Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Looks like David Cameron wants a Big Secret Society

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Based on characters by Charles M. Schulz
First we have the Snoopy snooping row today we hear that the Conservatives want more closed, secret court hearings.

The issue is over whose say so court proceedings should be secret. Cameron says it should be the Ministers, but Clegg is saying this power should not go to Parliament but remain with the judiciary. Maybe David Cameron fancies himself as the next James Bond (which after all is just 4 years older than the PM as a film franchise) with Theresa May as Q, but there is too much talk from the Tories about subterfuge at the moment.

Thankful this time it appears that Clegg has taken the bull by the horns before it even contemplates the merest possibility of bolting from through the doors of Westminster, saying:

"[Security Services] cannot be allowed to ride roughshod over the principle of open justice".

Clegg has even said that the Tories have gone about announcing legislation in a "blunderbuss" fashion, the past few days when there have been leaks about secrecy legislation plans being a case in point. Spuriously coughing out a worst case scenario that may have been discussed that in no way would get approval by the Lib Dems, hence making us look bad only to then come in later with another proposal that is less scary after all the initial accusations have passed and nobody gives them as much attention.

However, Nick Clegg has told the National Security Council that the Lib Dems will not back legislation that allows more court hearings and inquests behind closed doors. The excuse from Ken Clarke that the USA are  afraid of the openness of UK judicial proceedings is not a valid one. The USA had long held secret, closed sessions of their supreme court sometimes subpoenaing witnesses at the last minute. They are one of the most secretive states in the world at times for all the appearance of openness on the outside.

Their failure to ratify Protocol I and II of the Geneva Conventions and other Internation Human Rights Conventions, or at least without much alacrity means that the USA is one of the least accountable countries in the World to everyone else. Their use if extraordinary rendition and sanctioning of evidence obtained through torture are things that aren't to be held in esteem. Indeed their retention of capital punishment would make them ineligible for membership of the EU. So the USA is hardly an example of being above board in terms of judicial practice, so the fact that they fear handing over secrets that may expose some of the practices mentioned in an open review is hardly a cause to hide those ourselves.

The Conservatives want secrecy, the Lib Dems want openness. We know how the secrets of the MPs expenses went down with the general public, so how on earth do the Tories think that keeping something so fundamental a secret is going to go down? I'm glad the Lib Dems are in government at the moment and are campaigning for openness and the retention of open justice.

David Cameron is not so much wanting a Big Society as to still be the member and leader of a Secret Society it seems.

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