The two Davids

A recent blogger on this site kindly praised me for backing David Davis immediately he resigned, rather than waiting to see which way the wind was blowing. Of course – I make up my own mind on these things, and wanted to influence what happened next by being quick to judgement.

I am pleased that David Cameron has appointed Dominic Grieve as Shadow Home Secretary. We do need someone in that post in the next few weeks to carry on the campaign in Parliament. Dominic is talented and entirely in agreement with the stance we have been taking in defence of liberty. I look forward to his contributions as the government gets embroiled in battles in the Lords for its grubby legislation. It is also good news that David Cameron has supported David Davis’s view on the issue, to give the lie to any idea that there was a split on it. It is more welcome than the sniping we have got used to at the top on the Labour side.

To those who ask, why did David Davis do it, can’t they for once think that maybe he did it for the reasons he set out? He is a clever enough politician to know that David Cameron’s position is rightly strong in the Conservative party, and there is no question over the leadership. Sometimes commentators can be too clever or cynical. There is no split in Conservative ranks over 42 day detention (save for Miss Widdecombe who is retiring at the next election).


  1. Susan
    June 13, 2008

    All the msm seem to be putting their own spin on this event; even Andrew Pierce is talking of splits in the Conservative Party – they either just don't get it or they are wilfully dissembling. It's quite shameful. I, for one, am happy to accept that David Davis is acting from his heart, not his head and that this is not a vainglorious poitical stunt. The 42-day vote is not the cause of his resignation but the final straw as some are saying and I certainly see no sign of 'turmoil' with the Party. Perhaps more could be done by DC to set the record straight and so nail the rumours before they gain credence? By the way, sterling work by Michael Gove on last night's Question Time – most impressive.

  2. Ann Heafield
    June 13, 2008

    As well as the new 42-day detention limit, Davis also cited CCTV cameras and identity cards as things that are eroding our civil liberties.

    An MP with principles. Remember those? Me neither. No doubt Labour will chicken out of standing against him.

    Unfortunately, he neglected to mention the smoking ban and the hunting ban in his list of assaults on our freedoms.

    We are being dummed down. What next? The fatties, the drinkers?

    I have never voted Tory at the National Elections in my 55 year life but if the Conservative Party are bold enough (I doubt it) to follow Mr D's lead and stand up for civil liberties and freedom of choice, you are assurred of my vote. The front page of the Times today says Labour are 'crowing' over Mr Davis. Beware, Mr Brown, there are plenty more of your previously loyal, like me, out there.

  3. Simon_C
    June 13, 2008

    What I want to hear from the Conservative party is a clear commitment that they will roll back the time limit back to 2 or 7 days, and at the same time introduce other legislation that will allow the continuing collection of evidence after charge.

    We didn't even need 7 days during the terrorism in the 80s. It seems to me that the main reason the police want longer and longer time is to gather evidence from electronic devices, frequently stating encryption as one of these reasons. That would mean we have to increase detention time in line with moors law (doubling of computer power every 2 years). Come to think of it, isn't that about what's happened ? :-/

    In fact, there is already legislation there to enable people to be charged with witholding encryption keys. So why is more time needed ? It seems to be we'd all be much better servered if the police had power to remove and investigate computer equipment (with a court order) and release someone and then call them back for later questioning and possible charge.

    In reality the only way to get information from a correctly encrypted device is to bug the device before you arrest someone.

  4. Letters From A Tory
    June 13, 2008

    Indeed. Sometimes the cynicism of politician's intentions goes a bit over the top. Maybe, just maybe David Davis really did resign on a matter of principle and David Cameron supports him! Shock horror.

  5. Acorn
    June 13, 2008

    Interesting to see that Bob Marshall Andrews is supporting David Davis. I must assume that all these members on the green benches that have "QC MP" on the end of their names, know more about defending liberty than the rest of the lobby fodder.

    The problem is, how do you explain to the average Sun reader what has been happening to their liberty! They will not have a clue. I hope DD understands that he has to bring this argument down to their level. Council bin spies; pensioners wearing the wrong T shirts at Heathrow; school catchment area spies. DD supporters must find multiple events of this nature and get them headlined.

    If the Sun starts being used as an "election leaflet" for Kelvin Mackenzie then jump on it. Remember what he said last time he tried to get elected and lost to the Tory.

  6. Mike Mitchell
    June 13, 2008

    David Davis deserves the utmost support and I feel that the amount coming from the Conservative Party right now is token at best and not very fulsome. At last, here is in Davis a principled politician who is prepared to sacrifice his remaining career for something he deeply cares about, the overwhelming majority of the public support him, yet all that most media pundits can do is carp about rifts and craziness and so on. We should at last respect someone for giving back our belief in politicians. And the whole panoply of issues regarding internment without charge, ID cards, DNA database, CCTV and so on will be kept in the spotlight for weeks. Excellent, Mr Davis! And I almost weeped with joy on watching your announcement yesterday.

