Monday, 16 June 2008

Political maverick

As you know, I'm pretty cynical about politicians, so I'm amazed and impressed that a leading English politician is taking a stand of high principle on the erosion of civil liberties.

After the Labour government won (just!) agreement to a possible detention period of 42 days for suspected terrorists, Conservative MP David Davis said he would resign and fight a by-election* on the issue.

Because he believes so strongly that the 42 days provision is draconian, and because he thinks the government is steadily undermining civil liberties in one area after another, he is going to ask the voters to re-endorse him and his stand for basic freedoms.

Naturally the Labour Party have poured scorn on him. So have the Conservatives. But the general public are right behind him, by a big majority.

He has been scathing not only about the detention increase, but the huge number of CCTV cameras, the new ID card project, restrictions on public protests, attempts to reduce jury trials and mislaid confidential personal data.

He will no doubt raise all these issues at length during his by-election campaign.

When so many politicians toe the line and do what they're told to do, usually lying outrageously in the process, it's refreshing when one of them sticks his neck out to emphasise his deeply-held convictions.

I don't often support a Tory, but his tactic is inspired.

PS: An example of the misuse of terrorist laws. Three pensioners joining a demonstration at Heathrow Airport on May 31 were questioned and escorted from the airport by police for wearing T-shirts that read "Stop Airport Expansion". Police took their names, addresses and descriptions and followed them out, warning they would be arrested if they returned within 24 hours.

* When a seat becomes vacant through death or resignation, there is a by-election to elect a new MP.

Jenny has a very different opinion on David Davis. She believes his typically Tory views on other subjects make him unworthy of support.


  1. Nick,
    Why is standing as a Conserative though? Surely he should have been kicked out for defying the psrty whip?
    He might be making a principled stand but he was not exactly thinking about his party colleagues so I think it was more than a little self-centred.

  2. My still developing knowledge of how the political process works in the UK limits my understanding of the situation, but from what I read in the papers about this I was impressed with what I percieved to be a great deal of integrity.

    I was shocked at the press interpretation, however. I thought it was quite negative, even in the liberal media.

  3. Aidan - I was assuming he'd be thrown out of the party for damaging its reputation or some such but apparently not. No, he wasn't too concerned about his colleagues but I guess sometimes you just have to do what you think is right.

    FG - Yes, the media coverage has been quite vicious, though I see some of the papers are now coming round to supporting him. If it were just a publicity stunt, he could have found a far less hazardous method.

  4. I think it takes a lot of guts to diverge from your cronies and stand for what you believe in.

    Pity more didn't do the same when it came time vote on Afghanistan and Iraq.

  5. Quicky - It takes a lot of guts these days, there's so much pressure on MPs to not rock the boat but just loyally support their party leader. And yes, how few have defied the status quo over Afghanistan and Iraq.

  6. We have 24 hour detention without cause laws and already a Queensland doctor has been returned to India for being linked with the second spate of London bombings . . .he wasn't . . .total fabrication by the Australian Federal Police and lies within the tabloid press because he was 'related' to one of the bombers . . .he's now acquired a visa to return to Australia but his reputation is in tatters. Good to see someone taking a stand on ridiculous over regulation.

  7. Baino, it's scary how often apparently innocent people are being hounded by the authorities in the name of fighting terrorism. As you say, their reputations can be completely ruined in the process.

  8. I don't ever know about the motivation and reasoning behind what a politician does and says. I am forever cynical about the sincerity and genuineness of their moves. However, like everyone else I would applaud and support one that is putting effort into a cause that I agree with. Too bad I am not in England to give support to his cause.
    Good luck to him. Hope the people for whom he is doing this won't let him down at the crunch time.

  9. Nick: I'm getting politically too jaded and cynical maybe., Harper does me in in Canada and now Williams, the premier of Newfoundland, whom I so admired, has feet of clay on a very serious inquiry that is taking place here.
    I doubt whether Davis' stand is altogether altruistic. I'm sure self-promotion came into play and it also smacked a little of preplanning also, perhaps running it by his party before the big speech.

  10. Gaye (not to be confused with GayƩ!) - Indeed, it's hard to know if a politician is ever being genuine about anything, but I feel in this instance it's a cause he sincerely believes in.

    www - I'm not sure about self-promotion, since he's lost his position as Shadow Home Secretary and presumably will be permanently marginalised by Tory leader David Cameron. Unless as you intriguingly suggest it's all pre-planned with Cameron to embarrass the Labour government.

  11. FG - I saw your comment on Jenny's post about his hypocrisy. But as I said there, maybe you can argue he's hypocritical in that he promotes civil liberties while apparently denying them to certain groups of people, but you could argue the same of the Labour government, who consistently harass migrants and asylum-seekers and forcibly deport them to extremely dangerous countries.

  12. The errosion of civil liberties is a bit issue as far as I am concerned. I feel guilty all the time, like I am a criminal that has not got caught yet. Speed cameras, weelie bins that have to be fully shut, recyle bins that will incur a fine should someone walking past choose to deposit a plastic bottle in your grass cuttings, I can remember the days (in my early youth) where I could choose to run naked if I wanted to ... I would not dare to now. Would be done and publicly shamed, crb checks would show all sorts of indescretions - no job the result. We are all asleep while our freedom is being stolen away from us.

  13. Big issue - I need a cup of tea

  14. QV, there seem to be a lot of bureaucrats and politicians out there who delight in introducing new regulations and gadgets which supposedly improve everyone's lives but in practice are often just an unproductive annoyance or even intrusion on privacy. Like all the expensive CCTVs which have virtually no effect on crime rates and detection.

    A cup of tea - what a good idea, I'm off to the kitchen.