We love you really. Particularly after “I’m sorry”.
We were good boys and girls and folk of no particular gender and didn’t make noises about unseating you at conference, because we don’t believe that’s a good idea. (Even if the press would love it)
But you really, really need to learn to stop talking sometimes.
At conference during your Question and Answer session, you were asked about the draft Communications Data Bill. As you probably know this does not make headlines in the Guardian every day but is still something that worries many liberals. When Mark Pack asked you a question on it, you initially responded well with some spot on phrases:
“It’s a draft bill“.
“Unprecedented levels of scrutiny“.
“Julian Huppert“. (Julian’s mention being enough for a round of applause)
And finally, you confirmed what’s become known as “the Huppert Veto“. Despite the name, this is not the latest Tom Clancy thriller.
But after about three minutes of not particularly intense questioning, it started falling apart. George Potter asked you if you’d taken any advice on the bill, or even read it before initially endorsing it. It’s fine to say the Home Office misled you. Really, we won’t mind. It happens, and we’re there to catch that sort of thing before it makes it into law. That’s the nice thing about the Liberal Democrats: We can do that, when other parties can’t.
Parroting out the lines that the “principles of the bill are extending existing powers” just makes you sound like you’re reading from a Home Office press release. It’s not just about “extending [existing] powers to other forms of communication, particularly Voice, Skype or whatever“. It’s far more than that, and we know it.
At least when the third questioner challenged you, the response was a reference to “Nasty people”. I’m pleased that we’ve dropped the tired old “paedophiles and terrorists” line. But the “Yeah, yeah” as if you understood what a VPN was didn’t make you look clever.
This is really, really technical.
If I was having to defend a highly technical motion related to the safety of nuclear reactors, or use of certain drugs in hospitals, I’d not even try. I’d get people in who understood the stuff, liberals I trusted, and let them get on with it. Please don’t pretend to understand it because we’re completely OK with the idea that it’s really not that easy.
Frankly, you’ve got other things to do. A country to run. We, lead by Julian, can handle this one.
Instead, just remember these simple four words when questioned on the Communications Data Bill:
“I agree with Julian“.