Jeremy Brier: Standing firm against terror means standing apart from the Liberals
Talking about a cosy relationship with the Liberal Democrats is providing the Conservatives with lots of honey-toned mood music at the moment. It softens up a rich vein of floating voters in marginal seats and it positions the Conservative Party in the warm Centre Ground. I like that: it’s good politics and we are thinking like a broad and inclusive party must.
But, as the Attorney General knows, there is a pronounced difference between a convenient flirtation and a full-blown affair. In an age when national security is of pre-eminent importance, an official pact with the Liberal Democrat could not only dilute our party’s long-deserved reputation for being tough on crime and terrorism; it could also dissolve Britain’s already fragile defences against its various enemies.
The Liberal Democrat instinct is relativist and self-doubting. Its tendencies are towards bureaucratic multilateralism, anti-American gesture politics and the drawing of moral equivalence between terrorism and the fight against terror. Such approaches offer no effective answers to the major foreign policy challenges of the age. Iraq will not achieve the stability it deserves (and which we owe it) if we pull out our troops while its own institutions remain embryonic; Iran will not be prevented from building up a nuclear arsenal by relying on European Union diplomacy; and further African genocides will hardly be prevented by more unresolved resolutions from the disparate talking-shop of the United Nations.
Similarly, we will never be able to protect the values of Western societies and defeat Jihadist terror unless we can distinguish morally between those groups who deliberately wreak murder upon innocents and those state forces which, in seeking to prevent such crimes, unintentionally shed blood in so doing. Conservatives have always been clear-sighted in this understanding, from conflicts ranging from Northern Ireland to Israel. The Liberal Democrats, the party of Jenny Tonge and Chris Davies, have a very morally dubious record indeed, often grotesque in their comparisons of the homicide bomber’s calculated evil with the subsequent destruction of the terrorists’ infrastructure.
Perhaps of more concern to our voters, British cities will not be kept safe from further terrorist attacks unless our government prioritises its support for the police and the intelligence services in searching the properties of those it reasonably suspects of planning atrocities. No public body is immune from criticism and the police will get things wrong; but the Liberal Democrat instinct in recent weeks has been to prioritise the easy cry for the human rights of the suspect, rather than the more important appeal for the human rights of the silent majority to live in a safe society. Plots to blow up airlines and kill thousands are forgotten all too readily by the liberal media; but the cases go on in Woolwich Crown Court; the evidence is uncovered and the juries listen.
When mistakes are made by the police and liberties unfairly infringed, compensation may be appropriate, as may be retrospective inquiries by which to learn lessons. But this responsible approach to government is distinct from the Liberal Democratic position which is (like Respect) to focus exclusively on criticising occasional police failures and never to celebrate their overall effectiveness (and, yes, it is a cause for considerable celebration) in ensuring that, to date, we have not yet suffered another terrorist attack since 7/7 despite numerous attempts. Weakening the police’s powers, or its confidence to use those powers, cannot only undermine the public’s safety – and no amount of hyperbolae from “community leaders”, about living in a “police state”, should let us forget that fact. Only in a truly free and democratic society can you scream such hyperbolic libels and find yourself making headline news.
Furthermore, Conservatives should never abandon their proud record of engaging with all communities and all peoples to build a stronger and fairer society. It is right, particularly, that we become a party actively committed to integrating isolated Muslims into the heart of British society, in contrast to the old, failed dogma of multiculturalism and state-sponsored separateness that is the Liberal Democrats’ preferred approach. But all this is better achieved by Conservatives standing alone with clarity and judgment rather than standing together with those who remain blind to the dangers of appeasement and addicted to the left-liberal pillars of human rights and multiculturalism. In the event of a hung Parliament, we have to put Britain first; and that means keeping the Liberal Democrats out.