Conservative Diary

Civil liberties

18 Aug 2013 08:09:28

Will the Lobbying Bill give Cameron the power to close down ConservativeHome?

Screen shot 2013-08-18 at 08.11.37
By Paul Goodman

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I'm presuming that the headline on this article is what John Rentoul would call a QTWTAIN.  But over at Labour List Mark Ferguson is convinced that Ed Miliband will soon have the power to close it down - and that David Cameron will have the same power over this website.  Ferguson's anxieties stem from the bill on lobbying and transparency which will come before the Commons when it returns in September.  Today, the Sunday Times puts that claim in context from behind its paywall.  Charities are up in arms about the bill, which it claims will curb their campaigning.

The nub of the matter is the difference between campaigning with a political dimension and campaigning for a political party - one which can sometimes be elusive.  The paper claims that the bill will slap a limit on what charities can spend to promote causes they support during a general election, and place new registration conditions on them.  The Cabinet Office is quoted as saying: “The intention is to bring greater transparency where third parties campaign in a way which supports a particular political party or its candidates.”

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31 Jul 2013 06:32:18

Over half of Conservative members support Cameron's anti-porn net plans

By Paul Goodman
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Respondents were asked in our latest survey whether or not they supported David Cameron's proposals on the internet and pornography.

  • 57 per cent said that they do.
  • 27 per cent said that they don't.
  • 15 per cent said that they have no view.

This represents decisive support for the Prime Minister's proposals, which have been strongly driven by the Culture Department. It's worth adding that at this stage this is very much support in principle: we have yet to see the detail.

None the less, the result suggests when I wrote recently that "Conservatives aren't libertarians," I was right.  The libertarian view shows up very forcefully 'below the line' when comment pieces are published.  But it isn't that of party members, as the poll shows. If you want further evidence for the claim, glance back at our June poll on the Communications Data Bill, a.k.a the Snoopers' Charter.

The margin was less emphatic.  None the less, 43 per cent of respondents agreed that "the Tory leadership should do all it can to enact the Communications Data Bill, even against the wishes of the Liberal Democrats". 34 per cent took the view that "the Communications Data Bill is an invasion of privacy and should not be made law."  22 per cent believed that the Conservative leadership should "produce a version of the Bill that both sides can broadly agree with".

22 Jul 2013 08:40:23

Cameron's anti-porn plans: problematic in practice, but right in principle. Conservatives aren't libertarians.

By Paul Goodman
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Screen shot 2013-07-22 at 08.39.48Fleet Street was briefed over the weekend that the Prime Minister's anti-internet porn plan marks a return to the early David Cameron - the one who campaigned against British Home Stores selling padded bras for children, and against W.H Smith for placing chocolate oranges near checkouts.  This is true as far as it goes.  The parent in the Prime Minister doesn't like the sexualisation of children.  And the politician in him doesn't want a policy agenda only for Conservative loyalists: an EU referendum, a tougher welfare cap, tighter immigration controls, Abu Qatada deported, local vetoes on wind farms.  He will want a broader prospectus as the next election nears - with more than a touch of what the first George Bush called a "gentler, kinder" conservatism.

This truth offers a clue about the Prime Minister's wider motives.  He will be worried about the effects of the Lynton Crosby controversy - in particular, about the claim that Government's cigarette plain packaging decision means that it doesn't care about smoking-related deaths.  So he is proving his caring credentials by homing in on an unpopular cause: poorer voters may not approve of government targetting the cigarettes they buy, but they don't disapprove of it tackling the extreme porn that they don't (on the whole) consume.  This unpopularity runs especially deep among mothers and women.  Cameron's standing is lower with them than with male ones.

Continue reading "Cameron's anti-porn plans: problematic in practice, but right in principle. Conservatives aren't libertarians." »

23 May 2013 18:30:29

Post-Woolwich, what should we be watching out for?

By Mark Wallace
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WoolwichThe full details of yesterday's horrific murder in Woolwich, and the terrorists who carried it out, are yet to be revealed. With both suspects alive and in custody, albeit undergoing treatment for gunshot wounds, there is a reasonable prospect that we will learn a lot more in the coming weeks about their motivations, possible links to other individuals or groups and so on.

It's therefore too early to give a definitive answer as to how the various arms of government should respond. Broad areas that require our attention are emerging, though.

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8 May 2013 15:10:56

The Snoopers' Charter comes sneaking back. Again.

By Mark Wallace
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HOME-OFFICEWhen Nick Clegg announced that the Communications Data Bill - AKA the Snoopers' Charter - was being dropped, he prompted jubiliation from campaigners for privacy, individual liberty and digital technology.

The past history of the issue, however, suggested this wouldn't be the last we would hear of the proposals to gather data on emails. This idea has come up again and again, under different Governments, suggesting it is the pet project of someone or some group within the Home Office Civil Service.

