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Brave new world?

Nick Robinson | 14:19 UK time, Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Ambitious - but is it achievable? The rhetoric was soaring, but can the reality possibly match it?

Nick CleggThose were my thoughts as I watched Nick Clegg promise the biggest shake-up of democracy since 1832.

A wholesale big-bang political reform and what he calls a new politics.

Much on his agenda involves this new government simply not doing things on ID cards, the DNA database, CCTV and the ContactPoint database of children.

So far, so easy.

Much can also happen through the government acting without the need for new legislation to give for example more money and power to local councils, voluntary bodies and individuals.

Although I do remember politicians like Douglas Hurd in the 1980s talking of those Edmund Burke called the "little platoons" and the need to "empower them", pretty much every government since has talked the same talk but not got quite got round to walking the walk.

On political reform though, the Clegg agenda requires not just legislation to back a referendum on voting reform but a yes vote too.

Not just for the new commission on Lords reform to find agreement missing this past century but for existing peers to vote for their own demands; and not just all party agreements on the reform of political funding but also a majority for the legislation in both houses.

Perhaps it is the area I focused on yesterday - human rights - which best illustrates the problem of delivery for this new government.

Today the deputy prime minister suggested a commission could look into reforms of the way the Human Rights Act works even thought the Conservatives have been looking at this for the past five years.

He implied in the meantime that the government could use control orders and negotiate new agreements with countries like Pakistan to ensure they didn't torture those who were deported to their shore.

This, though, is exactly what Charles Clarke promised when he was Labour's home secretary six years ago and at that time the Tories and Liberal Democrats united in condemning him.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    So if by stopping the excesses of the last administration we can begin to move back the nanny state that will be a good starting point.

    I need to be convinced of the concerned shown for those that would killand maim us. As I am about the soft soap approach to those who rob and injure the innocent.

    What I would like to see forth with is the repeal of the onsided extradition treaty with the US.

    So this is the first week of the new government give it time Nick.

  • Comment number 2.

    Nick

    On political reform though, the Clegg agenda requires not just legislation to back a referendum on voting reform but a yes vote too.

    ========================================================

    The more I see of Coalition Government the more I don't want to move from FPTP as we would have it for ever more.

    With the Lib Dems a forming part of every Government to come and the Lib Dems deciding who governs.

    If this is the outcome of electoral reform it doesn't feel very Democratic.

  • Comment number 3.

    "Ambitious - but is it achievable? The rhetoric was soaring, but can the reality possibly match it?"

    Well, we'll have to wait and see, wont we? Dur......

  • Comment number 4.

    Nick Clegg certainly isn't holding back on the hyperbole.

  • Comment number 5.

    Maybe a lot of Clegg's proposals won't make it into reality but isn't it refreshing to have a government which is serious about reform and getting the state out of people's lives as much as possible instead of passing laws just for the sake of it?

  • Comment number 6.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 7.

    Nick wrote "This, though, is exactly what Charles Clarke promised when he was Labour's home secretary six years ago and at that time the Tories and Liberal Democrats united in condemning him."

    Nick you seem to be overlooking the fact that this is what our brand of confrontational politics is all about. If you want consensual politics go and live somewhere else in Europe where that is the norm.

    I'm looking forward to some new thinking coming out during the next 2 years. I may, of course, be disappointed. It's happened before.

    What I'd like to see is a law making it compulsory to vote, with the loss of access to state benefits for those who don't comply. That would ensure that whatever government we get it is one that better represents the views of the majority of the citizens of this country. In the long run it would also save some money, and that can never be a bad thing, can it?

  • Comment number 8.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 9.

    Nick (or anyone else for this point), seeing as we are a democracy, and have links and trade agreements all over the world. Why haven't we been negotiating for countrys to take back their nationals with the promise that they won't be tortured or killed? The only reason I can think of is purely so that the media doesn't have a chance to scream out the headline "Deported prisoner killed by officials", and the red face of a government official who has to take the flak for it.

  • Comment number 10.

    Biggest reform since 1832? Bigger than votes for women then?

  • Comment number 11.

    All this talk about 'change','freedom', 'rolling back the state'and 'less government' is just camouflage for privatisation.
    How can someone with the least votes, the least seats, and third in the race be our deputy prime minister? On whose behalf is he speaking?
    You vote for butter and you get marge. How can we ever trust these politicians?
    Is this the 'new politics' or is just 'politricks'
    A Corby
    Greenwich

  • Comment number 12.

    Nothing less than a big bang is actually the minimum requirement to overcome a massive democratic deficit in England.

    A fully elected second chamber, more elected public servants (e.g. senior policemen), the unwinding of QUANGO's, which are essentially undemocratic institutions, insofar as the members are not elected by the public, and so on.

    All things that the Americans sorted out over two hundreds years ago via the genius of the founding Fathers.

    Our pathetic democracy in England needs the biggest kick up the backside ... but can these politicians deliver it?

    We will see but they have to move fast as the political capital will soon be running down as Browns 'legacy' i.e. the debts, begin to overwhelm us.

  • Comment number 13.

    Tory Nick - the hypocrite.

    That has a nice ring to it.

    Where's my referendum on Lords reform Nick?

    Where's my referendum on powers to local government?

    Where's my referendum on changing the threshold for MP's to be able to dissolve parliament to 55%?

    We get one referendum on voting reform and that won't happen because the Tories will campaign against it.

    Clegg has sold political reform down the river - Liberal Dave must be laughing his socks off.

  • Comment number 14.

    Speaking of "is it achievable?", anything to say about this, Nick?

    http://order-order.com/2010/05/19/taxi-for-robinson/

    or

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/tvandradio/bbc/7737752/Tom-Bradby-tipped-as-Nick-Robinsons-successor-at-BBC.html


    Bradby or Laura Kuenssberg, eh? Things might be looking up around here...

  • Comment number 15.

    I agree with rolling back the erosion of civil liberties. Labour had a shocking civil liberties record and I am glad to see that addressed. As for the accused men who are not to be deported... find a way to prosecute. If they have done what is said why release them to disappear somewhere in Pakistan? Put them through a trial, prove their guilt, jail them. As for the rest... just sounds like 'get the public to do the work that government should be doing but won't because they can't afford it anymore'. Schoolboy solutions and wishful thinking to me

  • Comment number 16.

    The last politician to promise 'change' amongst a huge media bandwagon was Obama.

    Just like Obama these lot are very rapidly demonstrating the difference between rhetoric and action.

    Control orders? Agreements with countries who allegedly torture? As you say - how is this any different from labour?

  • Comment number 17.

    Believe it when I see it, Labour failed 3 times over to uphold their manifesto pledges on electoral reform.

    Proof of the pudding is in the eating! We had the rhetoric today, now lets have the delivery please, and fast!

  • Comment number 18.

    I for one hope it works!

