Tuesday 17 June 2008

a matter of trust....

A few days ago, David Davis, the Conservative MP and Shadow Home Secretary resigned his position as the Member of Parliament for Haltemprice and Howden. He did so to force a by-election for his seat that would enable him to stand again for election and to force a debate upon the erosion of civil liberties. The issue that particularly enraged Davis was the Labour Government's plans to extend the period that the police can hold terrorist suspects without charge up to 42 days, but he also wants to trigger wider debate upon the increased use of CCTV, the proposal to introduce compulsory ID cards, and the planned extension to the DNA database. As Davis put it in his resignation speech, these policies represented "the slow strangulation of fundemental freedoms by this Government".

Now, I'm not sure I thought that I would ever have cause to say this about a Conservative politician, but on this David Davis and I are in total agreement. I simply do not understand how we have allowed first Tony Blair and Gordon Brown's Labour party to hoodwink us into calmly allowing this ridiculous legislation to make it into the statute books without more of a fight. I understand that the post 9/11 world seems like a very cold and frightening place, but I have yet to see any convincing explanation about how these measures will actually protect us to win the ridiculously ill-conceived and somewhat hubristically titled "war on terror". I heard the Government minister, Hazel Blears, on the radio the other day trying to articulate Labour's response to the resignation. The best she could manage was to suggest that ID cards would really help to prevent these really very determined terrorists out of the country and would help to protect our way of life. Really? And there's me thinking that the July 2005 London bombers were all British citizens from Leeds. I'd like to know how an ID card would have prevented these men, all previously unknown and unsuspected by the authorities, from meeting up in Luton, strapping bombs to their bodies and going on to kill 52 commuters and injure some 700 others. Would their DNA have been on record? No. Were they caught on CCTV? Yes, but that was only discovered after the event. Ridiculous nonsense. None of this legislation makes any of us any safer. In fact, knowing that I can now be locked up for 42 days without any kind of a charge makes me feel somewhat less safe. Let me say that again: FORTY-TWO DAYS. That's basically a month and a half. That's an awfully long time to be shut away without anyone needing anything so tedious as a reason to keep you there. Of course, no one has ever been falsely imprisoned in this country, and anyway, if you've got nothing to hide, then you've nothing to fear? Right? Right?


What was it Benjamin Franklin was supposed to have said? 'Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.'

Seems about right to me, and it looks like that's exactly where were headed: neither safe nor free.

So why can't I bring myself to believe that David Davis might genuinely be interested in defending my liberties? Why am instinctively suspicious of his motives? Why do I think that somehow this is all some big publicity stunt to raise his profile and to set him up for another challenge for the leadership of the Conservative party? Why can't I believe that he's really doing this for us?

I went to see Daniel Kitson performing the other day, and in the course of his outstanding 2 hour stand up tour de force, he asked himself (and us) the same question: when did we all get so cynical? Why do we always have to assume the worst of people?

Well, whilst that's an excellent question under most circumstances, the reason I'm sceptical about David Davis is threefold:

1) He is a politician. Is there a less trustworthy job?

2) He is a Conservative politician, and was a minister in the last Tory Government.

3) I remember the last Conservative Government, and they were a bunch of evil, self-serving shits. Even worse than the current one, I reckon, although the gap's narrowing with every day that passes.

His essential point is a good one. I just don't think he has earned the right to be trusted. I can't help but think that he will make the most out of his time in the sun and will then do nothing to genuinely change anything for the better. I'm happy to be proved wrong, of course, but that's where I am at the moment....metaphorically standing with my arms crossed and a disdainful expression on my face, waiting to be impressed and expecting to be disappointed.


  1. Couldn't agree more, but I do think that David Davis is basically sincere. He could never be Tory party leader after this and he knows it.

  2. In a shadow front bench stuffed with Cameron's upper-classes, Davis has stuck out like a sore thumb for quite some time (an old fashioned working class Tory). Once he lost the leadership race there was no way Davis would be anything other than ultimately side-lined. This forces him to some level of foreground and although I think it's a pretty futile gesture on his part, he is right to raise the issue.

    Frankly, the government's actions on ID cards, 42 days etc all STINK.

    Thanks though for the invocation of BF: that quote is always brilliant...

  3. Good post, although I think the point about whether or not Davis is being cynical is moot. Either way, Davis at least raises the profile of the 42 days problem and gets people to talk about it, albeit briefly.

    So far, no amount of Web 2.0-style discussion has managed to raise an issue with as much effect as a politician having a good old spout. That's a pity, because far more sense is talked on the net than in the Commons. The trouble is that the system dictates that our "representatives" are the ones to be taken seriously, yet ultimately they work for their party rather than their constituents. A fatal flaw in the system that can only be fixed by fundamentally changing the party system - and that's about as likely as the ID scheme being scrapped :-(

  4. the one thing about the ID card scheme is that the government is far too incompetent to ever be able to deliver an IT project on this kind of a scale, so it will probably never happen. Witness the NHS systems and their constant delays and billions of pounds wasted.

    Still, just as long as we can rely on them not to leave critical data floating around in the post or left on the seats of tube trains, eh?


  5. The very thought! These are our stewards and mentors, as if they'd do something so irresponsible...


    hang on...

  6. The old saying that many roads lead to the same destination is very apropos here. Small government conservatives (of which I am one), civil libertarians, survivorlists, classic liberals, objectivists, and other anti-authority individual freedom lovers from both sides of the Atlantic, as well as both sides of the political spectrum are very disappointed in what's happening in the U.K, and the U.S in regards to the erosion of personal freedoms and rights. I don't know if we will ever turn back the clock on these issues, but I do know that it has to come from BOTH sides of the aisle, as well as from both countries. I don't want protection by my government, I want protection from my government.
    I hope this Davis fellow is sincere, but remember that one issue politicians rarely get elected. A conservative government "should" stand for lower taxes, less government, more personal freedom and liberty. Our Republicans over here have it ass backward, hopefully your Tory party can get it right. Lets hope for the best, but prepare for the worst. I might have to move out to Idaho and find one of those survivorlists camps, maybe even a Mormon one where I can have a few wives. Do you think they might have Wi-Fi in the mountains?

    P.S. Nice BF quote