Thursday, June 12, 2008

David Davis Resignation

It tells you something about our politics that when I saw the headline that David Davis had resigned, I assumed he was embroiled in some sexual or financial scandal.
In fact, he intends to fight a by-election on the issue of 42 day detention without charge and the wider erosion of civil liberties.

As a campaigning tactic by a leading politician, I think this is unprecedented although I stand to be corrected by someone with a greater knowledge of political history than myself.
Michael Crick, Newsnight's political editor, whose default position is that all politicians are unprincipled bastards, has said that Davis must be completely mad. And, following the clearest explanation from Davis himself, James Landale, the BBC's political correspondent, said "we still don't know the real reason."

I don't usually blog immediately after an event but my first reaction is favourable to Davis. It became even more favourable when the Government put up imbecilic junior Minister Caroline Flint, whose only argument was that forcing an unnecessary by-election was a shocking waste of public money. This from a Government that has squandered billions on an illegal and disastrous war.

That said, one should be wary of first reactions. And, whilst I agree with Davis on this particular issue, I thought I should take a closer look at the record of this brave champion of civil liberties and campaigner against the "intrusive power of the State."

In December 2004, Davis voted in favour of the Identity Card scheme.
Along with the rest of the Conservative Party, he later reversed his position on this but if his objection to it is so fundamental, how was he ever in favour of it?

Davis voted against an equal age of consent and supported the intrusive power of the State to poke its nose into people's bedrooms and prosecute same sex 17 year olds who slept together.

He voted for the intrusive power of the State to prevent gay and unmarried couples adopting children.

He recently voted for the intrusive power of the State to force IVF clinics to consider the need for both a father and mother and thereby deny fertility treatment to unmarried women.

He also recently voted for the intrusive power of the State to deny abortions to women after 22 weeks instead of the current 24 week limit.

So, like so many people and like so many Tories, Davis's commitment to civil liberties is highly selective.
I wish him well in his campaign on 42 day detention and commend his change of mind on ID cards.
But this is a man who is happy to use the intrusive power of the State to enforce his own view of personal morality on others and who has never developed a coherent and consistent theory of individual freedom untainted by party politics.
Until he does so, it's too early to add him to the list of libertarian heroes and very tempting to append his name to another list - that of cherry-picking, maverick ego-trippers.


At 8:38 PM, Blogger Vicus Scurra said...

I thought it was a sex scandal too, particularly when I heard the phrase "sacrificing his seat". No such fucking luck.

At 9:56 AM, Blogger mike said...

He also apparently voted in support of Section 28, and is in favour of a limited form of capital punishment in exceptional cases. So clearly, not a man that I would generally see eye to eye with. And yet, I do find myself applauding the stand that he's taking against 42 days. It's weird, it's illogical, it's strategically misconceived... well, it's completely barmy really... but it's also principled and passionate, and as such a massively welcome relief from the usual dead-eyed pragmatism that passes for a political process these days. As shadow home secretary, Davis is absolutely frothing-at-the-mouth FURIOUS about 42 days, and well he should be. So I say: Hats Off to the Brave Punk Rocking Old Tory Bastard!

At 2:59 PM, Blogger Willie Lupin said...

vicus: touch of the Talbot Rothwells there..

mike: we can agree he's right on this specific issue. It will be interesting to see if his by-election campaign strays into other areas and whether he is put on the spot over some of the contradictions in his wider position on freedom and the state.


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