    I'm glad they've decided to ditch ID cards and endless databases, they achieve little unless they are highly specialised and the last gov't just wanted one-size-for-all systems which never work or never interact with other systems properly

    Seriously we have to give the coalition time to work out how to get on together - we can't just expect a coalition system to work here right away! we've had centuries of tribal politics and that will take some getting around

    I'm all for repealing most of the useless legislation of the outgoing lot (keep the good stuff, minimum wage etc) and empowering local government to do more, we need to decentralise the running of the country and we don't need lots of new legislation to do it - we have existing laws that will do just fine if they are applied properly

    HRA is a good example, there's not much wrong with the Act in itself - it's the stupid interpretations that get it ridiculed!

  • Comment number 19.

    Are people really that bothered about CCTV?

    I think we need better CCTV - higher quality cameras and so on - but I don't feel my civil liberties are invaded when it is used to catch criminals.

    The DNA database is slightly different - I would simply say we should follow scientific advice about what the best timescale for retention is.

    The ContactPoint Database? Am I the only one that thinks there will be a huge outcry if we get a string of major cases of child abuse that could have been prevented by the use of this database? Surely this was/is an attempt to address these problems - if its not working then reform it - don't just get rid of it unilaterally and leave children at greater risk.

    You can tell that power is already getting to Tory Clegg's head - he suddenly thinks he is Lord Grey - what a pompous fool.

  • Comment number 20.

    Re Post 2 "The more I see of Coalition Government the more I don't want to move from FPTP as we would have it for ever more.
    With the Lib Dems a forming part of every Government to come and the Lib Dems deciding who governs.
    If this is the outcome of electoral reform it doesn't feel very Democratic."
    -------------
    It would be more democratic because we voted for this outcome. People always claim FPTP gives us secure Govt, but it disenfranchises over 30% of the population that votes for something else. Yes the Lib Dems are likely to have a say in most govts, but this is because we do not trust Labour or The Conservatives enough to give them a majority. It is scandalous that a Party (any party) can get 38% of the vote and be able to do what they want.
    I believe with a Proportional system, the Parties will fragment anyway and parts of like minded parties will form Governments in ways that the population have voted.

  • Comment number 21.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 22.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 23.

    Penny at 7

    Good idea in principle, but I can think of quite a few people that I know who would vote on whoever said they'd give them more money. Because of the large amount on welfare at the moment is that really the result that would be best for the country?

  • Comment number 24.

    8#

    You can but hope. Him as leader and Harman as deputy will see the party consigned to the political dustbin for another generation or two. I'll be long dead before they get back in, if that happens.

  • Comment number 25.

    7. At 3:16pm on 19 May 2010, pennytr8 wrote:

    What I'd like to see is a law making it compulsory to vote, with the loss of access to state benefits for those who don't comply."

    Why do people keep saying this? It's blatantly obvious that that would be a silly law.

    If you could make it compulsory to vote *sensibly* then that would be OK, but you can't. (See all the 'safe seats' which are only 'safe' because people vote that way because they always have - not because they've thought about it).

    If you make it compulsory just to vote, then people will just pick someone at random, or someone their mates or parents told them to vote for. It would be better if those people didn't vote at all.

    I suppose you could have a voting option "don't know/don't care"... (But isn't that what not turning up to vote means anyway)

    You can't legislate 'giving a damn' to the apathetic.

  • Comment number 26.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 27.

    From Nick Cleggs Speech:

    "It's just wrong that governments can play politics with something as important as a general election...

    Cynically picking the date to maximise their own advantage.

    So this government has already set the date we think the next election should be:

    May 7th 2015 - no matter who is where in the polls.

    That is unless parliament votes to dissolve itself first. "

    ***********************************************

    So if the Tories and Lib Dems join together (more than 55% remember) and vote to dissolve parliament then we don't get a fixed term.

    So how does that stop the coalition from 'cynically picking the date to maximise their own advantage'??

    New politics? More like cynical self-interest.

  • Comment number 28.

    If, as Mr. Clegg suggests, this is the greatest package of reforms since 1832, why not go the whole hog, create a modern written constitution which addresses all the issues that, despite what he says, will actually be addressed piecemeal, clarify and codify all current law on human rights into the constitution then put the whole thing to the people in a referendum?

    The government seems also to be side stepping the position in the regions. Perhaps it would be a good time to question the whole nation about exchanging the Union for a Federation, possibly by counting the votes from the four nations separately as a measure of the appetite for independence in Scotland, for example.

  • Comment number 29.

    Talking of Labour made Law 1997-2010, rather than Nick Clegg's suggestion that the public should suggest what to repeal it might be quicker to ask what to keep, little of their meddling over the last 13 years has achieved what it was meant to do.

    As for the Brave new world, yes it is achievable, just as long as law isn't being made for the sake of it or political motive.

  • Comment number 30.

    6 Debtjuggler

    Would you really want to inflict on Vince Cable the title of what will be the most hated person in Britain?

    This is the job no-one wants but someone has to take on.

    So far David Laws may have been in the wilderness but he strikes me as having the nerve and experience to do the job that has to be done. We can only wait and see.

    Vince Cable should be left to serve out his senior years in a more congenial position.

  • Comment number 31.

    Just listened to Clegg and his "3 Major Steps"

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/8691642.stm

    1) He says "we will repeal all the intrusive and unnecessary laws that inhibit your freedom"

    I am concerned that he has not specifically mentioned repealing the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) that gives local councils the power to bug phones and intercept emails for people suspected of minor 'offences' such as putting out their wheelie bins on the wrong day. Criminal investigations should be left to the police, not to local councils.

    2) He says "we will reform our politics so it is open, transparent and decent"

    Will he therefore commit to scrapping the 30 Year Rule so that we can find out what governments have done, and hold them to account? It is strongly suspected that Labour was deliberately following a 'scorched earth' policy to such an extent that 'Top civil servants protested over Labour spending' according to a BBC report. We have a right to know the truth, now, not in 30 years time.

    3) "We will radically redistribute power away from the centre, into your community, your homes, your hands"

    What on Earth does that mean? More power to local councils? Local Councils already have very little regard for the the wishes of local citizens. Unpopular planning decisions are often rubber-stamped despite fierce opposition from citizens - big developers usually get their way. Local Councillors are often totally inept, or just plain lazy with their snouts firmly planted in the municipal trough. I would like to see this 'new' government protect local citizens from the excesses of local authorities, not leave the people at their mercy.

    Full of sound and fury, signifying nothing....



  • Comment number 32.

    I've heard this same, tired old rubbish about 'empowerment' and devolved 'responsibility' from management consultants for the past 25 years. It's meaningless drivel and it's generally used by third-rate senior managers who either see big trouble coming and want other people to take the blame, or have a problem that they don't know how to fix.
    I haven't heard them use the word 'vision' yet, but I don't expect it will be long.

  • Comment number 33.

