THE BLOG

The Best Argument for the Liberal Democrats? A Tory Queen's Speech

27/05/2015 17:41 BST | Updated 27/05/2016 10:59 BST

For the first time in 19 years, on Wednesday we saw a Queen's Speech written by a Conservative government. Or, to put it another way, I could just about call myself 'young' the last time this happened!

With an incredibly slim majority, perhaps this is a government beholden to its most right-wing MPs. But perhaps we should also thank the Tories - so many of the plans they have set out today make the argument for why a liberal voice in British politics is so badly needed.

On Europe, the referendum on our membership of the EU is an issue already threatening to turn into a parody. Cameron has just barred two groups from voting - 16 and 17-year olds, who engaged fantastically with the Scottish referendum; and most EU citizens resident in the UK, who can already vote in local government elections. Probably two of the groups most likely to vote to stay in the EU! There is also the fact that Britain will take over the rotating EU presidency in July 2017. That Britain could be in charge of the EU while simultaneously campaigning to leave it is a just a bizarre scenario. Will we see the referendum brought forward? Regardless, this is going to plunge many businesses into huge uncertainty and put many of their investment plans on hold.

Closer to home, we see the Snooper's Charter back on the agenda. This is going to make internet service providers collect and store vast amounts of data - such as what websites you've been on, who you've been emailing, when, from where - and make this data available to government on request. Big Brother is well and truly here. Tories often complain that the Liberal Democrats blocked them from implementing the Snooper's Charter - and I'm dead proud that we did. The one question we must all ask Theresa May, and Tory MPs who will support her Snooper's Charter, is: how do you protect our freedoms by destroying them?

We also see more 'tough talk' from David Cameron on immigration. Wages of some illegal migrants will fall under the scope of the Proceeds of Crime Act and will be confiscated. This could hit the genuinely vulnerable and exploited migrant worker who earns £23.60 after doing a 60-hour shift. If this makes no sense to you, it doesn't make sense to me either. This is, yet again, the politics of gimmickry and division.

And he may have left it out of Wednesday's Queen's Speech, but an issue we will no doubt return to very soon is the Human Rights Act, which David Cameron wants to repeal. This is a piece of legislation which enshrines in law 18 rights. These include the right to life, right to a fair trial, right to education, and freedom of thought, amongst others. Repealing it would mean withdrawing from the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). The only other country outside the ECHR? That bastion of democracy, Belarus. Two Conservative cabinet ministers from the coalition government - Dominic Grieve and Andrew Mitchell - have warned against going down this path. Repealing the Human Rights Act and withdrawing from the ECHR - imagine the message this sends to despotic regimes around the world about the UK's willingness to abide by international standards of human rights.

The next five years will show the Tories at their worst, without the leash of the Liberal Democrats to hold them back. Risking our membership of the EU, snooping on our online browsing histories, demonising the poor and vulnerable - Wednesday's Queen's Speech was just the beginning. If it angers you just like it angers me, if you want to do something about it, then you can. Join the only liberal voice in British politics, join the Liberal Democrats. An incredible 14,000 people have already done so since polling day - the fightback has begun.

Tim Farron is the Lib Dem MP for Westmorland and Lonsdale, a former Lib Dem president, and is running to be the next leader of the party - tim2lead.com