Who’s laughing now?

June 15, 2008 at 11:00 pm (Civil liberties, democracy, elections, Human rights, labour party, perversity, political groups, politics, strange situations, voltairespriest)

PhotobucketDavid Davis’ decision to resign his seat in Haltemprice and Howden in order to force a by-election over the 42 day detention issue has predictably caused an absolute furore in the media. Initially it was felt that Davis had overstepped the mark, that David Cameron was furious as a consequence, that the Tories were in disarray and that therefore Gordon Brown was off the hook. Government advisors were swarming around journalists crowing that the Conservative Party had once again shown that it was unfit for office, and that therefore There Is No Alternative to Gordon. None of the other parties planned to stand against Davis.

Except that three days later it doesn’t all look quite so rosy, does it? Davis has effectively kept the 42 day issue in the public press, has constantly come back to the issue on which he is wanting to fight the election, and now appears to have a growing base of support, including cross-party backing from Medway MP Bob Marshall-Andrews. His staff claim to have been flooded with endorsements from ordinary members of the public across the political spectrum. And finally it looks like he will have some kind of pro-42 days, high profile opponent, possibly in the form of gurning circus side-show Kelvin MacKenzie, who is being backed by the Australian-American Rupert Murdoch. Further, if rumours of Downing Street involvement in MacKenzie’s candidacy are true, then No 10 staffers will effectively have been complicit in putting up a candidate in Haltemprice and Howden who is to Davis’ right, thus enabling him to come at a government backed candidate from the left. Lest we forget, trying to attack the Tories from the right did Tamsin Dunwoody no good in Crewe and Nantwich, and Davis’ constituency sure ain’t as Labour-friendly as Crewe. Either way I think it’s possible to be sure that Davis has at least a reasonable chance of beating the creator of News Bunny.

What are the implications of all this? Davis has certainly set the cat among the pigeons, both stealing the limelight spectacularly from Cameron and (although they didn’t realise it at first) really putting the scews on the Government. But does the situation also not raise the issue of a wider realignment in politics between on the one hand those who believe in freedom within the law and in the law as a guarantor of freedom, and on the other hand those who believe that the law should be a kind of giant behaviour regulator which directs our life choices towards those which a (presumably benevolent, at least in intent) powerful state knows to be right for us? I know which one ofthose beliefs brought me on to the left in the first place: I have always been a social libertarian who believes that state non-interference in private beliefs and practices is the best way of ensuring that people of all lifestyles and beliefs may live in equality under the law. I could never understand why anyone would want to use the law as a tool of oppression, and for me that belief has never wavered.

We are faced with a situation whereby a Tory candidate is standing for election on a platform as fundamental as “save Magna Carta”, and whereby also it is entirely probable that a Labour candidate (or a surrogate candidate taking the government’s view) will stand to abolish it. Not an easy call for a left that means what it says by freedom under the law.

I have never voted Tory in my life. But I can’t simply put my hand on my heart and say I hope Davis loses.

19 Comments

  1. modernityblog said,

    honestly I am surprised that the number of people who can’t see through David Davis’s tactics

    ultimately for him it’s about his standing in the Tory party and how to make his mark on Cameron, the rest is just PR

    David Davis can’t really be such a libertarian given his views on the death penalty, abortion rights and 25 days.

    so he’s happy for people to be locked up for 25 days, but somehow 42 is crossing some red line?

    he’s not against locking people up for weeks and weeks on principle, but just on the number 42? is he against 31? 35? or what?

    Davis’s actions are purely opportunist and should be seen as such, what would be good news if the Left could act quickly, take advantage of this by-election, put up a candidate arguing completely against 25 days and 42 days

    the candidate doesn’t need to be a megastar or TV groupie, just a competent speaker and be able to put out an anti-Tory (and anti-new Labour) position

    there’s no chance of winning or even getting a great vote, that’s not the point, it is however to raise an anti Tory campaign and to get publicity for Left ideas

    as there won’t be many candidates the Left has a real opportunity to get over an anti-Tory message, after all it looks as if they will be the next government and its about time to think what that will mean and how to stop them.

    so don’t be fooled by Tories claiming they are libertarians, see what they do, see what they vote for and see how they act, the rest is just fine words for the troops and the rubber chicken circuit

  2. Aled Dilwyn Fisher said,

    Totally agree with modernityblog! There is a chance for a high profile candidate (preferably as local as possible) backed by a strong network of left, green, anti-authoritarian and other activists, especially those involved in anti-war, peace and environmental movements who have experienced first hand government authoritarianism. It’s a pretty tall order though.

    Here’s my take on it here:

    http://aleddilwynfisher.wordpress.com/2008/06/15/will-the-real-civil-libertarians-please-stand-up/

  3. Praguetory said,

    ‘David Davis can’t really be such a libertarian given his views on the death penalty, abortion rights and 25 days.’ (28?)

    I think he’d like to go lower than 28. The other positions are wholly consistent with protection of the innocent. Davis is a moderate, not extreme, libertarian which is why his strong feelings can not be easily dismissed.

  4. Jim Denham said,

    Just for the record: Volty is, of course entitled to his viewpoint. But it’s not one I share. In fact, I think he’s taken leave of his senses.

