Let’s hear it for partisan politics

by Stephen Tall on November 7, 2005

Charles Kennedy often gets a bad press from within and without the Liberal Democrat fold. So let’s also give credit where it’s fully due. In today’s thegrauniad, CK sets out a compelling, and unabashedly liberal, response to the Government’s latest attempt to make the law into a Kafka novel.

A couple of paragraphs in particular caught my eye:

“A crucial division of opinion is opening up between the party of civil liberties and the party of authoritarianism. Liberal Democrats are on the side of civil liberties. Labour – which had a proud libertarian tradition when Roy Jenkins was home secretary in the 1960s – is now the party of authoritarianism. The prime minister embodies a shift that is becoming a defining issue of our politics. …

“Our political opponents try to suggest that the Liberal Democrats’ passion for civil liberties somehow makes us ‘soft on terror’. I totally disagree. Certainly, we may find ourselves defending the rights of very small and unpopular minorities – those accused of terrorist crimes, those seeking asylum, those seeking to avoid deportation. But all of us are in a minority at one time or another. All of us could be wrongly accused of a crime we did not commit. All of us could express views or do things the government of the day does not like. All of us do unpopular things or utter unpopular thoughts. And we all need the protection which the impartial rule of law gives us.”

It brought to my mind one of the many memorable speeches uttered by every liberal’s favourite US President, Jed Bartlett, in the brilliant West Wing epsiode where he sticks it to Governor Ritchie, the right-wing nutjob transparently modelled on ‘Dubya’:

“I don’t think Americans are tired of partisan politics; I think they’re tired of hearing career politicians diss partisan politics to get a gig. I’ve tried it before, they ain’t buying it. That’s okay, though. That’s okay, though, ’cause partisan politics is good. Partisan politics is what the founders had in mind. It guarantees that the minority opinion is heard, and as a lifelong possessor of minority opinions, I appreciate it. But if you’re troubled by it, Governor, you should know, in this campaign, you’ve used the word ‘liberal’ 74 times in one day. It was yesterday.”