    I have to be perfectly honest and say, I heard Cleggs speech and thought it was a lot of hot air. Much the same rhetoric he was coming out with before the election. I think in the power struggle between the two leaders, Clegg is trying to make a name for himself. However judging by this speech he will not be able to do so. I felt he lacked confidence in the things he was saying and it came across as very hollow. I think the Clegg affect will wear off pretty quickly with the electorate.

    If this Coalition keeps breaking promises to the public, as on the HRA, I think there will be much trouble ahead. Cameron and Clegg should not have criticized Labour and promised change on any issue, if they knew there was any chance of it not being delivered in Government. The past Labour Government should have been lesson enough on this. Otherwise it will not be long before the public will be saying again, they are all the same.

    PortcullisGate 2

    I agree.


  • Comment number 34.

    7. At 3:16pm on 19 May 2010, pennytr8 wrote:
    What I'd like to see is a law making it compulsory to vote, with the loss of access to state benefits for those who don't comply. That would ensure that whatever government we get it is one that better represents the views of the majority of the citizens of this country. In the long run it would also save some money, and that can never be a bad thing, can it?


    What on Earth is the point in forcing someone to vote who is either not interested, or for whatever reason doesn't want to? And, what on Earth would be the value of such a vote? Apart from anything else, it would be likely to result at the very least in a pile of spoilt ballot papers or mischevously cast votes.

    Unless, of course you are just looking for an excuse to stop the benefits of people who already feel, and to some extent are, disenfrancised.

    Why not just stop the benefits and take the flak? Is that really the law that you'd most like to see? It seems rather a small, mean, cowardly thing to do.

  • Comment number 35.

    The human rights issue is a mess and in my opinion needs re-visiting as it feels as though it was written for a different age than we are now living in.

    Good luck to them with the scrapping of ID cards, the reduction in CCTV etc... These all cost money and have grown to quickly and to great.

    Finding it hard to read the paragraph on the Lords. Is it me or is it not the best bit of grammer. Maybe some punctuation in there would assist...

  • Comment number 36.

    I notice all of a sudden the BBC have become very sneering of civil liberties. Why might that be? Oh hang on, their lefty paymasters are no longer in power.

    I want every piece of legislation brought in by Liebour to be thrown out.

    The BBC might have forgotten but we haven't Seeing Walter Wolfgang being dragged from the Liebour party conference by Liebour's goon Police squads using Terrorism legislation has to be the lowest point in our nations history (along with the other great Liebour idea, the invasion of Iraq and Campbell's dodgy dossier)

  • Comment number 37.

    The Alternative Vote system would ensure that no one can be elected without at least 50% support of the voters.

    That sounds fair, doesn't it? But in fact it is not.

    The system favours the party that comes third!

    It's very unlikely that Labour or Tory voters would ever nominate one another as their second choice. A Labour voter is more likely to put Lib-Dem as their second choice. Tories may do the same. So if neither Labour nor Tories win an outright majority, the Lib Dems will probably take the seat.

    No wonder Clegg is in favour.

    The Alternative Vote is a recipe for making sure the smallest group gets elected.

  • Comment number 38.

    "All parties agree on Lords' reform", says Mr. Clegg. But do all voters? I certainly don't! I kind of like our quaint old customs. The problem is that with or without the LibDems, we wouldn't have a Conservative government. The only true young Conservative left is William Hague.

  • Comment number 39.

    What might be good is to actually give the Davnics a fair shot at trying for reform, I am just tired of political hacks ranting and trying to find or make trouble.
    We badly need some reforms, lets also start with the TV tax, reduce it to a fair level and no prison for those unable to pay, in fact it could go completely were the wages and expences brought under control...

  • Comment number 40.

    #10. At 3:31pm on 19 May 2010, hadrianswall wrote:

    "Biggest reform since 1832? Bigger than votes for women then?"

    Indeed it will be, considering that votes for women only effected ~50% of the population, less if anyone under the age of majority are taken out of the equation, and because the changes since the reform act of 1832, if this "Brave new world" actually becomes a reality it is likely to be bigger that that 1832 act in some respect - on a people affected bases.

  • Comment number 41.

    13 VoR

    It will still be one more UK wide referendum than Labour managed, after promising many!!

    While we have tribal party politics nothing is ever going to be for the "good of the UK"

    How about this for political reform, in today's technological age it should not be beyond the wit of man, that for a fixed period before any parliamentary vote, registered voters in a constituency can complete electronic vote to instruct their MP to vote the way the majority in that constituency wants, not what the whips want. Now that's democracy!!

    The only probelem being that it is a small minority in the UK who want to practice democracy, the rest follow the pack.

  • Comment number 42.

    15. At 3:53pm on 19 May 2010, emily wrote:

    "I agree with rolling back the erosion of civil liberties. Labour had a shocking civil liberties record and I am glad to see that addressed. As for the accused men who are not to be deported... find a way to prosecute. If they have done what is said why release them to disappear somewhere in Pakistan? Put them through a trial, prove their guilt, jail them."

    Cough - how to utterly contridict ones self in less than 70 words!

    So you really want the government, MI5/6 and the Police to start changing the law to fit the evidance do you?...

  • Comment number 43.

    19. At 4:04pm on 19 May 2010, Voice_of_Reason wrote:

    "The ContactPoint Database? Am I the only one that thinks there will be a huge outcry if we get a string of major cases of child abuse that could have been prevented by the use of this database?"

    Who should we blame, should this intrusive (and expendable [1]) database not prevent such abuse - will the excuses of "well that data wasn't in the data base so I didn't bother checking" be a worthy excuse?

    [1] this database is, apart from the ID card and DNA databases, the single highest future risk of civil liberties, far to tempting to then extend and keep these records after the person reaches the age of 16, 17 or 18 years of age, and of course because they people will have grown up with the knowledge that their personal information is on a government database they are highly likely just to accept another part of the "Big Brother" surveillance state - which is what I suspect the real purpose of this ContactPoint Database, using the fear of child abuse as the point of sale...

  • Comment number 44.

    #324 AndyC555 - previous thread

    "This 'fact' exists only in your fevered imagination."

    And in the budgets at the time. But don't let real evidence get in the way of your rant. Oh sorry - your too lazy to look it up - I forgot.

    "And if they had 'closed the deficit' (i.e. carried on racking up debt but at a slightly slower rate) how exactly were they going to pay the debt off? Remember, the magic money tree only exists in LaLaLabour land, not the real world."

    Historically debt levels were not that high and were sustainable at the levels suggested in those budgets at the time.

    Its only since the collapse in revenues, the reduction in the size of the economy and expansion of the deficit that we have run into real difficulties. That all means that debt has increased higher than would have been advisable and our means to pay it back has decreased.

    Hence the need for larger spending cuts and tax rises than would have been necessary originally.

    It amuses me that you make out as though Britain never had a debt under the Tories - complete rubbish - the Tories ran up a massive debt in the 90's which as a share of GDP was more unsustainable than the debt that we held in 2005/2006.

    Again - I don't expect you to understand this as you are plainly economically illiterate.

