David Cameron's 'fightback' (a somewhat incongruous title for a response to rioting) speech today had all the hallmarks of an out touch county fogey. His speech played to all the old rural Tory prejudices of inner cities and wouldn't have been out of place at a Tory conference in the heyday of the Thatcherites. One can't help feeling when facing issues of crime and disorder Cameron's 'liberal Tory' mask slips and he is able to become the true right winger he otherwise surpresses.
His reactionary (in the true sense of the word) attacks on the Human Rights Act and Health and Safety Legislation as contributing to rioting and a lack of personal responsibility are simply ludicrous, and the proposal to introduce some for of non-military national service has all the hallmarks of kneejerk new Labour nannying.
In contrast Labour Leader, Ed Miliband, was more measured, saying, 'the politician's instinct - reach for new legislation, appoint a new adviser, wheel out your old prejudices - will not meet the public's demand for real answers and deep rooted, lasting solutions...'. However one might comment it smacks of hypocrisy given his party's record in government of doing just that.
The fact that Cameron in particular is floundering on this issue presents a huge opportunity for Lib Dems. As a party they have much more rounded views of the cities than the Tories and (unlike Labour) a longstanding commitment to empowering communities.
Most of the nonsense spouted by Cameron is not in the coalition agreement and therefore means the Lib Dems are under no obligation to agree. Here is an issue that Clegg and deputy leader Simon Hughes can make some real progress and come up with a response that deals with the criminality of the rioting as well as some of the underlying causes. And by doing so showing the party is independent, rational and above all liberal.