Saturday, March 13, 2010

Lib Dem Voice root out authoritarian MPs

If you do nothing else over the next few days, and you weren't actually there, listen to the podcast of the Lib Dem Voice fringe at Conference which you will find here..

It is brilliant. It has drama, it has rebellion and insubordination, it has humour. Daddy Alex's open defiance of Helen will delight as much as it shocks.

The point was to unveil their new website which enables you to determine how authoritarian any MP is based on their votes on a series of crucial votes on such things as control orders, detention without trial, ID cards, the DNA database and freedom of speech.

I found it interesting to compare two MPs elected in by-elections a few months apart, Liberal Democrat Willie Rennie, who got a meagre 3 out of 70 and my own MP, Jim Devine who got 56 out of 90.

I think this is a useful tool in determining which MPs are the most authoritarian if these issues are important to you, but, as Daddy Alex alluded to, these 10 votes are only an indication and there are many other issues which could be considered.

It does, however, come with a huge health warning as far as I am concerned. Iain Duncan Smith, one of the most socially reactionary politicians in the UK, comes out with a low 15 on this scale. This does not in any way mean he's actually a liberal. If you'd included votes on gay rights, such as gay adoption rights, for example, I expect that would bump up the scores of most of the Tories.

There was also a discussion on the Digital Economy Bill which to me is a fundamental issue of freedom and fairness and one in which we should be standing up for ordinary people and their right to access the internet. Mark explains the latest developments and how things will unfold tomorrow. This is the full text of the motion up for discussion. I wish I was in Birmingham to vote for it. Passing it is one of the most important things we can do this weekend. Daddy Alex likened it at the fringe meeting to Margaret Thatcher bringing in house arrest for home taping and suggested that even she might have balked at that.

I think the way that Bridget Fox and Julian Huppert have led the way on this shows that they would be fantastic MPs - and both of them have a very good chance of being in the House of Commons after the electoin. Let's hope they both get there.


Jennie said...

Yeah, look what Dorries gets as well. I hesitate to apply the term "liberal" to HER.

Mark Pack said...

Suggestions for any specific extra votes to include are very welcome.

Different people will have different views of quite what should be included for a liberal vs authoritarian scale, but that said even on the definition we've used we've got an open mind about whether to add in extra votes.

burkesworks said...

Mark - I'd have thought any votes relating to gay rights, abortion, and 90/56/42/28 days would be key contenders - and possibly the scope could be extended to take in all Parliaments since '97, assuming TWFY/PublicWhip have the data. A weighting of free versus whipped votes would be worth considering too. As it stands, and as I've pointed out already on both LDV and Jennie's blog, the data is pretty much useless without taking such caveats on board, as Caron's just proved with the score relating to IDS. A shame because there's the germ of a good idea itching to get out.

Mark Pack said...

Those are all votes we've given some thought to including.

But, for example, although I suspect we'd both have voted the same way on Catholic adoption agencies were we both MPs, is ordering an adoption agency to behave in a particular way really a vote that differentiates between liberalism and authoritarianism?

After all, it's about ordering someone to behave in a liberal way, so you can get liberals on both sides of the vote.

Caron said...

I don't think you can use votes outside this current Parliament without making it very complicated to compare like with like. The 97 and 01 Parliaments were both different so I guess that it has to stay with votes that have taken place within the last 5 years.

It's almost like there are two polar opposites to liberal - illiberal and authoritarian, but they don't necessarily mean the same thing.

I would argue, though, that to be defined as liberal, you can't discriminate against people on the basis of their sexual orientation.

On abortion, the issue is a bit murkier. I would argue that it is definitely illiberal to seek to stop all women having a termination, but there is evidence based stuff on reducing the time limit that could make it justifiable for a liberal to vote in favour of reducing it.

I am uneasy, though, about having a system that defines the likes of Dorries and Duncan Smith as liberal when they so patently aren't.


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