I should make one thing clear. I am instinctively anti-Conservative. It comes with being brought up in Scotland (albeit my home town was in a seat represented by one of the old school Tories). I’ve voted for every major party apart from the Conservatives. BUt, today I am wishing one particular Conservative well, and sitting admiring the stand he has taken.
Some have been cynical about David Davis’s line on civil liberties. Well, let us be cynical no longer. His speech (which the Speaker did not allow him deliver to Parliament) was very powerful, and I sat there watching agreeing with every word – on ID cards, 42 days, database surveillance &c.
I wish Davis well in the by election, and am very pleased that the Lib Dems are not standing against him. And if this decision stiffens the Conservative line on the issue of civil liberties (which looks like one intention underlying his position), leads to the Lords feeling more able to vote down the provisions in the new legislation, and bolsters the Labour rebels (who are those being true to their party heritage) in response to the shoddy
deals discussions with the DUP and the crass and cynical comments of the likes of Eric Joyce (on Five Live in the past half hour), then all to the good.
Mr Davis may find himself with a somewhat unlikely coalition of backers in the by election.
ETA the text of his speech
“The name of my constituency is Haltemprice and Howden. Haltemprice is derived from the medieval proverb meaning ‘noble endeavour’. Up until yesterday I took the view that what we did in the House of Commons representing our constituents was a noble endeavour because for centuries our forebears defended the freedoms of the British people – or we did, up until yesterday.
“This Sunday is the anniversary of the Magna Carta, the document that guarantees that most fundamental of British freedoms, habeas corpus, the right not to be imprisoned by the state without charge or reason. Yesterday this House decided to allow the state to lock up potentially innocent citizens for up to six weeks without charge.
“The counter terrorism bill will in all probability be rejected by the House of Lords very firmly. What should they be there for if not to defend the Magna Carta. But because the impetus behind this is essentially political not security the government will be tempted to use the Parliament Act to overrule the Lords. It has no democratic mandate to do this since 42 days was not in the manifesto. Its legal basis is uncertain to say the least. But purely for political reasons this government’s going to do that.
“In truth 42 days is just one, perhaps the most salient example, of the insidious, surreptitious and relentless erosion of fundamental British freedoms.
“We will have shortly the most intrusive identity card system in the world. A CCTV camera for every 14 citizens, a DNA database bigger than any dictatorship has, with thousands of innocent children and a million innocent citizens on it. We’ve witnessed an assault on jury trials, that bulwark against bad law and its arbitrary abuse by the state, shortcuts for our justice system that make our justice system neither firm nor fair, and the creation of a database state, opening up our private lives to the prying eyes of official snoopers and exposing our personal data to careless civil servants and criminal hackers.
“The state has security powers to clamp down on peaceful protests and so-called hate laws which stifle debate, while those who serve violence get off scot-free. This cannot go on, it must be stopped and for that reason today I feel it is incumbent on me to take a stand.
“I will be resigning my membership of this House and I intend to force a by-election in Haltemprice and Howden. I will not fight it on the government’s general record; there is no point repeating Crewe and Nantwich. I will fight it on my personal record. I am just a piece in this great chess game. I will fight it. I will argue this by-election against the slow strangulation of fundamental British freedoms by this government. That may mean I have made my last speech to the House, possible. And of course that would be a cause of deep regret to me. But at least my electorate and the nation as a whole would have had the opportunity to debate and consider one of the most fundamental issues of our day. The ever-intrusive power of the state into our lives, the loss of privacy, the loss of freedom and a steady attrition undermining the rule of law. And if they do send me back here, it will be with a single, simple message. That the monstrosity of a law that we passed yesterday will not stand.”
(speech from here – slightly amended by me in the final para to reflect the text as delivered)