Indeed, when one campaigner tweeted "What's next?" after the Government backed down, I was cynical enough to reply:

And lo, it came to pass. Only hours after the Queen's Speech, the BBC is reporting that the Government is looking at "fresh proposals" to pursue the same rotten idea.

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18 Mar 2013 08:52:25

Leveson live blog

By Harry Phibbs
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5pm Nick Clegg says that if everyone is being this non-partisan after the general election, there won't be room for everyone in Downing Street.

David Cameron says that his decision to pull out of cross-party talks on Thursday actually broke the "log jam."

Douglas Carswell MP tweets:

"The Commissioner for Public Appointments shall appoint the Appointments Committee" Royal Charter. How's that quango bonfire?"

4.45pm The Royal Charter is published.

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3 Feb 2013 08:56:40

Christian and traditionalist Tories have chosen the wrong fight. They've chosen to fight gay marriage, a battle they can't win. They've neglected religious liberty, a battle they can't afford to lose.

By Tim Montgomerie
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There's lots of nonsense emanating from certain pollsters, notably ComRes, about gay marriage having a disastrous impact on Tory fortunes. YouGov's Joe Twyman has Tweeted an important link which shows that the effect might well be negative in the short-term but that - AT WORST - it will reduce the Tory vote from about its current 34% to 33%. Here, in full, are Joe's numbers:


Joe's numbers don't account for the generational issue. Younger voters really cannot understand the opposition to same-sex rights. The Conservative Party rebels on gay marriage are putting themselves on the wrong side of history.

Continue reading "Christian and traditionalist Tories have chosen the wrong fight. They've chosen to fight gay marriage, a battle they can't win. They've neglected religious liberty, a battle they can't afford to lose." »

11 Dec 2012 16:53:44

Theresa May’s fieriest prose can’t overcome the opposition to her draft Data Communications Bill

By Peter Hoskin
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What’s going on with the draft Data Communications Bill, then? Judging by Theresa May’s mini column for the Sun this morning, you’d think that the Tory leadership is basically standing its ground against the concerns of Nick Clegg and others. The Home Secretary does nod towards “suggestions about how our plans could be improved”. But she also adds that “I will not allow these vitally important laws to be delayed any longer in this Parliament,” before finishing, “This law is needed and it is needed now. And I am determined to see it through.”

But, as the day has worn on, that position has looked less and less equivocal. First, the Home Office minister James Brokenshire appeared on the Today Programme to say that a redrafted Bill could be delivered in “short order”; then No.10 also talked up a rewrite. And is it any wonder? The opposition to the draft Bill, and its provisions for expanding the range of telecoms data held by providers and accessible by the state, is now extremely formidable. The Guardian articles here and here give a good sense of it all; and from them we might identify four of the disgruntled forces:

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16 Oct 2012 16:21:48

Britain's Mrs Merkel

By Tim Montgomerie
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May in handbag1

The new Margaret Thatcher? The Home Secretary is getting lots of praise at the moment. Benedict Brogan has blogged about her "irresistible rise". The Express' Patrick O'Flynn has Tweeted about "an outbreak of Theresa May-nia". I've been an admirer of Mrs May for some time. I don't see her as a future leader but I do see her as a marathon runner and installed her in my 2020 fantasy cabinet, partly out of respect for her political stamina. Despite the handbag cartoon above it's not the Iron Lady, however, that Mrs May most reminds me of.

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13 Sep 2012 08:30:01

Eric Pickles defends Christian Britain from the European courts - and Nick Clegg

By Matthew Barrett
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PicklesEric Pickles' brief can be a deceptively broad one. It seems rather incongruous that he should spend half of his time on seemingly narrow tasks like trying to get local councils to cut out waste and be more efficient at providing public services, and the other half of his time on "Communities" - ie religion.

However, his department has taken note of the latter set of responsibilities. I recall Bob Neill, who left the DCLG in the reshuffle last week, responding to a trouble-making Labour question about Christmas celebrations in 2010, saying "the new Administration is committed to celebrating Christmas, including its Christian heritage. We should not allow politically correct Grinches to marginalise Christmas and the importance of the birth of Christ.". 

So it is that the responsibility of defending Christianity in Britain has fallen to Eric Pickles, who writes for the Daily Telegraph this morning. He has two fronts on which to fight: firstly, European courts attacking the right for Christians to wear symbols like the crucifix at work. This fight is not helped by the Government's own lawyers arguing that Christians do not have their rights violated by having religious symbols banned, because they can simply find another job. Mr Pickles writes:

"Banning discreet religious symbols for reasons of political correctness is not acceptable. We should challenge the nonsense that religious displays could “cause offence” and therefore should be hidden from view. The Government’s opposition to a European Court of Human Rights challenge on crucifixes should not be misinterpreted as supporting secularism: rather, we are resisting Brussels interference and gold-plating of what should be a matter for common sense."

However, Mr Pickles rejects language about the oppression of Christianity in Britain, which he sees as overblown, saying: "To suggest that Christians in our country are literally persecuted would be to demean the suffering of those around the world facing repression, imprisonment and death."

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