One of the biggest advantages of being a Liberal Democrat is that, when exposed to Conservative stupidity, you are more likely to understand why it is stupid and the contradictions that exist in their 'thinking'. The likes of Tim Montgomerie (for example) are, thanks heavens, very vocal but not terribly thoughtful when it comes to civil liberties. Ironic really, as they're the first to exclaim their belief in freedom.
And so I'm rather pleased that young Mr Clegg has chosen now to nail Liberal Democrat colours to the mast of the good ship 'Human Rights'. Freedom is difficult. As a decent, law-abiding taxpayer, I want to be free to go about my decent, law-abiding, tax paying activities, free of undue interference by the State. I want the law to be applied without fear or favour, I want the guilty to be punished appropriately. However, I also understand that I have responsibilities too. There is, I would suggest, a balance to be sought.
A framework of rights is therefore helpful, and the European Convention on Human Rights, strongly influenced by English law as Nick points out, is a good starting point. However, there is a catch (there so often is, I fear) - those rights have to be universal, or they are transient.
That means the right to trial before a jury of your peers, it means the right to know what information is held about you by the State or by private organisations, it means that the democratic process is respected, even if you don't particularly like the outcome. And that's where I differ from my Conservative 'friends' (they hate being referred to as friends, which is the main reason I do it).
Conservatives don't get that, which is why they want an example made of looters, or why they believe in making it harder for Unions to take industrial action. You see, the universality of human rights they believe in only applies to those that they approve of. In fairness, Labour take a similar view, supporting human rights for whoever the Daily Mail approves of.
So, someone has to point out that human rights are not a 'thief's charter' (as Jack Straw so disgracefully described the Human Rights Act), or an annoyance and a barrier to a smaller state (pick a Conservative, virtually any Conservative). It might not be a comfortable place in the face of the assault from both left and right, but it is the right place to be.
However, someone has very kindly brought me another glass of that riesling gewurztraminer, so if you'll excuse me...