David Blackburn

Control Orders: a pyrrhic victory for the Lib Dems?

Control Orders: a pyrrhic victory for the Lib Dems?
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Coalition is a tricky business, full of compromise and connivance. Emblazoned across the front page of the Sunday Times (£) is the news that Control Orders are to be scrapped. A victory for Nick Clegg, we are told, won to nurture wounded Liberal Democrats and preserve the coalition.

The Liberal Democrat 2010 manifesto maintained that Control Orders would be abolished and many senior Liberal Democrats have been volubly opposed to Lord Carlisle’s report into Control Orders, which was understood to propose their retention.

Certainly, Nick Clegg needs an outright victory on policy. The Oldham East by-election draws near, whilst the tuition fees debacle remains clear in the memory, harsh austerity measures such as the VAT rise will soon be perceptible in every day life and the AV referendum promises to be bloody, at least.

A Lib Dem victory then, except that Lord Carlisle is a Liberal Democrat peer and numerous Conservative MPs were vehement in their condemnation of Control Orders. David Davis and Patrick Mercer were chief among them, aided by rumours of support from prominent Tory Cabinet ministers.

Cameron himself is reputed to have said that his government was heading for a ‘fucking car-crash’ over the disagreement. It is unsurprising that Control Orders, which many experts believe are vital to Britain’s security, have fallen victim to coalition's neccisities. However, this ‘Lib Dem victory’ may prove pyrrhic. Several Liberal Democrats vowed ‘to go ballistic’ if Control Orders were not abolished, whilst their opposition to tuition fee hikes merited less opprobrium – and was singularly less successful. The Liberal Democrats, then, would favour the rights of 9 men of illiberal intent over the opportunity (so the erroneous but popular perception of tuition fees has it) of thousands of young people. In electoral terms, it is, as the saying goes, a no-brainer.