UK to strike new balance between security and civil rights – Tory rep
The plans for the new coalition government were outlined as Queen Elizabeth II opened the first session of Parliament. Civil rights, electoral system reform and fighting the budget deficit are being spotlighted.
“The emphasis on civil liberties… is very high on the agenda for both parties. That’s very important because it is one of the areas where both the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives can agree. It’s the area where they both opposed Labor quite consistently over the last few years,” Brian Cattell, from the Conservative Bow Group think tank, told RT.
Mr. Cattell noted that it is not that the government does not see its security as a top priority any longer.
“This is not about the threat getting less but this is about getting the balance right and safeguarding some of the historic traditions of British government, which is the respect for civil liberties,” explains Mr. Cattell.
According to Mr. Cattell, the government is also committed to scrapping ID cards, which is a means of reducing the deficit.
The budget deficit is one of the toughest problems that the coalition government has to tackle.
“There are huge economic problems which have been left to the coalition government. One is the burgeoning budget deficit, the other is a very high level of taxation…There’s also the problem of rising inflation,” Professor Philip Booth, a program director from the Institute of Economic Affairs, told RT.
The government has so far revealed the plans to cut over 6 billion pounds in spending. Booth says that these cuts are relatively trivial in terms of the total budget deficit, and will not cause serious damage to the public services sector.
“The 6 billion pounds worth of cuts that were proposed yesterday are really just a holding measure … to give the impression to the market that the new government has a credible program to control government spending in the future,” said Booth.
According to Booth, the cuts are unlikely to send the economy deeper into recession.
“What would be more dangerous is to allow the budget deficit to continue to rise,” said Booth.
The recent parliamentary election in the UK has shown the flaws of the current electoral system, which fails to show the true balance of political forces. The new government has unveiled plans for changes.
What is being proposed as a way out is called the “alternative vote,” or “instant run-off voting.” Under this system, voters rank candidates in order of preference. In case no candidate gets the majority of votes, the candidates voted top preference the least are eliminated, and their ballots are redistributed to those remaining according to the rankings on each ballot. The procedure is repeated until one candidate has the majority.
“It will have a lot of advantages,” Dr. Ken Ritchie from the Electoral Reform Society told RT. “It will mean that to win a seat, people will have to have the majority support from those who vote. This will also allow smaller parties to have a seat, to have representation.”
According to Ritchie, the Liberal Democrats, the minor partner in the current coalition government, are committed to pushing for changes in electoral system.
“Although the alternative vote is not a proportional system, it is a system that will give a bit of help to the Liberal Democrats,” said Ritchie.
However, he pointed out that the Conservatives, the major coalition partner, “certainly don’t want to see it happen”.
Ritchie says that with the growing support for the Liberal Democrats and the advantage they can get if the electoral system is changed, hung parliaments will become the norm rather than exception. However, he denied that a hung parliament would leads to indecision and stagnation, as is widely believed.
“You have to look across Europe,” Ritchie said. “Some of the strongest economies, some of the most decisive governments in Europe, are based on coalitions.”