Blueprint for a new politics, or much ado about not very much?

Nick Clegg's 'great reform' speech made some bold promises. Andy McSmith analyses what they will mean in reality

1. 'There will be no ID card scheme: no national identity register, a halt to second-generation biometric passports'

This should not be a problem as both parties committed themselves to it before the election. Scrapping the biometric passports was Liberal Democrat policy only, but the UK is not obliged by any international agreement to add other data to passports, and not doing so will save money, so the Tories will not mind.

2. 'We won't hold your internet and email records when there is just no reason to do so'

Goodbye to the database that was going to hold every email address, phone number and internet site anyone has visited. And it saves money.

3. 'CCTV will be properly regulated'

Since most CCTV is run by private operators, it will be interesting to see what this means in reality.

4. 'The DNA database will be properly regulated'

Your DNA could still go on the database even if you have done nothing wrong, but after a limited time it will be wiped off.

5. 'There will be no ContactPoint children's database'

This is a directory that is supposed to make sure that no child is left unprotected. The Tories had already said they would scrap it.

6. 'Schools will not take children's fingerprints without even asking their parents' consent'

It emerged in 2002 that some schools take children's thumbprints without telling parents. The Labour government warned schools to observe the Data Protection Act, but otherwise said it was a matter for local education authorities to set policy. Banning the practice will require legislation

7. 'We'll remove limits on rights to peaceful protest'

In 2005, Labour passed a law banning unauthorised demonstrations within 1km of Parliament. The Liberal Democrats promised to repeal it, which ought to be simple enough if the Tories are on side.

8. 'We'll review libel laws'

All of the parties agree that the libel laws need to be changed, although there are differences of opinion about how, so there may be a delay.

9. 'We will ask you which laws you think should go'

They will set up a website, and if enough people log in to complain about a particular law, they may or may not pay attention.

10. 'We will introduce a mechanism to block pointless new criminal offences'

But we do not know what that mechanism might be. Neither do they.

11. 'This Government will replace the House of Lords with an elected second chamber'

This is easy to promise but a nightmare to deliver because, if the Lords do not like what is proposed, they can hold it up for months or years. It is promised that a committee will report by December, but cynics doubt whether much else will happen in this parliamentary term.

12. 'We [will] legislate to fix parliamentary terms... unless Parliament votes [by 55 per cent] to dissolve itself first'

Fixing the date of the next general election should be simple. But the proposed 55 per cent hurdle has already met opposition and may not get through.

13. 'Parliament's power will be strengthened... starting with provisions to give MPs much more control over Commons business'

A committee chaired by the Labour MP Tony Wright has proposed creating a powerful new committee to control how Commons business is conducted, and removing the power of party whips to decide who sits on select committees. This was approved by the old Commons against opposition from the leaders of both Labour and the Conservatives. The Tories have seemingly dropped their opposition.

14. 'If your MP is corrupt, you can sack them'

This sounds good, but it will apply only where an MP is "guilty of serious wrongdoing" and will require the signatures of 10 per cent of people living in the constituency. It will not happen often.

15. 'We will regulate lobbying in Parliament'

There will be a statutory register of lobbyists, but other regulation may be hard to enforce.

16. 'This Government will be putting to you, in a referendum, the choice to introduce a new voting system'

There will be a referendum all right, but it may not produce a vote for reform, because most Conservative MPs, a substantial number of Labour MPs and most of the newspapers will campaign for a No vote.

17. 'We will be setting out plans to strip away unelected, inefficient quangos'

There is no reason to doubt that plans will be set out. Identifying "inefficient" quangos, and abolishing them without causing unforeseen damage, will be harder, but it will have to happen because the Conservatives are desperate to reduce public spending.

18. 'We are serious about giving councils much more power over the money they use'

This conflicts with the Government's first priority, which is to get public spending down. Both the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats have talked about taking power from Westminster and returning it to a local level.

19. 'Our plans to disperse power also include strengthening devolution to other parts of Britain'

The Conservatives had already agreed that the Scottish Parliament should have more tax-raising powers, but their manifesto promised only that they would "not stand in the way of the referendum" on more power for the Welsh Assembly. Nick Clegg's words were more positive.

20. 'And, of course, [we'll be] asking what we can do about the difficult issues surrounding the West Lothian question'

This issue has dogged politicians for nearly 25 years and has baffled Britain's finest constitutional brains, so if Nick Clegg thinks he can resolve it, he is to politics what Stephen Hawking is to physics.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Legendary blues and rock singer Joe Cocker has died of lung cancer, his management team as confirmed. He was 70
people70-year-old was most famous for 'You are So Beautiful'
Life and Style
fashionOne man takes the hipster trend to the next level
John Rees-Evans is standing for Ukip in Cardiff South and Penarth
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
newsIt was due to be auctioned off for charity
Life and Style
A still from a scene cut from The Interview showing North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's death.
Sir David Attenborough
environment... as well as a plant and a spider
'That's the legal bit done. Now on to the ceremony!'
voicesThe fight for marriage equality isn't over yet, says Siobhan Fenton
Arts and Entertainment
Bianca Miller and Katie Bulmer-Cooke are scrutinised by Lord Sugar's aide Nick Hewer on The Apprentice final
tvBut Bianca Miller has taken on board his comments over pricing
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: IT Support Technician - 12 Month Fixed Term - Shrewsbury

£17000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Helpdesk Support Technician - 12 ...

The Jenrick Group: Maintenance Planner

£28000 - £32000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: Maintenance...

The Jenrick Group: World Wide PLC Service Engineer

£30000 - £38000 per annum + pesion + holidays: The Jenrick Group: World Wide S...

The Jenrick Group: Project Manager

£35000 per annum + Pension+Bupa: The Jenrick Group: We are recruiting for an e...

Day In a Page

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'