Where Are The Liberals When You Need Them?
Alone of all the people in Downing Street at the time, I opposed the ban on smoking in public places. I derided the legal anomaly by which smoking would join flashing as one of those activities that are legal (indeed, rather fun) in private but illegal (and wrong) in public. I pointed out that most of the damage done by smoke happened in the home, not the pub. And I deplored the arrogant assumption of power. I have never smoked, but nothing makes me want to start more than the Government telling me that I have to stop.
I never liked the Labour Methodism that tolerates spontaneous fun only so long as it is properly planned. I can’t abide the do-gooders who try to bully me into being better. Before you can say “leave me alone” you find the gentleman in Whitehall is giving you a nudge and, when the nudge doesn’t work, he’s following up with a smack. And if you still don’t listen, he uses the law. Conservatives are strangers to doubt about whether they have the right to govern your smaller pleasures and this is now a subject on which they are splitting from their Liberal Democrat partners in the coalition.
Yesterday the Prime Minister hosted a summit on internet pornography at which these meddlesome instincts were on display. The Government is investigating what one insider has called “the Chinese option”, by which a device is installed in every new computer ....
...The desire to make everyone conform to your prejudice is the cachet of the authentic Conservative. Mr Cameron has bravely moved his party on issues such as gay marriage. But there is a streak of the socially severe magistrate about him too. There is a genuine chasm here between the top Conservative and the top Lib Dem.
This is not exactly the high road to popularity for Mr Clegg. On a demolition day for his party in local government. I bet he will be delighted to be told that he should become the champion of lap dancing, tab smoking and binge drinking. But these are tests of his credentials as a liberal. The virtue of liberals in government is that they are there to stop conservatives from trying to tidy up the mess.