By Ray Fleming

NICK Clegg, Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the Liberal Democrats, was yesterday accused by three former Labour Home Secretaries, a former Conservative holder of that office, and a senior member from his own party, of responsibility for “coalition niceties and party politics that get in the way of giving our security services the capabilities they need, to stay one step ahead of those that seek to destroy our society.” The accusation, in a joint letter to The Times, did not name Mr Clegg but he was clearly in the writers' sights for his opposition to the Communications Data Bill which would give police and security services powers, to track e-mails and online messages. Mr Clegg got this particular message alright because he quickly issued a denial of the accusations, saying that the Bill was “neither proportionate nor workable”.

Interestingly and perhaps significantly, the letter underlined the need for access to the internet after a terrorist attack, so that lessons could be learnt from how it had been planned and with what, overseas assistance. But Mr Clegg is probably right in describing the proposals as “unworkable” given the huge size of internet traffic and the involvement of foreign countries in its operation. And, can it be safely assumed that such access would stop at the flow of communications and their sources and not spread randomly to the content?