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The current political climate rewards authoritarians, not civil libertarians

1 September 2014

2:48 PM

1 September 2014

2:48 PM

The talks between the Lib Dems and the Conservatives on the anti-terror measures that David Cameron will unveil this afternoon have finally finished. There are a few more details to be thrashed out – crossing of Ts and dotting of Is rather than major policy decisions – but the two parties are basically there.

That the talks have only broken up with just over an hour to go until the statement shows how contentious these measures have been in the Coalition. David Cameron’s press conference, in which he set out the heightened threat, was partly a softening-up exercise to push the Lib Dems into accepting what the security and intelligence services had told him: that they needed to plug the ‘gaps in Britain’s armoury’. How successful that and the ensuing negotiations have been will become clear when the Prime Minister sets out his stall in the Chamber this afternoon.

If the Lib Dems have managed to block what the Tories felt was necessary, then they will need to work out a way of making the case for guarding privacy above security. As the furious leading article in the Sun today makes clear, this will be difficult when the current climate rewards authoritarians, not civil libertarians. It is significant that Labour is now trying to argue that it is tougher on terror (i.e. more authoritarian) than the Tories, when back in the day the Tories made hay with quite how authoritarian the Labour government was. Times have changed, but the Lib Dems may well have stayed the same.

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