The last 48 hours: what LDV would have said next (Part I)

by Stephen Tall on March 1, 2009

As LDV’s readers will know, the site took an extended day and a bit’s break on Friday and Saturday while Ryan Cullen was working wonders with our servers to ensure the site doesn’t continue to be suspended the moment we experience a spike in visitor traffic. Here then is our guide to the stories we would have featured if we had been able to:

Liberal Democrats proposed scrapping ministerial veto on FOI

Last week, Justice secretary Jack Straw took the unprecedented decision to over-rule the independent Information Commissioner, and block the publication of the minutes of the cabinet meeting at which it was decided the UK would declare war on Iraq. This was, I believe, a bad decision in principle, but then I believe in transparent, accountable government in which politicians feel able to put forward the same reasoned arguments in public as in private (though Matt Bowles mounts a spirited defence of Mr Straw’s actions over at Liberal Conspiracy here, which is well worth reading). What was undoubtedly a disgrace was that Jack Straw chose to make this decision himself: as Foreign Secretary at the time of the Iraq invasion, he very clearly had a conflict of interest in making the decision. A cabinet minister with an ounce of integrity would have recused themselves from such a decision.

On Friday, the Telegraph noted the Lib Dems’ proposals (part of Chris Huhne’s Freedom Bill) to prevent further abuses of power by egregious politicians like Mr Straw:

Ministers will lose the right to veto embarrassing documents being released through Freedom of Information under proposals from the Liberal Democrats. … The Liberal Democrats said their proposals would “roll back the authoritarian laws passed by both Labour and Conservative governments which have undermined civil liberties”.

MSP defies party on independence vote

John Munro, MSP for Ross, Skye and Inverness West, has gone on the record to back a referendum on Scottish independence, despite the unequivocal rejection of the position by Scottish Lib Dem leader Tavish Scott:

I think the sooner it happens, the better, so … we find out whether we are going to go ahead with an independent Scotland.”

Be careful what you Facebook

Two Facebook stories surfaced. The most prominent was the case of Kimberley Swann, 16, who was sacked for posting a status update on the social networking site saying that she was bored in her new job. This was a shameful decision by her (former) firm, Ivell Marketing & Logistics: the comment was posted by Ms Swann in her own time, on her own computer, and did not name the company. The update was apparently drawn to the attention of her employers by some of her new work colleagues, whom she had ‘friended’. Some friends.

And a Lib Dem councillor in Bridgend has also achieved some notoriety, as the BBC reports, after pictures were published showing him dressed as a Nazi for a fancy dress party.

Sean Aspey posed for photos at his 40th birthday party last year themed on the comedy ‘Allo ‘Allo set in Nazi-occupied France and posted them on Facebook. … Local Lib Dem party chiefs suspended him temporarily while an internal inquiry into the affair is carried out.

There appears to have been an absurd over-reaction to this case which, sad to say, qualifies for categorisation under that ultra-cliché ‘PC-gone-mad’. I can certainly see how turning up to a council meeting wearing a Nazi uniform might be a disciplinary matter; I fail to see how wearing a Nazi uniform to a private party two months before you’re even elected a councillor might be.

That said, we reap what you sow: four years ago, Lib Dem leader Charles Kennedy was among those who joined the media hunting pack in condemning Prince Harry for a similar ‘offence’ (though I think it’s fair to say that the third-in-line to the throne is in a position of more prominence and sensitivity than a councillors from Bridgend).