    "I'll ask (again) where your proof is."

    I'll answer you again - IN THE BUDGETS - go look it up. You really are very repetitive and dull.

    "You'll (again) ignore my request."

    By which you mean - I will again answer and you will ignore my answer. I shall of course stop responding to your comments as frankly you don't even notice when I have answered.

    I do wonder what Liberal Dave's spending cuts and tax rises will be next year. Perhaps he will increase Inheritance Tax or the top rate of tax to help with redistributing wealth during such hard times.

    It'll be fun to watch him try and help the poorest sections of society whilst he gets stabbed in the back by his own MP's for turning his back on the middle-classes.

    What is particularly good to see is that the whole right-wing argument about 'trickle down' has been fundamentally discredited over the years to such a point that very few Tories mention it.

    Maybe we should start talking about trickle up?

    First time Labour has lost an election and we end up with a social-democratic Prime Minister - oh the joy. :-)

  • Comment number 45.

    27. At 4:19pm on 19 May 2010, Voice_of_Reason wrote:

    "So if the Tories and Lib Dems join together (more than 55% remember) and vote to dissolve parliament then we don't get a fixed term.

    So how does that stop the coalition from 'cynically picking the date to maximise their own advantage'??"


    But would it dissolve parliament or just the coalition, and even if it did do the former do you honestly think that the electorate would not see through the fact that the government had voted against confidence in it's self. Talk about committing self-sacrifice!

  • Comment number 46.

    Oh dear, 2 posts removed. Seems we haven't recovered freedom of speech.

    I shan't bother to repost mods, I've got better things to do with my time.

    Off now for a few cooling beers, unless that is in some way contrary to the supposed ethos of this blog?

  • Comment number 47.

    183. andy c55 from prev blog
    Quite why you want to bring my recently deceased Dad into a conversation on tax I have no idea. Quite how you come to have have the ignorance to suggest I am insulting him is perhaps less surprising.
    Considering his extraordinarily humble beginnings, my Dad was a roaring success. First in his family to own his own house, first in his family to send children to university (all 4 of us). We now all have professional jobs. He brought up 4 'working class' children and died with 7 'middle class' grandchildren. He did it all without sitting and whining and expecting the state to do it all for him.
    --------------------------
    Exactly why I brought your dad up andy. Because its a classic example of your inane right wing drivel. I mean, you are on here continously flying the flag for the wealthy and castigating anyone who suggests looking out for the low paid. You continuosly use pathetic extreme arguments to make your points. What was it the other day....camps and vouchers for those on benefits.
    So its quite simple andy.
    In your own description above you have insinuated that middle class is better than working class. Of course you never ever mention in your posts anything about personality, empathy, love, helping others etc etc etc. Personally I judge people on who they are not what they earn.
    you suggest that success = wealth (full stop) but cannot see the contradiction with your dad being on a modest income as a bus conductor. But of course in this instance, this was a roaring success.
    You also spend your working life advising and finding ways for the wealthy to avoid paying tax. And then apparently you give a small donation to shelter every month. A sort of helping hand up followed by a kick in the teeth (tax revenues help to provide essential services, especially for those in most need).
    All very contradictory and souless. And you are in danger of turning into a laughing-stock like gerry mandering (if not already).

  • Comment number 48.

    VOR 13

    Eh ??

    So your line of attack is now that the Tories are getting it all their own way and the Lib Dems are having to pass up all their election promises. What happened to Liberal Dave? Where's he gone?

    One piece of advice. If you're going to play the old Labour trick of saying something ad nauseam so that no matter how daft it is people end up accepting it, you need to stick with a consistent line. You know, no 'more boom and bust', 'prudent with a purpose'. No use saying 'prudent with a purpose' one moment and then 'pissing money away with a purpose' the next.

    You're best bet is probably to stick to the 'Liberal Dave caving in wholesale to the Lib Dems' line. No need to thank me.

  • Comment number 49.

    33. At 4:45pm on 19 May 2010, Susan-Croft wrote:

    "If this Coalition keeps breaking promises to the public, as on the HRA, I think there will be much trouble ahead."

    Did the coalition make any such promise? Yes the Tories did, they made it a manifesto pledge, but then didn't win an outright majority so any chance of repealing the HRA went out of the window on election night.

    I get the feeling that many Tory supporters want/seem to think that the Libdems should be sleeping partners, sorry, get real that 'ant going to happen, compromise (for now) is the name of the new kid in town. Cameron might well have fired up the Audi Quarto but it sure isn't 'back to the '80s' and thumping majority to do as they please.

  • Comment number 50.

    'for example more money and power to local councils, voluntary bodies and individuals'

    The best way of passing power to individuals is to let them keep more of their own money. Something both Labour and Lib Dems are opposed to.

  • Comment number 51.

    the hipocrisy of this coalition will get worse and worse. Especially when we see meat on the bone rather than empty vagueness. fed up with this grandstanding, pandering to the concerns of the huge differences in the political views between lib dems and CONservatives. this honeymoon period is going to be super short....they cant talk but do nothing for ever. come on.... DETAIL mr clegg. DETAIL Mr cameron.

  • Comment number 52.

    VOR 44

    'the Tories ran up a massive debt in the 90's which as a share of GDP was more unsustainable than the debt that we held in 2005/2006'

    The Tories ran up a debt immediately after the recession. Labour were running up a debt more than 15 years after the recession ended. Can you spot the difference ? I'm not going to give you any help this time.

  • Comment number 53.

    #43 Boilerplated

    "[1] this database is, apart from the ID card and DNA databases, the single highest future risk of civil liberties, far to tempting to then extend and keep these records after the person reaches the age of 16, 17 or 18 years of age, and of course because they people will have grown up with the knowledge that their personal information is on a government database they are highly likely just to accept another part of the "Big Brother" surveillance state - which is what I suspect the real purpose of this ContactPoint Database, using the fear of child abuse as the point of sale..."

    Hmmm - thats the argument I always hear about with civil liberties - people worried about 'what some potential future government' may do with the data.

    So far I have seen little justification for this kind of paranoia.

    Its like the people who believe in conspiracy theories and UFO's. People need to chill and ask the sensible questions.

    Is it useful? If the answer is No then reform it or get rid of it.

    If the answer is Yes then lets use it.

    I mean come on 'the Big Brother surveillance society'!!! Da Da DAAA!!!

    Its like some kind of hammer horror film. George Orwell did write a cautionary tale but you don't have to assume automatically that all governments are 'out to get you'. Or that we will soon be living in a Stalinist style dictatorship.

    How about we assume that many of these things are there for the very thing the governments have said they are there for : helping reduce crime and prosecute criminals or helping protect vulnerable children.

    Thats not to say we shouldn't review their effectiveness - but maybe we could look at them without the melodrama of 'the world will end if someone has my name on a database'.

