Five stories that have caught my liberty-loving eye

It’s been a big few days in the world of political commentary. Aside from the big good news story of further reductions in unemployment  – 6% is quite a thing! – here are five of the stories that have got me riled, captured my attention or made me a bit sad.

1. Opting in to the European Arrest Warrant?

As is usual, Dan Hannan (our President) is bang on the money with his analysis of the EAW:

“A legal device that was, we were assured, intended as an anti-terrorism measure, ended up being used to punish a guiltless couple for the atrocious crime of refusing NHS treatment.

“We shouldn’t be surprised. When the police and prosecution services are given such awesome powers, it is only human to begin to use them routinely. The EAW is now habitually used to deport people accused of personal possession of cannabis and even driving offences. So much for habeas corpus.”

Read his full analysis of why the EAW is incompatible with liberty over on the Telegraph website.

2. Lord Freud’s comments on disabled people and the NMW

This whole controversy has annoyed me very, very much. I am not going to attempt to put into words just how much, and will instead quote Ryan Bourne, of the Institute of Economic Affairs:

“Pointing out that existing laws actively prevent severely disabled individuals from finding employment – even though they would like to work and it would drastically improve their quality of life – is apparently beyond contempt. The ideology of the minimum wage wins out. In this world, it is apparently compassionate to back a policy which self-evidently means some severely disabled individuals cannot fulfil their employment ambitions. It is compassionate for them to be left unemployed. Indeed, one of the great travesties of the past 24 hours is that barely anyone who has expressed outrage about Freud’s comments has articulated a policy idea which would actually help the individuals Freud was discussing. You know, the people who want work – not just for the monetary rewards, but for the other benefits that employment brings. The sorts of people that really do need help from the state and civil society.”

I encourage you to take a moment to read his blog on this; your time will not be wasted.

3. Public parks are a place for health & healthy role models

So said Lord Darzi yesterday. His proposals form part of a report from London’s Health Commission: Darzi thinks we should stop smoking in London’s parks, turning them into ‘beacons of health’ and shielding children from poor (smoking) role models.

Chris Snowdon has addressed this proposal with his usual eloquence:

“Words almost fail me. Most of the remaining words are expletives. I was in Brussels when the news was announced and I was in no mood to suffer fools gladly when I did a couple of interviews I did over a mobile phone. Is it necessary to give a reasoned response to arguments that are so obviously made with no sincerity? Are we really supposed to deal with ad hoc bans as if they were stand-alone measures rather than pieces of a mounting prohibition?

“It hardly needs to be said that smokers, like nonsmokers, have never volunteered to be role models for other people’s children. The claim that adult activity should be criminalised if it can be witnessed by minors does not have to be taken to its logical extreme for it to be exposed as absurd and totalitarian. It is plainly not a serious argument. And yet, if I did feel the need to act as a role model to children, I would, first and foremost, impress upon them the importance of ignoring and despising unjust laws. I would hope to teach them that there is, in any society, a minority of bigots who resent liberal values and who will do whatever they can to impose their own lifestyles upon them. If flouting a draconian law will help a child realise that the state is not its friend, then I will cheerfully light a cigarette in any street or park.”

Snowdon is the IEA’s Lifestyle Economics writer. He is well worth a follow on Twitter, in addition to reading his blog.

4. Owen Paterson’s speech to the Global Warming Policy Foundation

Paterson made a speech to that organisation yesterday evening, and it seems to have annoyed a few people. You can read the full text over on the Spectator website.

“The sight of rich western film stars effectively telling Africa’s poor that they should not have fossil fuels, but should continue to die at the rate of millions each year from the smoke of wood fires in their homes, frankly disgusts me. The WHO estimates that 4.3 million lose their lives every year through indoor air pollution.

“The sight of western governments subsidizing the growing of biofuels in the mistaken belief that this cuts emissions, and in the full knowledge that it drives up food prices, encourages deforestation and tips people into hunger, leaves me amazed.

“The lack of affordable and reliable electricity, transport and shelter to help protect the poor from cyclones, droughts and diseases, is a far greater threat to them than the small risk that those weather systems might one day turn a bit more dangerous.”

5. Jeremy Browne is resigning

Finally, Jeremy Browne, the Liberal Democrat MP, has announced that he will be standing down at the next election. Browne is my favourite LibDem. I don’t agree with him on everything, but his instincts are sound – and the loss of a fine classical liberal is always a sad thing.

Here he is telling Ed Miliband to get out more.

Personally, I can’t help but agree with Justin Tomlinson:

Conservatives for Liberty believe most strongly that the Conservative Party is the best place for classical liberals & libertarians, but we won’t pretend that other parties don’t have some sound members too. It is a great shame that our excellent liberty-minded Conservatives cannot work more closely with colleagues of a similar view, including Jeremy Browne, and, dare I say it – some of those in Ukip.


Emily Barley is Chairman of Conservatives for Liberty.