Another betrayal? Activists reel from Lib Dem secret courts vote

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Another betrayal for Lib Dem members? Party votes for secret courts.
Another betrayal for Lib Dem members? Party votes for secret courts.

The Liberal Democrat party was accused of once again betraying its principles last night, after it voted to back Conservative plans for secret courts to be used in cases involving national security issues.

Only seven of the party's 57 MPs rebelled in a series of votes on four amendments yesterday evening.

Angry party members will make their feelings heard using an emergency motion at the Liberal Democrat spring conference this weekend – although it is unclear what effect that route might have, given the leadership has already ignored a policy motion against secret courts during its autumn conference.

Party president Tim Farron and deputy leader Simon Hughes rebelled against their party and backed a Labour amendment.

Other Lib Dem rebels included former children's minister Sarah Teather, Julian Huppert, Greg Mulholland, Mike Crockart and John Hemming.

Teather's inclusion in the list of rebels is particularly significant. She is still trying to repair the damage to her reputation on the Lib Dem benches for opposing the gay marriage bill.

"I rebelled on a series of votes this evening on the justice and security bill," she wrote on her Facebook page.

"Having spent most of my time in parliament campaigning against rendition, Guantanamo Bay and torture I take a close interest in matters like this."

Lib Dem activists are in a fighting mood after being widely credited with winning the Eastleigh by-election for the party due to their energetic, disciplined campaigning operation. They are unlikely to be impressed with the leadership's decision to vote against their conference policy, especially on a civil liberties issue.

There were also several rebellions from Tory backbenchers, not least from 1922 committee chairman Graham Brady, who voted in favour of a Labour amendment from Andy Slaughter.

During the debate, the Tory chairman of the Treasury committee, Andrew Tyrie, said: "It's not often I find myself agreeing with everything that's been said on the other side of the House but not this side.

"This may seem technical, but it's really about the kind of society we want. They're about what values we as a country are seeking to espouse and export."

The secret courts motion will make for a lively spring conference, as delegates also plan to raise serious concerns about new NHS regulations enforcing competition on the tendering process for services.

There is also the matter of the ongoing row over Lord Rennard, with many activists expected to raise concerns about the party's treatment of women making complaints against male colleagues.

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