    I mean - Wake up and smell the 21st Century where more and more information is available about every aspect of peoples lives every single day. I'm not talking about government now - I'm talking about companies and I'm talking about the internet.

    Does the government holding my DNA worry me? No - Becuse I've never committed a crime.

    Does the government holding my info on a database worry me? No - they already have me on lots of databases as do so many companies.

    Or my kids info? No - they'd better get used to it.

    Does the government placing CCTV in various places to prevent crime worry me? No - see answer 1

  • Comment number 54.

    susan @ LP

    "I have to be perfectly honest and say, I heard Clegg's speech and thought it was a lot of hot air."

    But do you, Susan? Do you really have to be quite so brutally (and perfectly) honest the whole time? What about dressing things up slightly now and again? ... you know, sugar coating the grim news a little bit?

  • Comment number 55.

    VOR 44

    'It'll be fun to watch him try and help the poorest sections of society whilst he gets stabbed in the back by his own MP's for turning his back on the middle-classes.'

    Yes, you've got the idea. Now just stick with that line a few thousand more times and we'll all long since have tired of pointing out how daft you are.

  • Comment number 56.

    The speach was a Joke. How is this possibly the biggest shake up since the vote was extended to those men with more thand £10 of land!

    What about the vote being extended to all men?
    What about the vote being extended to all?
    What about the crown's surrender of Foreign Policy to Parliment?

    Clegg should read some history!

    Most of todays announcements was what he wasn't going to do, and even the things he will do may not change anything!

    Does anyone think he'll win a referendum? Even if it does studies show the governments since the war would be identical! Only the 1997 opposition would change (to the lib dems)

    Oh and not long after he talks about needing to clamp down on CCTV an manhunt is launched in scotland for a murderer basied on CCTV footage. But never mind, who cares if less criminals are caught!

  • Comment number 57.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 58.

    #48 jobsagoodin

    "So your line of attack is now that the Tories are getting it all their own way and the Lib Dems are having to pass up all their election promises. What happened to Liberal Dave? Where's he gone?"

    He's Prime Minister - did no-one tell you?

    Liberal Dave though is socially liberal and couldn't give two hoots about political reform - he's just given that as a watered down sop to Tory Nick.

    "One piece of advice. If you're going to play the old Labour trick of saying something ad nauseam so that no matter how daft it is people end up accepting it, you need to stick with a consistent line. You know, no 'more boom and bust', 'prudent with a purpose'. No use saying 'prudent with a purpose' one moment and then 'pissing money away with a purpose' the next."

    Ahh yes - the Tory idea that you can only have one policy at once and repeat it forever.

    It's developed either because the Tories think the electorate are too stupid to understand complex issues or because they don't understand complex issues themselves.

    Here's a revelation for you - it IS possible to make 2 arguments at the same time.

    Go have a sit down and think about it.

    "You're best bet is probably to stick to the 'Liberal Dave caving in wholesale to the Lib Dems' line. No need to thank me."

    Well it has the benefit of being true.

    Your right - there is no need to thank you.

  • Comment number 59.

    Nick,

    I think most reasonable people would like this coalition to succeed to give the country stability, certainly at least for a few years anyway.

    However, there is so many U-turns in the coalitions it seems almost impossible for it to last the distance.

    There appears to be contradictions in every department in Whitehall and as each day passes it seems we are edging closer to the collapse of this coalition.

    Do you not think the media has a responsibility to encourage a stable government and at least give it a chance to succeed? All these "eating your words" comments will bring this coalition government down sooner or later and then what?

  • Comment number 60.

    48. jobsagoodin
    i know what you mean. my favourite is george osbornes "were all in this together". a bigger load of cods you will never hear... lol

  • Comment number 61.

    47 - Leftie, the only laughing stocks here are you and VofR.

    I've never said that wealth is the ONLY measure of success. But it's one. Or does the bile in you mean you have to deny even that?

    "Personally I judge people on who they are" unless of course they went to a 'posh' school where your prejudice blinds you to anything else about them.

    "In your own description above you have insinuated that middle class is better than working class" They generally have a better standard of living. What would you wish on your children? A life on the dole on a sink housing estate or a professional job and a home in the suburbs? Unless you're so class bound you thnk the former is somehow 'noble'?

    "You also spend your working life advising and finding ways for the wealthy to avoid paying tax." Quite legally. Do YOU go around organising your tax affairs in the LEAST tax efficient way? Course you don't but you hypocritically criticise me for helping clients do what you do.

    I suppose the problem is you've no idea what you're talking about when it comes to tax planning. 90% of what I do is simply making sure my clients don't nake mistakes that the over-officios taxman is only to keen to pounce on.

    Once again you miss the point. Anyone who works hard gets my approval. Anyone who sits around moaning and whining and asking why the state isn't doing everything for them does not.

    You sound like a whiner by proxy. Probably whining on behalf of people who wish you'd just go away and let them get on with bettering themselves.

  • Comment number 62.

    #51 "the hipocrisy of this coalition will get worse and worse. Especially when we see meat on the bone rather than empty vagueness. fed up with this grandstanding, pandering to the concerns of the huge differences in the political views between lib dems and CONservatives. this honeymoon period is going to be super short....they cant talk but do nothing for ever. come on.... DETAIL mr clegg. DETAIL Mr cameron."

    Its been just over 1 week. Give them a break! Next time you start a new job I'd bet you'd be pretty annoyed at people expecting you to change and excel what you did in your first week... Stop being so ridiculous!

  • Comment number 63.

    I still don't understand how and why we allow MPs to decide their own election rules. MPs simply cannot be trusted to act in any way other than self interest on this topic.

    We have some form of PR for the European elections, London Assembly, Welsh Assembly and the Scottish Parliament, yet when it comes to their own jobs, Tory and Labour MPs cynically insist on FPTP (or AV). The Lib Dems, equally cynically, support STV which only benefits them.

    71.2% of votes in this election were wasted (i.e. for losing candidates or surplus to requirements for winners). There are two million voters without any representation of their political views.

    Isn't it time we had a referendum on real reform instead of a referendum on AV that no one wants?

  • Comment number 64.

    VOR 58

    'Well it has the benefit of being true.'

    Following my advice already. Great. Thanks would have been nice but it isn't really that important.

    Just remember now, it's Liberal Dave caving into the Lib Dems, not the other way around. I know it's easy to get confused so I'll try and keep you straight if you stray from that line.

  • Comment number 65.

    37. At 4:58pm on 19 May 2010, DistantTraveller wrote:

    The Alternative Vote system would ensure that no one can be elected without at least 50% support of the voters.

    That sounds fair, doesn't it? But in fact it is not.

    The system favours the party that comes third!

    It's very unlikely that Labour or Tory voters would ever nominate one another as their second choice. A Labour voter is more likely to put Lib-Dem as their second choice. Tories may do the same. So if neither Labour nor Tories win an outright majority, the Lib Dems will probably take the seat.

    No wonder Clegg is in favour.

