Who is Neil Craig? Well, he’s certainly not an orthodox Lib Dem, being a climate change sceptic, pro-Nuclear and an apologist for the Serbs’ actions that lead to the NATO intervention in Kosovo. He even tiresomely has opted to describe Paddy Ashdown as a “Nazi” for backing that conflict.
Craig has been thrown out of the Scottish Lib Dems for writing a blog and letters to the press expressing views that are “illiberal & irreconcilable with membership of the Party.” And he was thrown out; Matt Bowles argues to the contrary, but it is clear from the letter that a unanimous vote by the Executive has already been taken to kick him out, and that his membership has been suspended until the 21 January when he has been given a right to appeal.
Tim Worstall believes this is an attack on free speech. Absolute tosh. In principle, any political party should have the right to throw out a member who clearly does not believe in the principles the party is founded on. The question at stake here is if Neil Craig is or is not ia liberal and has been fairly treated. Disagreeing with specific policies is simply not good enough, and a party which defines itself as a champion of non-conformity and freedom of expression should not be kicking people out lightly.
One of the big problems is Derek Barrie’s letter itself, which does not appear to abide by any standard of natural justice I recognise. The letter alludes to the blog and letters in the press, but not what the specific problem is. Writing letters or blogging is not illiberal per se. How is Craig expected to defend himself?
All the letters I’ve seen he has written would appear to be about nuclear power and energy policy, arguing about the practicalities. I can’t believe this is the reason for throwing him out; apart from anything else, Craig points out John Thurso’s equivalence on the issue; has he received a similar letter?
On the matter of condemning the Kosovo intervention, and specifically Ashdown, calling someone a Nazi is pathetically crass, but hardly grounds for removal. As a poster said on Tim Worstall’s blog, Jenny Tonge has made equally crass comments about suicide bombers, and was subsequently rewarded with a peerage. I don’t begrudge Jenny being given a place in the House of Lords as otherwise I’ve found her to be quite sound, but it does highlight the fact that basically good people occasionally say silly things on an issue they care deeply about.
More to the point, I suspect a great many people within the Lib Dems regard Noam Chomsky with esteem. Chomsky was similarly opposed to the Kosovo intervention. Personally, I tend to side with Oliver Kamm when it comes to his appraisal of the “great man”, but that doesn’t mean I want to see a purge.
But all of this is to get ahead of myself. The truth is I have no idea why the Scottish Lib Dems opted to kick Craig out. It may be that there is irrefutable evidence to show that Craig is all sorts of things that I wouldn’t want in the party. The fact that Derek Barrie omitted to point this out in his letter is a pretty serious failing however, hence this post. I’ve written to him to inquire what the reason is and look forward to his reply.