The new prime minister's speech on British liberty is worth reading in full. It's a little too collectivist and communitarian for my taste, but when you compare this Labour prime minister's concern for safeguarding individual liberty in the context of the war on terrorism with Bush and Cheney, it's night and day. But the most striking part of the speech to me was the following:
In my first days as Chancellor of the Exchequer I gave up power to the Bank of England. To restore the credibility of government economic policy we had to constrain the power of government to put the politics of the moment ahead of the national economic interest.
Now - in my first few months as Prime Minister - we are consulting on other areas where the Prime Minister and executive should surrender or limit their powers, re-examining patronage where it is arbitrary and at all times seeking to bring the executive under democratic control.
In my statement to Parliament before the summer, I proposed that in twelve areas important to our national life the Prime Minister and executive should surrender or limit their powers - the exclusive exercise of which by the government should have no place in a modern democracy - including:
* the power of the executive to declare war;
* the power of the executive to ratify international treaties without decision by Parliament;
* and powers in the appointment of judges -- ensuring the independence of the judiciary and recognising their role in safeguarding liberty.
Now recall what Bush and Cheney have done: insisting that the Congress has no final say in whether the United States goes to war or not (in flagrant violation of the Constitution); insisting that the executive branch can unilaterally withdraw from or ignore treaty obligations, such as the Geneva Conventions, without Congressional assent; and abusing the Justice Department to enforce partisan and ideological conformity, rather than to administer justice as impartially as possible.
Remember: this is a Labour prime minister. Remember also that America's historical commitment to individual liberty has actually been deeper than Britain's; and the American constitution's protection of the separation of powers does not exist in the same categorical way in Britain. This is how far America has sunk.
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