I’m very wary of rushing to judgements. I think it’s a good character trait to be considered; to think things through before expressing an opinion.
So yesterday, when we heard that the government was considering new proposals to retain yet more of people’s data, I hesitated before condemning. The selective briefing, I thought, was simply not enough information on which to come to a decision whether this was so terrible that I needed to condemn it.
Today, I find myself in a position to do so. The proposals are wrong. They represent a massive increase in the amount of data about our private lives that will be held by companies and accessible to various branches of government.
They tip the delicate balance between liberty and security far too far the wrong way. Not that that has not happened already.
One of the reasons I support this coalition is its strong commitment to civil liberties as expressed in the coalition agreement. I anticipated a decisive shift from Labour’s authoritarianism. And on many fronts the coalition has not disappointed: ID cards and control orders are gone, and the Freedom Bill is working its way through Parliament.
But if it presses ahead with these new snooping proposals all of that will be in vain.
If the coalition does not u-turn on this issue I will, for the first time, have to question whether I can continue to support this government and my party. I really, really, really do not want to have to do that. I really do not.
And on that I am not alone. Many pro-coalition Liberal Democrats are furious, and rightly so. For the Liberal Democrats this could be more serious than tuition fees or the health bill because on civil liberties the entire party can unite.
That Nick Clegg has already made statements supporting the change is extremely worrying. But it shouldn’t stop him reversing his position. That is far better than the alternative, which, frankly, I don’t even want to think about.