  5. Wally Wibblywellies said,

    “But does the situation also not raise the issue of a wider realignment in politics between on the one hand those who believe in freedom within the law and in the law as a guarantor of freedom, and on the other hand those who believe that the law should be a kind of giant behaviour regulator which directs our life choices towards those which a (presumably benevolent, at least in intent) powerful state knows to be right for us?”

    Isn’t this more commonly called a ‘popular front’?

  6. tim f said,

    Since there is no Labour candidate, people on the Labour Left have the opportunity to support an independent candidate without disciplinary action being taken. The extraordinary nature of this by-election could see labour lefties, greens, trotskyists, libertarians etc all backing a single candidate. A chance to show a united front for once. And yet lefties are advocating support for David Davis?

  7. runia said,

    I see other people have pointed out that Davies is a hypocrite with a crap record on civil liberites.
    He supports 28 days detention without charge and the death penalty, and opposes gay rights but is somehow standing as the great defender of civil liberties.
    I don’t buy it and neither should you.
    This is the start of a leadership campaign for the Tory party.

    Labour and the Liberals have done exactly the right thing in not dignifying him with a contest. Davies or McKenzie? For once I would take the SPGB’s advice and write ‘World Socialism’ or whatever it is they write on their ballot papers.

  8. reader said,

    {so he’s happy for people to be locked up for 25 days, but somehow 42 is crossing some red line?}

    umm, modernity, it’s 28 days 😉

    regarding Davis, he’s running in a tory constituency – what does this even prove? that the tories can get re-elected in a safe seat? and the elction will be paid for using taxpayers money, just to make a political stunt to embarrass Gordon Brown. it’s absolutely disgraceful that we have to pay for this party politiking!

    His victory will give a mandate to the whole tory manifesto, not just this 42-days issue which will instantly be forgotten once Brown is buried like the corpse he is.

    Really, if Labour had any sense they would refuse to contest the election and legitimise this silly game.

    if the tories really cared about this kind of politics they would be arguing for a national referendum or something wouldn’t they, in order to let the whole coutnry have a debate, and set in motion progressive anti-war forces etc. in a campaign to oppsoe this.

    obviosuly they won’t do that, they jsut want their Tory PArty by-election in Henley, compeltely hypocritical, inconsistent, and without nay precedent or any link to their general methodology and ideology.

  9. modernity said,

    right runia,

    I’d even settle for the Clapham SPGB running against Davis, (almost) anyone that can argue the hypocrisy of his position and can put an anti-Tory (anti-New Labour) case deserves support

    if the Left could get its finger out and do some quick organising that would do the job, not that it is likely to happen 😦

  10. nibbs said,

    “The other positions are wholly consistent with protection of the innocent. Davis is a moderate, not extreme, libertarian which is why his strong feelings can not be easily dismissed.”

    Did he support clause 28? His support of the death penalty would certainly have resulted in the deaths of innocent people.I’m astonished how many people on ‘the left’ have fallen for Davis’ stunt. This is all about the internal dynamics of the Tories and sod all to do with civil liberties.But Davis, correctly, put his faith in some people being too stupid to realise it…

  11. Voltaire's Priest said,

    Actually you’ll notice that I don’t actively call for a vote for Davis at any point. What am certainly saying though is that I wouldn’t be able to support a Labour candidate (or, more likely, LP supported candidate) against him, either.

    Apparently this appears to have been lost on a few people, not least Will “oh no leave him alone he’s really really clever underneath all the abuse and Hitchens sycophancy” Rubbish at the Drink Soaked Trots, as the comments on Hak Mao’s Davis thing reveal.

    It’s the post with the picture of the cats on it…

  12. entdinglichung said,

  13. a very public sociologist said,

    Well the good news is the local NUM are said to be considering to stand, which will have the effect of keeping 42 days in the news and exposing Davis’s (at best) contradictory record on voting for illiberal legislation. Well, I would hope their opposed to the government on 42 days too.

  14. SP said,

    what no Labour candidate at all?

  15. Voltaire's Priest said,

    Well obviously if it was a campaign group/LRC type, who was against 42 days, then I’d support them – but that ain’t gonna happen. Aside from anything else, if Labour were to make such a selection then they’d be seen as having conceded the issue on which the election is going to be fought.

  16. reader said,

    boycott the election and condemn this Tory stunt. it’s a historic tory constituency anyway there’s nothing the left can gain from this situation.

  17. Voltaire's Priest said,

    Look at some of the comedy invective in this thread. How anybody manages to take Will remotely seriously, let alone stake claims that somewhere underneath all the deranged and incoherent ranting lies a shrewd political intelligence, I’ll never know:

    http://drinksoakedtrotsforwar.com/2008/06/16/a-not-very-cunning-stunt

  18. modernityblog said,

    that a typical limited view of the world as posited by “the reader”: boycott it

    rather the Left should use this opportunity to put forward a candidate, given the limited range of parties standing there is a possibility to put forward a solid Left case against 42 days/28 days or just locking people up and throwing them in a big hole

    this is a chance, an opening, it should be grabbed with both hands, it won’t turn up again.

    alternatively the Left can shout from the sidelines “boycott it” and lose out again 😦

  19. voltairespriest said,

    Absolutely Mod, a left candidate here would be an excellent idea, not least because a wide range of people with progressive politics who oppose any extension of detention without trial could support him/her. I think it’d be the best possible outcome from the situation.

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