    The Alternative Vote is a recipe for making sure the smallest group gets elected.
    ====================================
    And UKIP would give their votes to ?
    The BNP would give their votes to?
    What about a Lab/Tory marginal. As you may have guessed by now, not all Lib Dem supporters are pro Tory - and strangely Not all are Pro Labour.

    I agree AV is not a good system -because it's NOT PROPORTIONAL. It's a half way house that can be implemented without changes to the constituencies.
    If you'd taken the time to research, you'd be aware of the fact that the Liberals wanted Single Transferrable Vote (STV)which may still favour the "Less antagonistic, less polarised" parties - but it's a far sight more representative than FPTP

  • Comment number 66.

    UK Government has spent the past twenty years demonstrating the very definition of mission creep.

    They should do a few simple things very well but instead they have found new ways to exercise their power getting involved in all areas of our lives. If you were cynical you could think this as a procession of actions which promote Marxist view of the State as family and final arbiter of what is right for us, however, I also think it could just be that lazy people, confronted with problems just ask what the government is going to do about it and politicians, too frightened to say no, look for resolutions to problems for which they have little or no mandate.

    If Nick Clegg can repeal (if that's the correct phrase) many of these laws,unwanted departments and quangos and get us back to simple and effective government then good luck to him.

  • Comment number 67.

    #64 jobsagoodin

    "Just remember now, it's Liberal Dave caving into the Lib Dems, not the other way around. I know it's easy to get confused so I'll try and keep you straight if you stray from that line."

    Thanks Mum

  • Comment number 68.

    61. andyc555
    I suppose the problem is you've no idea what you're talking about when it comes to tax planning. 90% of what I do is simply making sure my clients don't nake mistakes that the over-officios taxman is only to keen to pounce on.
    -------------------
    trouble is andy....you write so much rubbish you are forgetting what you have written. wasnt long ago you were bragging about how you had worked out a scheme where your clients who should be paying 50% would only pay approx 10%. i mean if you want me to find it and post it back to you...just let me know.


    I've never said that wealth is the ONLY measure of success. But it's one. Or does the bile in you mean you have to deny even that?
    -----------------
    again when pushed you forget what you have written and then try and soften/adjust it


    "In your own description above you have insinuated that middle class is better than working class" They generally have a better standard of living. What would you wish on your children? A life on the dole on a sink housing estate or a professional job and a home in the suburbs? Unless you're so class bound you thnk the former is somehow 'noble'?
    -----------------
    again you are so narrow minded you believe you are right and assume what i think too. of course you then use extreme arguements. you are so proud that you have gone from working class to middle class. i
    i will be telling my kids to work hard so they can find a job they enjoy doing. also be telling them about how to treat others and about respect. lots of other stuff too....but nothing about the importance of being in a social class apparently above others.


    You sound like a whiner by proxy. Probably whining on behalf of people who wish you'd just go away and let them get on with bettering themselves.
    -----------------
    i believe in striving for more equality in society. you know andy. the millions who work hard and get paid minimum wage or just over. but you only see those on sink estates. the classic moronic tory default line, completely missing the point. i say pay a higher minimum wage and generally increase wages at the bottom for those millions of hard workers. and you reply about people on the dole and sink esates.
    moron.

  • Comment number 69.

    62. pete.
    Its been just over 1 week. Give them a break! Next time you start a new job I'd bet you'd be pretty annoyed at people expecting you to change and excel what you did in your first week... Stop being so ridiculous!

    ----------------------
    its just a smoke screen. behind the scenes they are still negotiating. i mean how stupid can anyone be to think a party of centre right and right can work with a party centre left and left. the reason why i wont give them a break is because its just a con and it wont work.

  • Comment number 70.

    Liberal Dave picks another fight with the right-wing backbenchers in his own party.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/8693078.stm

    Maybe he should just eject the 'bstards' (as John Major called them) from his party and be done with it. Trouble is there are probably a hundred of them....oh dear.

  • Comment number 71.

    @PortcullisGate,
    I think that it is a little premature to complain that under a PR system we would always have the Lib Dems deciding the Government. It was only a few weeks ago that the idea of a Tory-Lib Dem coalition was unthinkable and the right wingers were complaining that PR would lead to a permanent Lib/Lab coalition Government.

    Firstly, under PR people would change the way they vote (look at the Euro elections). There is no accurate way to predict what the political landscape would look like, but we would have UKIP and Green MPs thrown into the equation too. Hopefully there would also be some new parties with fresh ideas too.

    Secondly, if the public get fed up with the Lib Dems deciding the Government, they will simply stop voting for them.

    For the moment, I am very happy that they are trying some grown-up cooperative Government instead of the playground name calling and points scoring that we have been left with for as long as I can remember. If PR makes our politicians work together instead of against each other, I am all for it.

  • Comment number 72.

    Timid stuff dressed as radicalism.

    How about abolishing the monarchy and having an elected Head of State? How about doing away with A levels as the gold standard (i.e. class barrier) in school education? How about re-instating the grammar schools in line with their original aim of meritocracy and social mobility? What about providing truly accessible social housing and eliminating homelessness? And then re-nationalising the railways to provide the backbone of a truly green transport policy? And bringing the troops home now from Afghanistan while teaming up with Mr Obama to bring peace in Israel and Palestine?

    Just a few really radical suggestions :-)

  • Comment number 73.

    71. AnthonyButcher.
    example 1.
    mp 1. i definately want to join the euro if conditions are right.
    mp 2. i never ever want to join the euro.

    quick chat and a few minutes later.

    mp 1 and 2.
    together.....we both definately never want to join the euro.


    summarised later by nick turncoat.


    we want to join the euro but the time is not right. it might be right to say that we never ever want to join the euro but if the time is right we may discus it and join although we may never join.


    expect alot more of this in the months to come..........


  • Comment number 74.

    jobs @ 50,

    "The best way of passing power to individuals is to let them keep more of their own money."

    No.

    The power of money comes from how much of it you have relative to others - it's different to the power of love in this respect. Ergo, if you're really interested in empowerment you're interested in redistribution.

    Also bad news to talk about people's "own" money in the sense you're doing it because it's equating tax with theft ... the bug eyed "rifle on the porch" small state hang up.

    Sorry, babe.

  • Comment number 75.

    JPSLotus79@ 2.54

    "Isnt it refreshing to have a Government serious about getting the State out of Peoples lives."

    Is that why we have a fixed 5 year Parliament when the People were crying out for a 4 year term as in the USA (with no PM allowed more than two terms.) And a Secetariat that cannot be evicted on a Vote of Confidence on a simple majority of one "against" vote.

    What will come next, "Presidente for Life"

    We are about to be controllled and oppressed even more.

  • Comment number 76.

    Our democratic system is just fine as it is. The only malcontents wanting change are the Liberals and they want it for blindingly obvious self-interest not for the good of the country. Luckily they will be annihilated next chance and the baloney will be over. Clegg talking big when he is a Johnny-come-lately nobody who did badly to boot in the election is ridiculous. Simon Heffer is right: Cameron is no Conservative. I'm glad I voted UKIP.