  7. Rose
    June 13, 2008

    I am delighted we are to get a debate outside Parliament on these vital matters, and delighted that we are to have Dominic Grieve as Shadow Home Secretary. A very happy state of affairs, or in BBC parlance, "win/win".

  8. Watervole
    June 13, 2008

    What a hero David Davis is! Well done John Redwood for standing up alongside. The media just said that all DD’s parliamentary colleagues were furious with him. What a lie! Clearly they aren’t and I for one, am fed up of the media treating me like an idiot.

    One assumes, since the Labour Party are bankrupt, they can’t actually afford to fund a campaign hence Gordon and Tony cosying up to Rupert at Kelvin’s super dooper party last night. What a crock. They can’t afford to campaign so they get the Sun, that bastion of quality and principle, to stand it instead.

    Davis is right. The proceedings on the 42 day vote were the most shameful, shoddy treament of parliament and the democratic principle in living memory and he it totally right to call the government to account.

    I predict the by-election turnout will prove to be one of the highest yet and that Davis will get a ringing endorsement from the public. No matter how the Westminster village spins it, the public is behind Davis and is fed up of the weasle words and self-interest coming out of Whitehall.

    Davis has promoted something that has been strangely absent from politics, from the government that shuld demonstrate qualities commensurate with their role – principle.

    Davis is right – Brown is a coward. The 42 day vote and the Speaker’s prevention of Davis’ right to a resignation speech demonstrate quite convincingly that he had little choice but to resign. What he is actually saying is that the democratic process of parliament is closed down – partly by the Parliament Act – and by the other things we have seen this week. The Commons is no longer a place of debate, nor of what is right. Unless this stand is taken, England will indeed have become a Stalinist state where the mother of all parliaments will have been treated like a cheap whore, that can be bought for a bottle of gin.

  9. mikestallard
    June 13, 2008

    Allow me, please, a personal comment.
    Once in my life I had to sacrifice my career because of my conscience. It got so that I just couldn’t live with myself any more. I was becoming unpleasant, angry, bitter and my wife and family were really feeling the strain, I can tell you!
    Well, I left my career path and went onto the dole. It was not fun. But I am so glad I did it now. It saved my marriage and my family.
    I suspect that the sheer disgust of what happened over that bought and rigged vote against Magna Carta did the same for David Davis. He just couldn’t take any more. It brought it all to a head.
    Now his career seems to be finished too. (Telegraph leader today).
    What a giant he is!

  10. Yellow
    June 13, 2008

    The reason he stated was to show up the Labour party’s stance on this one and to have a public debate.

    If he really is trying to damage the labour party then why is the Labour party so pleased about this one?

    Sorry, still a cynic over here.

  11. Deborah
    June 13, 2008

    re: Acorn,

    The election will not be in the South East but in Yorkshire and, as I’m sure DD is fully aware, they don’t do “Westminster speak” in Yorkshire. Instead of the usual political waffle, plain speaking will be required, . This is the perfect opportunity to spell out, in plain english – the common tongue if you like – what this govt has done to our civil liberties

  12. Matthew Reynolds
    June 13, 2008

    I admire Mr Davis as a man of principle who is standing up for the very liberties that Labour claim to be defending against Al-QAEDA and are in fact erroding . It is very worrying that Labour are using a climate of fear to increase the power of the state . If we just tightened our border security , opted out of potty EU human rights leglislation and made more effective usage of laws already in force then we would not need this 42 days nonsense . Axing ID cards would make sense as they will not make us safer ( the Spanish have such a scheme & the Madrid massacre still happened ) , it would cost a bomb and it is an affront – why should we have to prove who we are to the authorities . CCTV , bin snoopers , parents being spied on , DNA data base etc are just a disgrace – at the height of the IRA atrocities we did not need 42 days . If Jacqui Smith really believed all the things that she has been saying why does she not fight David Davis as the Labour PPC in this by-election ? If the Home Secretary believes in what she is saying then she should pick up the gauntlet & be the Labour standard bearer in David Davis's backyard . Anything less smacks of cowardice in my view .

  13. William B.
    June 14, 2008

    I am in two minds about Mr Davis’s decision.

    On the one hand there is an undeniable aroma of “stunt” about the course of action he has chosen to follow. The cynic in me asks whether he would have taken the same course if he were in a marginal seat.

    On the other hand I agree with every word he said in his speech outside the Palace of Westminster. Much of the commentary in the newspapers and blogs has concentrated on the 42 day issue whereas he made clear in his speech that he wishes to raise a wider and more significant issue about the extent to which the state interferes in our lives.

    It would be a great shame if the debate is overshadowed, or even significantly effected, by continued discussion of the merits of his chosen method of bringing that issue forward. Having said that, I cannot think of any other way in which he could have raised that issue to the forefront of national debate so quickly.

    I am sure I am not the only person in this country who feels he has to look over his shoulder all the time for fear that a fixed penalty notice can be slapped into my hand at any moment for some unconscious or harmless act which contravenes a provision enacted by Executive fiat using a power buried deep in a Statutory Instrument.

