Thursday, 12 June 2008
Freedom has had a bad press lately. There was Operation Enduring Freedom, which turned out to be nothing of the kind. And there have been numerous statements from politicians throughout the west, declaring that the bedrock of freedom is free market economics. These are often made by the same politicians who proclaim that physical safety is the most important civil liberty.
But when I heard David Davis's speech resigning from the House of Commons to prompt a by-election, I was moved. He spoke about questions of freedom that have worried me for some time. He spoke of last night's vote to extend detention without trial to 42 days. He spoke of the growth of the surveillance society: the extension of CCTV cameras and the effect of ID cards, the threat to trial by jury and the prevention of peaceful protest.
Nu-Labour supporters hurried to attack David Davis, condemning his decisions as "expensive" and describing him as "unhinged." He sounded pretty sane to me. Of course, he may seem unhinged by Nu-Labour standards - ideas about democracy and civil liberties may seem pretty strange in an organisation that's apparently obsessed by micro-management and control.
I couldn't help noticing that David Davis undermines one of the arguments often advanced by Nu-Labour MPs: that the defence of freedom is a cause only supported by a comfortable, middle-class minority who don't know what poverty or "real life" is. David Davis and I have one thing in common: we both spent much of our childhood on Wandsworth council estates. He probably had a harder time than I did.
On many other questions I disagree strongly with David Davis. I have never voted Conservative. I strongly oppose some of the positions he has taken on law and order. In particular, I'm against capital punishment, which he supports. But I think the question of freedom that David Davis has raised is so very important that, if I were one of his constituents in Haltemprice and Howden, I'd vote for him. I might even campaign for him - on this issue alone.
I never thought I'd say that of a tory MP.