There’s talk this morning of the intelligence budget taking a cut in tomorrow’s spending review announcement, but what about the legislation that the spooks say they really need to do their jobs properly? The row about the Communications Data Bill has calmed a little in the past week or so, but that’s not to say that those pushing the proposals have given up.
I understand that though the bill’s Conservative proponents accept that Nick Clegg really will not be moved, they don’t think this is the end of the road for the legislation in this Parliament. Instead, figures close to the talks are mulling introducing it after the 2014 Budget. Why then? ‘It’s the last chance the Lib Dems would have to introduce a mansion tax that would come in for this Parliament,’ explains one source. If the Tories force in a bill by some clever means (which are not entirely clear, given the Lib Dems still need to sign off on government bills), the dire threats about mansion tax and 50p tax votes as revenge will be hollow as they will have no effect before the 2015 election once the March Budget is out of the way.
Those plotting to revive the Bill also suspect that by that point, Nick Clegg really will be safe from an internal coup until the general election. If his position is insecure, then he is less likely to roll over on a matter of civil liberties: his party’s grassroots expect him to take a stand on the Snooper’s Charter after yielding on secret courts.
UPDATE: Astonishingly, the Lib Dems don’t like this theory. A senior party source says:
‘That is the stupidest theory I have ever heard. Whoever the Tory is who came up with that shouldn’t be allowed to handle sharp objects, let alone work in politics.’