Friday, 2 July 2010

Your Freedom: Brought to you by Nick Clegg!

Today, Nick ‘fig leaf’ Clegg launched the inventively named new government programme Your Freedom via YouTube. The name and method of delivery were clearly an attempt to be ‘down with the youth’ (frankly I’m surprised they didn’t go with something even worse like Freedombook). In full ‘earnest face mode’ Clegg delivered the amazing news that people can now write to the government with any concerns they have regarding their ‘freedoms’ in Britain today. “For too long new laws have taken away your freedom,” Clegg announced (earnestly), “interfered in everyday life and made it difficult for businesses to get on. We want your ideas to change that.” Now, I don’t know about you, but I thought we already had the power to write to our government, not just about our freedoms, but about anything at all. But wait, if you continue to watch Clegg’s ground-breaking announcement, there’s more to this astounding new system than you initially realise: they’ve set up a website that you can add your ideas to and – you’re not going to believe this – “all suggestions will be read”! Any genuine attempts to undo some of Labour’s disgraceful ‘security’ policies which were introduced over the last 10 years or so – 28 days detention, et al – and to restore some of our lost civil liberties are to be welcomed, but this is far from genuine. If you read between the lines (or on the lines, in fact) the coalition government’s priorities are clearly identifiable. It’s tempting to think that references to “mind-numbing” rules and “unnecessary laws” are alluding to some of Labour’s ill-conceived policies such as ASBOs or Community Payback, but his emphasis on allowing businesses to “get on” is the real message here, and a very worrying one too. The government has no interest in reducing the power of the state, just its responsibilities towards its citizens. The short translation of the coalition’s Your Freedom initiative? Privatisation, privatisation and, that’s right, privatisation. The website even has an entire section entitled ‘Cutting Business and Third Sector Regulations’. If they wanted to be entirely honest they would’ve called it ‘Your Freedom to be fired without notice, paid a crappy wage and generally exploited by your employer’. Probably wasn’t catchy enough.

Despite the government’s clear lack of interest in issues of any real importance to everyday people, and in the interests of democracy, I’d like to take Mr Clegg up on his request for suggestions, and I’d encourage you to do the same. Okay, Nick, how about you start with ordering all the Liberal Democrat members of the coalition to oppose one of the most unfair and destructive budgets of the last 75 years? And while you’re at it, why not stand up for the people who voted you into government on what appeared to be a manifesto of ‘progressive’ policies only to have you side with the most regressive party in parliament? How about promoting the freedom of the poor to not lose their jobs, benefits and homes when the worst of the Con-Dem cuts start to hit – the freedom from persecution just for inhabiting the bottom rung in our society? But of course old ‘yellow shield’ Clegg doesn’t want to hear about this sort of thing. What he’s interested in is if you’ve “ever had to fill out three versions of the same form” or “felt snooped on by the state.” Well, I’m sure filling in three versions of the same form can be very irritating, though I don’t think I’ve ever been required to do that, ever. As for being snooped on by the state, I suppose that is a pretty worrying prospect, unfortunately for us the Con-Dem translation of this is “has the state ever been involved in your life at all, in any capacity whatsoever? Tell us about it so we can cut it immediately.” A final point of interest is when Clegg asks to know about “any time your rights have been infringed.” Well, I don’t know about you, but having Nick Clegg in government feels like a pretty big violation of my democratic rights at the moment.

1 comment:

Dan @ Eyes on Power said...

And how much is this initiative costing? It seems somewhat hypocritical to criticise the cost of Labour's quangos and then go ahead and set-up something like this.

Frontline public sector and local government staff are already being consulted on where the axe should fall. In reponse, many UNISON branches are advising members to stay quiet. There are proper channels for discussing these things - through the unions. People shouldn't be making suggestions on where to make cuts, because this might affect the jobs of other union/none-union members.

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