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Coffee House

David Cameron may be about to call time on the coalition’s civil libertarian stance

29 August 2014

5:37 PM

29 August 2014

5:37 PM

It was not so much the announcements that David Cameron made in his press conference about the terror threat to the UK that were significant, but what he looks like he’s going to have to announce on Monday. The Prime Minister confirmed that the threat level to the UK has been raised from ‘substantial’ to ‘severe’. But he also said that on Monday he will be unveiling new measures to address ‘gaps’ in the UK’s ‘armoury’:

‘I said very clearly last week that there would be no knee-jerk reactions. We will respond calmly and with purpose. And we’ll do so driven by the evidence and the importance of maintaining the liberty that is the hallmark of the society that we defend. But we have to listen carefully to the security and the intelligence officers who do so much every day to keep us safe.

‘I chaired a meeting a week ago with our intelligence and security services and we agreed that the answer to this threat was not to dream up some sweeping new power that would be ineffective in practice. But it is becoming clear that there are some gaps in our armoury and we need to strengthen them.

‘We need to do more to stop people travelling, to stop those who do go from returning and to deal decisively with those who are already here. I’ll be making a statement in the House of Commons on Monday. This will include further steps to stop people travelling, with new legislation that will make it easier to take people’s passports away.’

Those gaps won’t just cover passports, though. Labour is calling on the government to look again at its decision to scrap control orders. And so the Conservatives could be finally calling time on their civil libertarian stance: where once they said they would be sceptical of what the intelligence services demanded, now they are asking the intelligence services to set out what they want. And if what they want is what the Conservatives would previously have denied them, or have scrapped, then presumably the ‘generational struggle’ against Isis will require that the Tories say yes.

But it’s not just the Tories who get to say yes, is it? And that was presumably the point of this press conference: to soften up the Liberal Democrats ahead of what looks like a very busy weekend of coalition talks.

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