Right on rights, wrong on cards

THREE cheers for Charles Kennedy and the Liberal Democrats, who argue it's time for the United Kingdom to have a written constitution to curb the excesses of presidential-style government.

THREE cheers for Charles Kennedy and the Liberal Democrats, who argue it's time for the United Kingdom to have a written constitution to curb the excesses of presidential-style government.

However, the party falls down when it comes to that other proposal to guard our civil liberties - the introduction of identity cards.

Although the Liberal Democrats are head over heels in love with the European Constitution, it is longstanding party policy to lay down the rights of the British people and the responsibilities of our Government in a written constitution.

The illogicality of Tony Blair's desperation for the UK to ratify the European Constitution is that Britain has no written constitution and no binding Charter of Fundamental Rights.


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Surely before we are asked to ratify the European Constitution, Britain should adopt its own "We the People" document, enshrining the Act of Union, the role of the head of state, and our centuries old rights and liberties handed down through Magna Carta and Common Law.

Enter the Lib Dems, who want to abolish the Royal Prerogative, and replace it with a constitution setting out the powers of Parliament, ministers, judges, the head of state and the assemblies of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

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Mr Kennedy said: "Under Labour, the process of Government has become more presidential, less transparent and less accountable to Parliament and to the people. That has resulted in Labour rushing bad law through Parliament."

Where I part company with the Lib Dems is their opposition to identity cards, which would surely strengthen and protect our fundamental rights. Perhaps, as Mr Kennedy argues, they will do little to prevent terrorism or crime, but they will determine who is entitled to taxpayer funded benefits and help catch bogus asylum seekers who would need an ID card to gain employment.

Only those with something to hide should fear ID cards. But now even the Tories are ducking and diving on the issue.

Having previously backed the scheme, the Tories abstained in a Commons vote yesterday, accusing the Government of failing to give enough time for proper parliamentary scrutiny of the Bill.

The Conservatives have played straight into the hands of the Government, who are jubilant that the Tories' tough stance on law, order and immigration is now fatally flawed.

Tony Blair believes the Tories have committed an "enormous strategic blunder" which opens the way for Tory peers to join forces with Liberal Democrats in the Lords to kill the Bill.

TONY Blair this week passed Harold Wilson's record to become Labour's longest-serving Prime Minister. On St Valentine's Day next week, Jim Callaghan - Lord Callaghan of Cardiff - becomes at the end of 92 years, 10 months and 18 days, Britain's longest living Prime Minister.

He will overtake Harold Macmillan's record - third in the list is Sir Alec Douglas-Home and fourth Sir Winston Churchill.

EX-CHATSHOW host Robert Kilroy-Silk is to fight Erewash in Derbyshire (Labour majority 6,932) for his newly formed party Veritas at the election.

MP Bob Russell collects acorns and conkers to grow into oaks and horse chestnuts and has several young trees growing in pots at his home which he is willing to donate to any organisation in Colchester. Two conkers which he collected in the autumn of 2000 have just been planted at St Stephen's Church.

LABOUR'S general election slogan has been attacked by the Plain English Campaign for being "grammatically suspect" with its meaning unclear. Plain English Campaign spokesman John Lister said the logo "Britain forward not back" was missing a verb and should read "Britain forwards not backwards."

FORMER Chelmsford borough councillor Charlie Cole is determined to avenge what he claims is the appalling treatment his wife Wendy has received at the hands of her Essex county council colleagues.

Mr Cole, who quit the Tories and contested Braintree for UKIP at the last General Election, says Mrs Cole has been victimised and side-lined by county Tories because of his defection.

"I'm blamed for the Tory failure to win Braintree and they took it out on Wendy," says Mr Cole. "She worked hard on behalf of the people of Broomfield and Writtle but she was marginalised and denied access to party discussions and information."

Mrs Cole was deselected in December, which has so angered Mr Cole - who is now the influential East of England organiser for UKIP - that he will fight Broomfield and Writtle on behalf of the anti-EU party.

A spokesman for Essex Tories declined to comment.

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As part of this constitutional settlement, the Liberal Democrats would:

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