    Anecdotal evidence is rarely of great value, but I must share an experience I had last week. I was enjoying a hugely-taxed cigarette outside my favourite curry house while waiting for a lamb vindaloo and heard the CCTV camera at the corner of the road whirring. It turned and pointed down towards me and the two fellow-addicts next to me. No one else was in the road and there was only light traffic. It remained pointed at us until we had finished our ciggies and placed the butts back in the packet. Then it whirred in a different direction. Maybe the operator hoped we would drop litter, maybe the operator wanted to record us just in case three middle-aged men decided to have a fight or to break into the 10 year-old Nissan parked 20 yards away, maybe it was to get evidence that a man who had a heart attack at the age of 44 still smokes and eats curry 3 years later. Whatever the reason for this intrusion into my life, it made me feel uncomfortable.

    The state simply should not make us feel uncomfortable when we are going about our normal, lawful, everyday activities. It is not the presence of the CCTV camera itself that is troubling, it is the fact that an unknown person in an unknown control room chose to point it at me for an unknown reason.

    This is, of course, a highly personal example; but I believe it to be a good example of the problem David Davis has brought to the fore. To adapt a phrase so beloved of those in favour of the 42 day proposal, I did nothing wrong and should have had nothing to fear. But the fact that I know I will face no sanction for having a cigarette is neither here nor there. Being spied on when you have nothing to hide is itself inimical to the way of life we should be able to enjoy. It creates a deeply unpleasant and threatening atmosphere.

    Reply: Mr Davis does have a marginal seat – in 2005 Lib Dems made it a target seat and tried to unseat him.

  14. Valda Redfern
    June 14, 2008

    David Davis is a hero. He is right: it is high time the attacks on our freedoms were presented and debated in public, at length, so that all of us have a chance to understand the issues and decide whether we really want to allow Parliament to legislate away the remaining protections of our individual rights. Don't discount the Sun readers: they are just as capable as anyone else of understanding the threat, and a politician who can't explain it to them won't be able to explain it to anyone.

    I hope every Conservative MP offers David Davis warm support. I admire him. If Labour don't rise to his challenge, shame on them for behaving like the cheap little power-lusters some of them are.

  15. JeffMathew
    June 15, 2008

    For the first time in living memory (and probably the first since the time of Disraeli) a senior politician has put his job on the line on the single issue of our fundamental freedoms and the insidious erosion of the rule of law.

    Like most people, I was surprised when I heard what David Davis has done. But my first thoughts were not “selfish”, “cynical”, “attention-seeking” or “damaging”.

    Like most people who inhabit the real world outside the Westminster bubble, I saw it for what it was. A man who felt so strongly about an issue of principle he was prepared to put in the time and sweat to take his case to the people, even if that meant giving his colleagues a hard time.

    This is a view add odds with vast majority of the pundits and politicians who occupy the bars of Westminster and the prime slots on College Green.

    People whose only frame of reference is in terms of “personal rivalries” and “disagreements at the top of the party”.

    These people are astounded by what David Davis has done because their view of the world has been skewed by too many years on the political inside. They speak a language which has lost its word for “principle”.

    The incredulous reaction of the Westminster “Inside” was summed up by Michael Brown who wrote in Friday’s Independent “I simply don’t believe that ordinary voters will understand what Mr Davis is doing.”

    Is it any wonder that politics turns people off ? We’re constantly told how disillusioned we are with the current political generation, but when one politician does stand up to be counted, he is dismissed as either a charlatan or a madman.

    I believe that those inside the Westminster bubble who dismiss Mr. Davis have missed the point. As Matthew Parris puts it, the public is heartily sick of people in public life who hedge, duck and scuttle for cover whenever it would be awkward to take a stand.

    I too believe that David Davis has genuinely touched a chord with people in the world outside politics. Not only because we admire an underdog. Not only because politicians with principles are in short supply.

    But because there are thousands of us, ordinary, law-abiding folk who have become increasingly nervous about the insidious erosion of our freedoms in the name of this or that “vital” issue, only to see the same new powers which are supposed to protect us subverted to other purposes.

    People who feel indignant when they are told that their respect for our fundamental freedoms means they are somehow ‘soft on terrorism’.

    People who realise that our best means of protection has never rested in the clumsy interventions of governments, in new regulations which detain the innocent, immigration rules which aren’t enforced, or the growing apparatus of surveillance which is as intrusive as it is unnecessary.

    What most people know instinctively is that the best guarantee of our protection is quite simply the rule of law. The rule of law, upheld by people who are prepared to stand up for the historic freedoms on which it is founded, enforced by a police force who take the trouble to walk the streets which they serve and administered by a system of justice which is generally acknowledged to be fair but firm.

    My father and thousands like him fought to uphold those values, not to see them frittered away in a morass of ineffectual legislation, while whole estates become no go areas and kids get knifed in front of disused police stations.

    I believe David Davis has touched a chord with many ordinary people, many new to the Conservatives, many new to politics.

    So I think the political elite is a little out of touch. The BBC and the Telegraph can knock Mr. Davis if they want, but why not preserve the balance and give out his campaign address. I think he deserves a hand.

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