Friday, September 16, 2005

Blackpool beckons

Off to sunny Blackpool for Lib Dem Conference tomorrow. I like Blackpool. It brings back memories of a) childhood holidays and b) the 15 NUS conferences I attended in my student days.

In fact there will be several of our new MPs making speeches this week who I first saw making speeches at NUS conferences in the Winter Gardens.

Conference for me is not about debates in the main hall and fringe meetings, but training sessions and meetings with constuency teams. And of course the chance to catch up with the many friends I have made over the years in different parts of the country.

As usual the conference the media is reporting bears little resemblance to the one Lib Dems are heading off to.

Media comment seems to revolve around the leadership of the party and whether we will be moving to the right or the left.

To Lib Dem activists the leadership is not in question. I guess the journalists are just so busy reporting on the various other parties' leadership wrangles (I see that even the tiny Plaid Cymru are joining in) that they expect us to have them to.

And Lib Dem simply do not see our party in terms of being on the left or right - we just get on an apply our liberal principles to the problems acing the country and try and come up with solution that will work.

This seems very simple to us and it is difficult to understand why the journos don't get it.

I am looking forward to getting to my hotel as it has been built underneath the Pepsi Max rollercoaster at the Pleasure Beach. I know what I'll be doing when conference gets boring!

Defending our basic freedoms

The main justification for the so-called 'war on terror' is that our Government is acting to defend our traditions, culture and values. Blair and Bush talk of 'defending democracy'.

On of the traditional freedoms that we have enjoyed for a few centuries in this country is freedom of expression. Freedom of expression - the right to put forward your views on an issue regardless - is one of the fundamental liberties that has set the UK, the US and most western democracies apart from communist, dictatorial and other tyrannical regimes.

Yet now, in the name of fighting terrorism, the Home Secretary is proposing that people should not be allowed to 'glorify' terrorism. This is a significantly broader restriction than not being allowed to 'incite' terrorism, which means actually encouraging people to go and commit terrorist acts. It would effectively prevent anyone from putting forward any argument that might be considered to justify terrorism.

On the face of it this might not seem to bad, surely, you might argue, it is wrong for anyone to argue in support of terrorism?

But there are two key reason why this approach is wrong.

Firstly, it is simply wrong for the state to restrict people's freedom to put forward an argument. However wrong you or I might think an argument to be, someone has the right to put it forward. To remove that right is to remove one of the very traditions that make democracy worth defending.

Secondly it is wrong on practical grounds. How do you define 'terrorism' and 'glorify' in a watertight way that only restricts the really nasty advocates of outright terror, rather than catching all sorts of completely harmless theorising? Who does the defining? How can we ensure that they are in some way objective rather than subjective?

To give one example: during the second world war was it wrong for people to publically support terrorist cells active in France? (Otherwise known as the French Resistance)

Under the legal definition of 'terrorism' such public comment would surely be against this proposed law.

Every time there is a major act of terrorism Blair and co. tell us that the terrorists will not be allowed to change our way of life. Yet by the look of these proposals they are allowing probably the most control crazy Government we have ever had to restrict our liberty more than has ever been the case in peacetime.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Marillion - nice chaps

I enjoyed seeing a slimmed down Marillion at the Oxford Zodiac last night - just Steve Hogarth, Pete Trewavas and Steve Rothery. It was a warm up gig for a short tour they are about to do in the States. Mostly hardcore fans and there were plenty of mistakes, humour etc.

And after being a fan of the band for 22 years I actually got to meet them after the gig.

I never quite know what to say when I meet people I am a big fan of, but muttered something along the lines of 'thank you for the music'. Very friendly they were too.

Who would have guessed?

Apparantly Blair has a tendency to rush out ill-thought through policy statements in order to win media coverage.

Who would have guessed?