Monday, 2 March 2015

Rights and Accommodation

In Elizabeth Longford's biography of Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington, there is a brief passage in the first volume where she discusses the Duke's political outlook.  As a Tory, (although Wellington was no fan of party politics) he did not belief in rights but rather in pragmatism and accommodation.

"He had an English taste for improvisation and flexibility, highlighted by a constitution that was not written down....  With accommodation went a certain permissiveness for which his army was grateful."

I believe that in this nation, we live in a time when we are in danger of losing both our rights and accommodation.  Conservative distaste for rights have been longstanding but have always being seasoned with pragmatic accommodations.  This manifests itself in Theresa May's abortive (thanks to the Liberal Democrats) attempts to reintroduce the so-called Snoopers' Charter.  Riding roughshod over individual rights, technology and power of government means that that we can no longer rely upon accommodation, (ie. good will) of the powerful to get along.  We need rights, enshrined in constitutional law and while the British constitution remains flexible and unwritten, we have the backup of European law to frame our rights.  It is a good composite system that works.

The United Kingdom is also in grave danger of losing our accommodation.  This is most manifest in the nationalists parties: UKIP and the SNP.

Evolving from a party of anti-European Union, UKIP has evolved into a xenophobic Frankenstein .  In short, there is no accommodation: neither for rights, nor foreigners nor even for that most prized British quality, pragmatism.  This lack of accommodation goes across the left-right spectrum of party politics so that is the reason why UKIP is able to pick up support from both Conservative and Labour supporters.  Labour has been historically been pretty good on rights (well, until the Blair-Brown years and New Labour that is) but never had the right's mindset of accommodation.

One cannot accuse the SNP of not being tactically pragmatic , being in effective coaltion with the Conservatives during their first term in goverment, but one can certainly slam their lack of accommodation.  Only today, it was revealed that new leader Nicola Sturgeon has drafted  draconian guidelines for behaviour of their own MPs, going well beyond the usual party discipline, and includes disciplinary action for being critical of party policy, colleagues and leadership.  If one will not trust one's own MPs, what does that say for the party's view on the rest of society?    From behaviour of many of it's supporters up to the run of the SNP defeat at the Referendum, it is clear there is no accommodation of views dissenting from their own.

Thus I come to invite you to think carefully about the type Britain you want this May.  If you value twin virtues of rights and accommodation, then there is still one party that enbodies both of these: the Liberal Democrats.

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