David Cameron warned in his Downing Street statement on the Woolwich killing against forming ‘knee-jerk responses’ to the atrocity. But it was inevitable that there would be many knees flying in the air over a piece of legislation that some say could either have prevented the killing, or made it easier to piece together the evidence. The Communications Data Bill – better known as the Snooper’s Charter – is back in the spotlight after everyone had assumed that Nick Clegg had kicked it into the next Parliament at least.
Alan Johnson called it a resigning issue on the Marr Show, Lord Carlile accused his own party of blocking the legislation for political reasons, and Sadiq Khan said that a new bill with more proportionate powers was something Labour would support. Simon Hughes claimed he hadn’t seen any evidence to suggest this piece of legislation would have made any difference in this instance (although those in government might argue that it’s not surprising the deputy leader of the Lib Dems hasn’t seen such evidence).
Carlile was right to a certain extent that the veto was ‘purely political because of demands from inside the Liberal Democrats’: the party leadership knew that to proceed with the legislation as it stood would have provoked fury from a party already exceptionally tetchy following the passage of the Justice and Security Bill. But alongside the Lib Dem opponents of the Bill were around 40 Conservatives who signed a letter in December saying they would ‘find it difficult to support the proposals’. The campaign to block that bill, wound down with a flourish after Nick Clegg vetoed it, is now cranking back into life. And it looks like it’s going to be even messier than before.