Thursday, June 12, 2008

David Davis' Empty Gesture

Before we all get swept away on a tide of hysteria about what a saviour of civil liberties David Davis is, we maybe want to take a long, hard look at his record. Here is a man who quite happily voted for 28 days' detention without charge not that long ago - a huge increase from the then 3 day limit. He is pro hanging. He has voted, as well as more recently created, the Tory line on immigration. I suspect that if he is re-elected he will continue to vote the Tory line on pretty much everything.

I wonder if he would have had such an unsurmountable attack of principle if he had represented a Tory/Labour marginal, where just a few votes switching could send him down to the Job Centre. Now that the Liberal Democrats have given him a free run at his own seat, he only really has to defeat a fairly negligible Labour vote.

I don't believe that this is some sort of heroic plan, hatched last night, to stand up for our rights as citizens. Election campaigns take time to plan, even with the modern by election sprint campaigns we have been used to. This is just another Tory opportunistic stunt.

Remember the Tories are the people who banned unions at GCHQ, introduced Section 28, failed to take effective action against South Africa during apartheid, failed to support devolution, fair votes, and equalities laws. They supported the Iraq war while the Liberal Democrats have consistently stood up for human rights and civil liberties as part of our core philosophy for a very long time.

Part of me wants us to take Davis on and beat him. If there is any sign of any Conservative management of his campaign, then I think we could honoourably change our minds and enter the contest. We are in a reasonable second place and could do it. Why let him fight a by-election on an issue of his choosing? If he wants to face the people, he should do so on his whole record, and that of the party he is still a part of.

The result of this unnecessary by election will be completely meaningless - Labour couldn't win if they tried there. Maybe we are right to refuse to dignify this opportunistic charade, but I can't help feeling it's an opportunity lost.

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