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All the other places are shut

As people try to size up the implications of David Davis's bolt from the blue, it's already clear that the civil libertarians are dangerously divided. That's not to say that the authoritarians aren't divided too, but as the control freaks run both government and official opposition parties, it matters rather less to them.

One of the main sources of difference is the theory that Davis's credentials to lead a civil liberties backlash are compromised by his support for, well, any number of issues - the death penalty, section 28, abortion are chief among them. This seems to me to mistake "issues that are sometimes supported by civil libertarians" with civil liberties per se. It's quite possible to make the liberal case for supporting any or all of these issues - here's Chris Dillow on corporal punishment (yes, I know it's corporal not capital, but similar arguments apply). And even if you don't accept these arguments, at the end of the day, there's only one show in town and that's Davis. Civil libertarians could wait for the perfect candidate to lead the movement to Nirvana, but they have to face the fact that it's a pretty demanding set of criteria to make the grade - we're probably looking for  an MP, and moreover one with perfect liberal credentials. They should have no significant personal peccadillos (not usually a feature found among MPs), and they should be ready to risk their career; to throw away their secure income and bloated pension to make a stand for the cause. Shall we say that this person would be a bit far-fetched in a story book, let alone in real life?

Meanwhile, whereever you look, there are people of impeccable civil liberties credentials arguing about what other issues they'd like to roll up with the ones David Davis has outlined already, namely ID cards, CCTV, habeas corpus and free speech. UKIP want Europe added to the slate, this chap wants the anti-smoking legislation repealed. 

The similarity between this and the Life of Brian is both amusing and depressing. The People's Front for the Liberation of Britain says anyone who doesn't include put the EU on the slate is a traitor. The British League for Liberty says only fools think such nonsense and it's smoking we want.

There is no way in a thousand years a coherent platform can be built around all these issues. Nobody would support it at all. Strange as it might seem to myself and UKIP, lots of people who are against internment think that the EU is a smashing idea, and that if we just tweak it here and there, everyone will end up rich, free and good-looking. Yes, it's bizarre, but there it is. Now't as queer as folk. Sorry UKIP, we need these people on board - without them we're sunk. We can't have the EU on the ticket.

And there it is. There's one guy with a set menu. Don't walk out of the restaurant because he doesn't offer a la carte. All the other places are shut.

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Reader Comments (4)

David Davis in his speech mentioned the erosion of liberties, plural, not just the 42 day issue.The destruction of our law and liberty comes from the EU so I cannot see how you can debate freedoms without debating the EU influence on them.
Jun 14, 2008 at 9:57 PM | Unregistered Commenterhaddock
CCTV and 42 days are not, AFAIK, EU-derived. I have seen suggestions that ID cards may have an EU angle. Either way, if you try to add it to the slate you will scare off support up front. If it comes out in the debate, then that's probably going to be a different story.
Jun 14, 2008 at 10:00 PM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill
The EU is not the cause of our loss of liberty it is just a useful scapegoat. The campaign needs to concentrate on the freedom of speech, Habeas Corpus, jurisprudence and Common Law. From these all other liberties are derived.
(I have a problem with equating equality with liberty as I think they are mutually exclusive which puts me at odds with most left wingers)
Jun 14, 2008 at 11:47 PM | Unregistered CommenterKit
This is about the best attempt I've seen to defend David on this particular criticism, but it remains lacking.
No-one expects him to provide a full personal freedom smorgasbord (to stretch the a la carte metaphor beyond breaking point). But some of the issues you list are weightier than others. In particular, it is cheating to try and conflate capital punishment with issues like the smoking ban as irrelevant distractions. If Davis is going to claim Britain is descending into a police state and then defend the death penalty - number one on any secret policeman's wish list - he'd better have a damn good explanation, and a libertarian one to boot. If the state doesn't have the right to snoop on us, to lock us up without charge, to store electronic information about us, where on earth does the right to take our lives come from?
Jun 16, 2008 at 12:28 AM | Unregistered Commenterstephen rouse

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