Wednesday, June 18, 2008


Maybe Douglas Adams was right - if the '42 days' debate can make politics interesting again, there's nothing this number can't do. Of course, in so far as David Davis' resignation was a principled sacrifice of career in defence of liberty, it looks like the Cameroonatics might be right about him being out of touch with modern politics.

Actually, Davis has thrown a spotlight onto two of the more obvious problems with the Ayatollah Khameron. In so far as Davis managed to seize the moment, even as Cameron thrashed round ineffectually, it did debunk the myth that Cameron is a political genius.

Equally, David Davis was able to radically change the terms of the debate in exactly the way Cameron has refused to do. Indeed, the defining feature of Cameroonacy is the belief that true leadership involves following the polls like a bloodhound. Davis has shown that it is possible to advance an ideological agenda without falling into the Sun, or whatever it is that scares Cameron so.

Still, for all that, I'd take all these people praising Davis' principled stand more seriously if some of them would be similarly glowing about Ann Widdicombe's stand. True, she didn't actually resign, but she did defy Tory whips to vote for legislation she believed was vital to the defence of the realm. If 'principles' are your thing, rather than, say, pushing a particular line, both deserve credit.

Similarly, just as it's possible to see the basic problem with Davis' position that 42 days is an outage while 28 days is fine - where's the border ? 32 days 35 ? 38.75 ? - even while accepting the validity of his wider point about the slow strangulation of freedom in Britain, Widdicombe position is a respectable one even if you disagree on the specifics.

Most of the political establishment - and all of the legal one - have utterly failed to rise to the challenge of war. Shouldn't party politics stop at the water's edge ? In so far as this country has never tried to wage war via the courts before, how relevant is precedent anyway ? Isn't national defence properly a parliamentary matter, not a judicial one ? For that matter, how does Davis' pro-freedom agenda mesh with unelected, and unelectable, philosopher kings on the bench pulling bogus rights out of thin air ?

These are all serious issues, but the left would rather ignore them. Why not ? Consider that ex-Labour leader Michael Foot brushed off claims that he worked with the KGB with a defence that boiled down to claiming that there was no sinister reason for him supporting a vicious, totalitarian regime - it was just a normal part of being a liberal.

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