What You Can Get Away With » 2012 » October » 15

Only a week after George Osborne announced it at the Tory Conference, and we finally have a public comment from a senior Liberal Democrat on it. It’s Vince Cable who rides out with an article for Liberal Democrat Voice and as you’d expect from the renowned champion of the left of the party and former Labour member, it’s a resounding defence of workers’ right against any encroachment by the bosses.

Only kidding. This time, Vince’s cavalry aren’t riding out to save the day but to put the boot in by announcing that the Osborne plan is absolutely fine by him. Despite the fact that it’s about asking employees to give up certain employment rights, this isn’t Beecroft by the back door because:

That proposal would have applied to all employee contracts – this will only apply to workers at firms who want it.

So your employment rights are fine if your employer doesn’t want you to give them up, but if your employer insist that you have to give them up in favour of a few shares before you get a job, you don’t have a choice in that matter.

But don’t worry, everything will be alright because “it is not something intended for most ordinary businesses around the country.” Note the phrase there is ‘not intended’ – no one’s prohibited from taking it up, but it’s not intended that they will. However, it’s often the case that governments will create tax regulations that are only intended to have limited applicability, and then discover that lots of people realise that it’s a loophole they can take full advantage of as well. (See some of the discussion here, for instance)

But the main point remains that there’s a fundamentally illiberal heart to this policy, where we accept the idea that rights can be traded away (though in partial contradiction of Franklin’s maxim, here liberty appears to be being traded for insecurity). It’s an issue we should be fighting over, one that should be relegated to the Tory manifesto for the next election, not something Liberal Democrats should be rolling over, accepting and justifying.

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Time was when you knew exactly what the parties’ positions on secret courts would be – Labour would look to expand it as far as possible while rebranding them as ‘community courts’, the Tories would insist that private companies could manage secrecy better than the Government ever could and Liberal Democrats would be against it.

As the vote at Conference a couple of weeks ago showed, the vast majority of Liberal Democrats remain opposed to any proposals for secret courts, but there are some within Parliament who’ve let themselves go native and listen to the securocratss demands for more power.

To continue the campaign against secret courts on from Conference, a petition has been organised to keep up the pressure on Parliamentarians to vote down the relevant sections of the Justice and Security Bill.

In line with the clear and overwhelming decision of conference, we the undersigned members of the Liberal Democrats reaffirm our opposition to secret courts and our commitment to the rule of law, open justice, the holding of government to account, the right to a fair trial and the protection of civil liberties. We therefore call upon our ministers and parliamentarians to:

  • withdraw or vote down Part II of the Justice and Security Bill and
  • put the current “Public Interest Immunity Certificate” scheme on a statutory footing.
  • You can sign the petition here.

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    Haven’t done one of these for a few weeks, because I’ve not been notified of any new applications over the last couple of weeks, which means we have just one:

    121499: Advertisment consent for fascia sign and advertising, Queen Street.

    Please note that I am a member of the Council’s Planning Committee for the next municipal year. This means that I’m required to act in a ‘quasi-judicial’ manner with regard to applications before the Committee and as such, can’t make comments in favour or against planning applications as I may then have pre-judged them before they come to Committee. I can give advice on planning issues and what to do if you have a comment or objection. However, my ward colleagues Bill Frame and Jo Hayes aren’t members of the Committee, so they’re free to comment as they wish.

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    You can tell that Tories are in Government – suddenly, everything has a price and nothing has a value. After last week’s discussions over the ‘trade your employment rights away for a handful of magic beans shares’ proposal, we now have reports that Nick Clegg has been offered a deal over state funding of political parties in exchange for letting the boundary review go through.

    What would be interesting to find out about this policy is who leaked it, because the very act of reporting it has made the likelihood of it happening drop down to effectively zero. It’s clear that certain Tories are desperate to resurrect the boundary review – though not so desperate as to allow Lords reform to take place, which tells you all you need to know about their actual commitment to democracy – but I don’t think there’s anything they could offer Clegg that would make the Liberal Democrats change their mind over it. Now that any change in that position – which was a slim chance anyway – would be linked to what looks like nothing more than a bribe, there’s no likelihood of that change occurring.

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