Is this a taste of what's to come?

Liberal Democrat city councillor withdraws her support for Wolverhampton coalition, citing "ideologi

A Liberal Democrat city councillor in Wolverhampton has just announced that she will be withdrawing her support for the city's ruling Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition.

The council was exactly balanced, with 30 Labour members, 25 Conservatives and 5 Lib Dems, meaning that Claire Darke's abstention causes the coalition to collapse.

Darke has reportedly taken this action with the support of her local party, and has cited two main reasons for her departure -- firstly, that a Labour victory in a July by-election demonstrated that the electorate were leaning away from the coalition, making it "morally wrong" for it to continue; and secondly, the "ideologically driven" Conservative spending cuts.

This passage from her full statement is particularly interesting:

In addition, in a controlling alliance - and then a formal coalition - with the Conservatives (controlling Wolverhampton since May 2008) I believe that the Conservatives have treated their Liberal Democrat partners with contempt: our partnerships agreements have been ignored or appropriated by the Conservatives with no due respect given to us as individuals or as a party.

Plus, the ideological driven policies of the Conservatives to 'slash and burn' our great city's (nation's) services must not be tolerated. The ideological driven philosophy of the Conservatives that 'if we do not legally have to do it - don't do it at all' is the opposite of what any fair and equal (and just) society should be.

Of course, this is a city council with few ties to Westminster, and this move by one single councillor cannot and must not be blown out of proportion as regards the stability of the Westminster coalition. But the fact that Darke is citing broader problems of ideology and working relationship with the Tories rather than specific issues local to Wolverhampton prompts the inevitable question: could this be an indication of what is to come?

Caroline Crampton is assistant editor of the New Statesman. She writes a weekly podcast column.

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Amber Rudd's ignorance isn't just a problem for the laws she writes

Politicians' lack of understanding leads to the wrong laws - and leaves real problems unchecked. 

Amber Rudd’s interview with Andrew Marr yesterday is not going to feature in her highlights reel, that is for certain. Her headline-grabbing howler was her suggesting was that to fight terror “the best people…who understand the necessary hashtags” would stop extremist material “ever being put up, not just taken down”, but the entire performance was riddled with poorly-briefed errors.

During one particularly mystifying exchange, Rudd claimed that she wasn’t asking for permission to “go into the Cloud”, when she is, in fact, asking for permission to go into the Cloud.

That lack of understanding makes itself felt in the misguided attempt to force tech companies to install a backdoor in encrypted communications. I outline some of the problems with that approach here, and Paul Goodman puts it well over at ConservativeHome, the problem with creating a backdoor is that “the security services would indeed be able to travel down it.  So, however, might others – the agencies serving the Chinese and Russian governments, for example, not to mention non-state hackers and criminals”.

But it’s not just in what the government does that makes ministers’ lack of understanding of tech issues a problem. As I’ve written before, there is a problem where hate speech is allowed to flourish freely on new media platforms. After-the-fact enforcement means that jihadist terrorism and white supremacist content can attract a large audience on YouTube and Facebook before it is taken down, while Twitter is notoriously sluggish about removing abuse and hosts a large number of extremists on its site. At time of writing, David Duke, the former head of the Ku Klux Klan, has free use of YouTube to post videos with titles such as “CNN interview on Bannon exposes Jewish bias”, “Will the white race survive?” and “Stop the genocide of European mankind”. It’s somewhat odd, to put it mildly, that WhatsApp is facing more heat for a service that is enjoyed by and protects millions of honest consumers while new media is allowed to be intensely relaxed about hosting hate speech.

Outside of the field of anti-terror, technological illiteracy means that old-fashioned exploitation becomes innovative “disruption” provided it is facilitated by an app. Government and opposition politicians simultaneously decry old businesses’ use of zero-hours contracts and abuse of self-employment status to secure the benefits of a full-time employee without having to bear the costs, while hailing and facilitating the same behaviour provided the company in question was founded after 2007.

As funny as Rudd’s ill-briefed turn on the BBC was, the consequences are anything but funny. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.