libel laws being very much in favour of the claimant then the public can and will draw their own conclusions.

Jim

Well, you all know what to do then don't you? Vote NO to AV when the chance comes around. Once you have any form of PR the manifestos of any party will be trash hours after the election, as the parties horse trade their way into a coalition.

FPTP may not be perfect, but at least you know if you vote for Party A, and they win, you gets Party A's manifesto.

(Unless you vote for the Labour Party of course, and wanted not to ban smoking in pubs, or a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty.)

Niklas Smith

@Jim: "FPTP may not be perfect, but at least you know if you vote for Party A, and they win, you gets Party A's manifesto.

(Unless you vote for the Labour Party of course, and wanted not to ban smoking in pubs, or a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty.)"

Isn't that the problem? How many majority governments in recent British history have stuck to most of their manifesto promises? And it's not just Labour - the Conservatives' 1979 manifesto did not exactly give people full warning of what Margaret Thatcher did in office. Can anyone show that FPTP makes governments more likely to stick to their manifesto promises?

@Chris: "Secondly, the threat to freedom comes not from lefty statist politicians but from businesses and self-important security apparatchiks. And their willingness to use intimidation - Paul Chambers and Dalia Nield have suffered more on-going distress than those caught up in the student demonstrations - exceeds anything the left can manage."

Two critical comments:
1) It is the politicians - lefty or otherwise - who allow this to continue by not reforming libel law or the courts, meaning that access to justice often depends on wealth.
2) In other countries statist politicians are a much bigger threat to freedom of speech (think Singapore) - we're just lucky in Britain.

Otherwise a very good article indeed.

Niklas Smith

P.S. Nick Cohen's column is really excellent.

Niklas Smith

P.P.S. One way of reducing the number of bullying suits like the ones mentioned by Nick Cohen would be to stop corporate bodies (i.e. legal persons that are not also natural persons) from sueing for libel. If they wanted to get redress against someone who had damaged their reputation they should have to sue for malicious falsehood instead, which is more relevant to business and has higher thresholds for success.

David Allen Green wrote very sensibly on this subject a while back: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/libertycentral/2010/aug/12/libel-corporate-entities-right-to-sue

Churm Rincewind

The Lib Dems did not lie. There is absolutely no evidence to suggest that they were anything less than wholly sincere and honest in their statements about tuition fees prior to the election, and it is surely malicious to claim otherwise.

But they did break their promise.

Left Outside

"The Lib Dems did not lie. There is absolutely no evidence to suggest that they were anything less than wholly sincere and honest in their statements about tuition fees prior to the election, and it is surely malicious to claim otherwise."

Ahem. Some evidence.

"The Liberal Democrats were drawing up plans to abandon Nick Clegg's flagship policy to scrap university tuition fees two months before the general election, secret party documents reveal."

http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010/nov/12/lib-dems-tuition-fees-clegg

"But they did break their promise."

Agreed.

Churm Rincewind

@ Left Outside: You make a strong point, though it would be more accurate to say that in advance of the election some Lib Dems were confidentially recommending to the party leadership that abolition of tuition fees within a six year period should not be considered a deal-breaker within a possible coalition government, given that the Lib Dem commitment not to increase tuition fees remained firm. It was this latter policy which comprised the NUS "pledge" signed by so many prospective Lib Dem MPs, and I do not believe they did so in the full knowledge that they were "lying". Just ask Menzies Campbell. Or Simon Hughes. Or Charles Kennedy. Etc.

My real objection is to the use of the word "lies" which does seem to me to be unfounded and malicious (the only other use of the word in this particular connection I can trace has been by the BNP).

None of which detracts from the fact that a clear promise has been broken.


Left Outside

Lies is probably strong.

A lot of lib dems probably made the promise expecting to keep it, some I suspect were being somewhat spendthrift with their promises.

Lie is a bit strong, I would concede. And also superfluous, they broke their promise, that is probably enough to cost them most of a constituency they once could have relied on.

Keith

Phil Woolas has been punished for lying so as to deliberately harm the reputation and honour of his Lib Dem opponent. A election court vacated his election. Quite correctly. Maybe other misconduct by MPs should be punished in the same way.

The problem with the Lib dems ditching their tuition fees policy and their other support for deplorable right wing policies is that NO ONE CONSENTED. No one voted for the Cabinet they have no mandate from anyone for the totality of their platform. Annual elections were the chartists answer to unaccountable representatives and in callifornia recall elections. Time to dust off the peoples charter.

The comments to this entry are closed.

blogs I like

Blog powered by Typepad