Optimists might think that a wariness on the part of senior Tory ministers to push through the Communications Data Bill without the Lib Dems’ consent is at least a sign the parties are starting to appreciate the practical limits of Coalition. They clearly listened to the party when the row about an EU referendum bill flared earlier this month. Then, a Lib Dem source told Coffee House:
‘If you are going to start saying well the different parties in the Coalition can now bring forward any bills they like, then enjoy the mansion tax and 50p votes. That sort of thing would be of no benefit to either party in the Coalition or to the government.’
Trying to force a bill when one Coalition partner is not signed up is one way of ensuring chaos, but the ministers who have spoken to the Times today, as well as former policing minister Nick Herbert (who has written an op-ed that takes issue with one of Fraser’s posts on this proposed legislation), seem to forget that the ‘paranoid libertarianism’ that they criticise lurks within their own party, too. There would be a significant rebellion against any such legislation if it ever reached the Commons on the Conservative benches. And ministers still need to present a compelling case that the Snooper’s Charter could either have prevented or helped the investigation in the aftermath of the Woolwich killing. So forcing a bill wouldn’t just be a disastrous way of conducting a coalition, it would also be poor politics overall.