Secret courts: another prominent Lib Dem resigns

by Stephen Tall on March 12, 2013

On Sunday, former Lib Dem parliamentary candidate and Federal Executive member Jo Shaw — the moving force behind LibDemsAgainstSecretCourts — announced her resignation from the party while proposing the motion opposing the extension of Closed Material Procedures (CMPs, aka secret courts) that was overwhelmingly carried by members.

Her resignation followed the announcement by Dinah Rose QC that she was resigning from the party in protest at the party leadership’s decision to back secret courts. That came the same day as Observer columnist Henry Porter, a long-time friend to the Lib Dems, publicly denounced what he termed Nick Clegg’s “astonishing breach of trust and denial of principle” on this issue.

philippe sandsAnd then today, they have been joined by prominent lawyer Philippe Sands, who writes in today’s Guardian:

Secrecy begets secrecy. I have listened to all the arguments, and concluded this is a compromise too far, neither necessary nor fair at this time. The point has been made eloquently in recent days by Dinah Rose QC and Jo Shaw. Their principled arguments have long had my full support and so I have joined them in resigning from the Liberal Democrats. I have done so with regret, given the courageous positions adopted on these issues by Charles Kennedy, Menzies Campbell and Nick Clegg in the past. I still hope that the views of the membership might yet prevail, before the bill passes into law. If not, the Liberal Democrats will have lost integrity on one issue that has truly distinguished them from other parties, and on which they can rightly claim to have made a real difference.

Sadly Nick Clegg seems to have moved beyond listening mode on this issue. That’s bad for our justice system, bad for our party — and it will work out badly for him, too.

Update: Cory Doctorow, co-editor of the weblog Boing Boing, has also quit the party: LibDems leave over support for secret trials; I resign from the party.

* Stephen Tall is Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice, a Research Associate for the liberal think-tank CentreForum, and also writes at his own site, The Collected Stephen Tall.