  • Comment number 77.


    I believe we need to re-evaluate much more than cutting costs and releasing an overbearing state. I believe we need to discover a saner basis for living together on this planet. Workability is not mere expediency - it is the hallmark of wisdom. To invite and support processes of trust and communication - in a society that has eroded its own foundations - is a good start.

    I envision a process of change and cultural renewal is underway that can not be the continuation of the politics of the last century. Economic constraints will be a constraining factor - but desire and joy for life must be the motive force. I believe this will become more obvious as it is seen that the old approaches simply can no longer work.

    Everyone presumes that structure is fixed - but when the spirit goes out of structure it becomes a force against new life instead of serving it. Renewal is necessary - but it has to come out of a process of our own lives and cant just force 'good ideas' upon life.

    There is much about our mentality writ large on western society - that is mean minded, self seeking and destructive or at least self undermining. Blaming others is a mechanism to let everyone else remain unchanged - but what we need is a true process of education.

    Political changes can express and yet also nurture an organic process of change. There is a need for a deeper level of self honesty and responsibility than many may want. A true accounting must start from a better place than the distorted models that are not at all serving us well.
    Nick Clegg has set a tone - now respond by joining - by engaging - not with the cynical politics of mere opinion or managed despair - but with desire to discover what our times are bringing forth.

    Change can be creatively or gracefully cooperated with - or it can be like seismic shifts that undermine even our fundamental structural securities. Because of the debt funded spin bubble - we are still like the cartoon character who has run off the cliff - but has yet to look down.

    I am optimistic because of the nature of the human spirit- not because I believe human egocentricity has somehow disappeared. Fear is NOT the basis upon which to make decisions - especially concerning potentially fearful outcomes.

  • Comment number 78.

    All agreements should be equal in both ways, no more situations where the US can simply refuse to introduce their half of an extradition treaty.

    No more situations where people can be neither deported nor locked up. If they are a problem and not British then let them choose between jail or deportation.

  • Comment number 79.

    Did Mr Clegg mean he wanted to take us back to before 1832 ? A Government that can't be forced out even if it loses a confidence vote, another 100+ peers to ram through coalition legislation, a parliament fixed for 5 years (what's wrong with 4 years, what Govt has ever done any good in it's 5th year ?). We already know they'll change boundaries to suit themselves.
    Not very liberal or democratic is it Mr Deputy PM ?

  • Comment number 80.

    re #240 and #264 from Human Rights and Wrongs [Saga & Penny]

    Yep, I would be very happy to be paying top rate income tax at 65% - right now and at any time in my working life.

  • Comment number 81.

    So much wind about nothing. What powers are the terrible twins giving away?
    They are proposing to cement themselves into power for the next five years "like it or not" (Chris Huhne's words specifically referring to public reaction to this plan).
    David Cameron is proposing to liberate the 1922 committee from backbencher control in the name of "one party". Lenin had a similar line.
    Human Rights will disappear to be replaced by the "Rights" David and Nick think we deserve.
    And so on.
    Now forgive me for repeating an earlier blog, but by applying accuracy to the historical record rather than the PR man's imagination, we find that those nasty, power hungry New Labour people actually surrendered power to the Scots and Welsh assemblies, set up machinery for local Mayors, and surrendered interest rate control to the Bank of England. Now some of these ideas may have failed, may have been daft even, and Labour certainly moved away from this process, but they were genuine instances of a new government giving power away, unlike the delusion being pedalled by Mr Cameron and his Deputy.

    Bah, humbug!

  • Comment number 82.

    53. At 6:16pm on 19 May 2010, Voice_of_Reason wrote:

    [re the state and "Big Brother" databases]

    "So far I have seen little justification for this kind of paranoia."

    Of course you haven't, because in the UK (thus far) we have always managed to pull back from the brink, but I bet if you asked someone who had lived in the old GDR you would be able to write a thesis on such justification in very short order.

    Never so blind as those who do not want to see...

  • Comment number 83.

    63. At 6:55pm on 19 May 2010, AnthonyButcher wrote:

    "Isn't it time we had a referendum on real reform instead of a referendum on AV that no one wants?"

    Sorry to say but quite frankly I doubt that even a referendum on AV will be much of a success, it might be possible to educate enough of the electorate what AV is and how it works (AV being the next simplest form of voting after FPTP) to give a representative sample but start expanding the issues and all that will happen is utter confusion.

    A workable referendum should only have Yes/No question, not a "maybe" or a multiple choice selection.

  • Comment number 84.

    #65 CynicallyPreserved

    "I agree AV is not a good system -because it's NOT PROPORTIONAL. It's a half way house that can be implemented without changes to the constituencies."

    AV is certainly NOT a good system - instead of giving us a 'fairer' outcome, it is likely to skew results in favour of the smaller party that comes third for reasons given (#37)

    You say "If you'd taken the time to research, you'd be aware of the fact that the Liberals wanted Single Transferrable Vote (STV)"

    Not sure why you think I haven't done my 'research'.

    Whatever the Lib-Dems may have wanted, AV is all that is now on offer under the coalition.

    I don't support PR, but I acknowledge there are arguments for and against. I think you are correct that some misguided people think AV is a 'halfway house', but in fact it is the worst possible option. Full PR would produce a fairer and more representative result - although it inevitably leads to coalitions, horse-trading, deals behind closed doors, extremist parties holding others to ransom etc etc.

  • Comment number 85.

    # 74 Saga

    "Ergo, if you're really interested in empowerment you're interested in redistribution."

    Faulty logic I think. I am certainly interested in 'empowerment' - but genuine empowerment brought about by providing conditions for growth that enable people to make progress in their own way, in the manner of their own choosing.

    This is in direct opposition to the classic socialist approach, to impose conditions that actually prevent people from generating their own wealth.

    Your definition of 'empowerment through redistribution' is actually a form of disempowerment.

  • Comment number 86.

    Boilerplated 49

    Who mentioned the 1980s, certainly not me, that must be your obsession not mine.

    In this case it is the Conservatives that broke a manifesto promise but the Lib/Dems have as well. The public will just see that what they voted for, has not been delivered, particularly in England, which was most definitely Conservative. The Coalition means nothing to them as obviously in England this was not what they voted for. In Scotland, Wales they did not vote for it either. So this idea that people voted for a Coalition is just not true. So really it is yourself who needs to get real, and realise people did not vote for a coalition, they voted along the usual tribal lines. Just because Britain has a cobbled together Union, does not mean that people in each Country will accept just what the politicians want them to. If this was a true representation of the people it would be a Conservative and Labour Coalition not the Lib/Dems who came third.

    However, on this particular issue it is the Conservatives that cannot deliver the HRA reform not because the Lib/Dems are in bed with them and it was a policy they were forced to drop. HRA is something, as I have said in previous posts, the public wanted to see reform on. This will indeed play very badly with the public. Both the Lib/Dems and the Conservatives criticized Labour for the HRA and its inability to deal with particularly those they wanted to deport, when they were in opposition. Now in Government neither can do anything about it. So really it is not about the manifesto, it is more about what politicians say they will do in opposition and do not do when they are in Government.

    Your anti Conservative rhetoric is wasted on me. It just establishes your politics not mine. I will continue to say exactly what I believe to be true, whichever party is the receiver of the criticism. However, it has to be said that the Conservatives are the larger party and did have the more credible plans to get Britain out of this debt crisis. The public put the Lib/Dems third because of their extreme and unworkable policies, despite the supposed love affair with Clegg. If now more Lib/Dem policies are to be adopted than the Conservative ones this would seem a very poor representation of the outcome of the election. Just because the situation suits your idea of Government, is no reason to force it on the rest of us.


  • Comment number 87.

    Thursday, 20 May 2010

    Rt Hon Nick Clegg - Lord President of the Council

    Cc: The Secretary of Wales Rt Hon Cheryl Gillan

    Dear Lord President,

    I refer you your comments reported in the media concerning reform and your invitation for public feedback.

    My personal situation arose because I complained about the treatment of disadvantaged students; details are included in the objections that I have sent to Mr Berry concerning the University of Wales Lampeter. I fully appreciate that you may not be able to comment while these matters are under consideration. However, I draw your attention to these objections, as you will probably need to make future decisions based upon their contents.

    Unfortunately, any student expressing dissent that challenges discrimination against the disadvantaged, failure of compliance with procedures, maladministration, and standards in public life, can expect to be victimised to the point of costing them their career and only massive debts to show for an act of public service. Moreover, I am reliably informed from other campaigners that this is common practice in many universities.

    While it is easy to identify legislation that overtly impinges on our freedoms, what has gone unnoticed is covert deregulation by leaving out references to our rights of challenge and inquiry when legislation is repealed. For instance, the Public Audit (Wales) Act 2004 repealed the Local Government Act 2000 and omitted the power of the Auditor General for Wales to intervene and take over the running of a higher education institution (HEI) on the grounds of financial mismanagement. This is an example of our rights being eroded by stealth.

    Then there is fatally flawed legislation such as the Higher Education Act 2004 that introduced the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education, known as the OIA. What was omitted was a duty on the OIA to make inquiries into failures of procedures and compliance with the information and discrimination laws. While there is the Office of the Information Commissioner and the Equality and Human Rights Commission many complaints are deliberately delayed so they are out of time for the ICO or EHRC to take appropriate action. When the Act was passed, the government said there was no evidence for any further measures being necessary, that is because students are humiliated, made to feel worthless, and subjected to gagging orders.

    The public has been given that illusion that universities are subjected to the same vigorous regulation as other educational establishments such as schools. The university regulator the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA), which advises governments, is a registered charity with no statutory duties and exempt from the information laws. They are only accountable to Vice Chancellors associations and respective English or Welsh Higher Education Funding Councils who have a memorandum of understanding to provide value for money with no public scrutiny via respective National Audit Offices. The only contribution the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW) has made regarding its statutory duties and uphold Standards in Public Life is to subject me to David Kelly style character assignation to discredit my complaints and conceal their failure to act. While I have received an apology, it does not compensate me for the loss of being able to resolve these issues and the apparent influence on the QAA to ignore my complaints.

    Moreover, the autonomy of higher education institutions means they any issue of concerns about finance, management, or failure of procedures by the QAA can be, and are, ignored. The QAA has a Cause for Concern procedure open to students but from experience it is so restricting it falls short of acceptable standards and the requirements of the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998. Like many procedures, it is for display purposes only and any student using it is going to be very disappointed.

    The QAA has a five-stage complaints procedure but from my experience stage one was ignored, stage two by the director of reviews entailed writing to ask some very silly questions, and as he failed to provide a reply within fifty days, it has progressed to the Chief Executive who has not bothered to send any acknowledgement. Complaints are being ignored placing vulnerable students at risk to preserve public reputations.

    The only good news is that due to my lobbying I have persuaded the Charity Commission to act as regulator for Welsh universities under the Charity Act 2006. They take up their duties in June 2010 where upon I will make formal complaints about the University of Wales, the University of Wales Lampeter, Trinity University College, and the QAA. If upheld not only will these institutions risk losing their charitable status, in the case of the QAA, which is a more vulnerable Schedule 1 Charity it could leave England and Wales without a university regulator.

    I have a Peoples Petition on Public Accountability and Consultation in Higher Education before the Petitions Committee of the Welsh Assembly that is still waiting for a reply from the Education Minister to a letter I sent in December 2009. I am of the opinion that a reply is being withheld for political reasons and to conceal the failure of Ministers to address these issues and of Assembly Members to challenge the executive.

    Lastly, there is the Privy Council itself, the Senior Clerk Mr Berry has quite rightly advised me that the Privy Council cannot make any inquiries into my objections to giving approval for the University of Wales Lampeter, to change its Articles of Government for to do so would be unlawful. I suggest that the law is changed to allow the Council to refer objections to a Committee or better still a University Commission for further inquiry so that it can make fully informed decisions based upon independent advice.

    I would be very happy to present evidence in support of these issues to an appropriate Commons Committee for further inquiry. I suggest this is only a small part of a major problem in that certain sections of society claim ‘nothing works’ and proposals for reform to succeed they must address the much needed role back of the power of state institutions, quango’s such as higher education funding councils, and autonomous public spending bodies. The old adage about power tends to corrupt has produce an unaccountable elite that flouts the rules and the law with impunity creating a disconnection between government and the people.

    This would bring justice to students and address their vulnerability concerning tuition fees which leaves them open to exploitation, abuses of power, and sexual predation for which there is no effective means of redress. It would also address the mindset that discriminates against the disadvantaged, and give real power and responsibility to individuals and their communities. Moreover, we can encourage disaffected sections of society to use the political process to express their dissent as our universities are educating young people into the belief that playing it by the rules is a total waste of time. Anger and resentment against the establishment is displaced and expressed against more vulnerable targets and could lead to students being radicalised.

  • Comment number 88.

    Boilerplated said:
    " A workable referendum should only have Yes/No question, not a "maybe" or a multiple choice selection."

    I agree completely. However, I just don't know who is actually going to campaign for a Yes vote in a referendum on AV. Neither of the governing parties had AV in their manifesto, and the Labour party only put it is theirs to look like reformers (most still want FPTP). The Tories even intend to campaign for a No vote.

    Electoral reform campaigners won't support a yes vote either in any great numbers because AV is such a let down. It could be a total flop and a waste of a referendum.

    We need a referendum on a system that will actually get people interested and excited. There are plenty to choose from: AV+ AMS, TR and RTU. We already use AMS extensively in this country.

 

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