11:50 am - June 15th 2008
I received a couple of Facebook requests this morning, both of which I accepted without thinking too much about it, having not quite got my head together.
A cigarette and cup of coffee later, I logged on Facebook, accessed the group I’d joined while still half asleep, took a quick look at its membership list to see who else had signed up, and then clicked the link to leave the group.
The group of which I was very briefly a member is called “Fight For Freedom – Support David Davis!” and my decision to duck out of the group had nothing to do with its members. There are plenty of good bloggers in the group, people whose opinins I have a lot of time for. However, while I’ve got every intention of arguing for civil liberties, if the by-election at Haltemprice and Howden goes ahead, the one thing I’ve no intention of doing is supporting David Davis.
A partisan thing?
Not at all – anyone who knows my views on such matters knows full well that I’ve no brief for this government when it comes to their record on civil liberties. Forty-two days detention without charge is just the latest in a long series of assaults on our fundamental liberties enacted by the government under the pretext that such measures are necessary to fight terrorism and, in some respects, by no means the worst.
When you consider that we already have laws in place that permit an innocent academic to be arrested and held for six days for simply downloading publicly available material from a US government website for legitimate research purposes and that the Home Office are, because they a foreign national, now seeking their deportation despite their having lived peacefully in the UK for more than a decade, the various checks and balances forced on the government in order to secure a Commons majority for the Counter Terrorism Bill look like a model of judicial rectitude. If you’re genuinely looking for a modern day example of Star Chamber justice and wholesale abuse of the principle of habeas corpus, its not the length of time that the police are permitted to hold suspects without charge you should be looking at but the whole system of Asylum and Immigration Tribunals, an issue on which you’ll be hard pressed to find Davis or any other Conservative voicing concerns about civil liberties.
A vote for Davis is no more than a vote for a status quo that is already unacceptable, that much is clear from Dominic Grieves’ announcement that a future Tory government would repeal the detention provisions in Counter Terrorism Bill, returning the UK to a situation in which detention with charge is limited to twenty-eight days – and its for that reason that Davis will not be getting my support.
What will I be doing if the by-election goes ahead?
Well, for one thing, I will certainly be campaigning against Kelvin McKenzie, if he runs, but what will I be campaigning for?
My hope, at this stage, is that a candidate will step up and actively campaign against both McKenzie and Davis on a platform of reducing the limit for detention without charge below 28 days and on a package of other repeals and reforms designed to reassert, in law, the liberties that have been leached away, degree by slow degree, over the last seven years – and for that reason I find the response of the recently-formed Libertarian Party to be rather a disappointment.
I would have hoped that, if the party genuinely has the courage of its professed convictions, it would be spending much less time on nonsensical publicity stunts and rather more time on putting together an clear argument for a reduction in the upper limit for detentions without charge, if not going the extra mile by running a libertarian candidate against both Davis and McKenzie. At the very least, this would provide definitive proof that the Libertarian Party are something more than a bunch of dilettante keyboard warriors who’re more interested in heaping embarrassment on a government they patently despise, from a nice safe distance, than they are with giving the people a positive choice in this by-election; a chance to vote not just for the status quo but to register a vote for more liberty.
So, how about it DK?
As it’s apparent that Davis has no intention of taking up your kind offer of party membership, is the Libertarian Party up for taking a stand on its principles and giving the voters of Haltemprice and Howden a positive choice? The field, is after all, yours for the taking and, if Davis is true to his word, the fight will take place on what should be the Libertarian Party’s natural ground.
But what if no such candidate presents themselves, whether from LPUK or as an independent? What then?
There is one other way that the voters of Haltemprice and Howden could register a positive vote for liberty in the absence of such a candidate, and its a method that I would expect to sit far better with those on the liberal-left who harbour serious misgivings about his reactionary social values.
To the 17,000 plus Lib Dem voters of Haltemprice and Howden and to those amongst the 6,000 or so Labour voters who see the government’s track record on civil liberties I has this suggestion. You have what amounts to a free vote in any by-election in the constituency and if there is no candidate prepared to make a stand on restoring the civil liberties lost over the last seven years, no one who is prepared to send a message not just the government but to parliament as a whole that we are not only unprepared to sacrifice any further freedoms in the spurious name of security but that we actually want our old liberties back, then don’t just sit out the election campaign and stay at home on election day.
You can still send a positive message if only you organise, campaign for and turn out en mass on polling day and deliberately spoil your ballot paper as a vote for the restoration of civil liberties lost over recent years.
If no one will go in to bat for the restoration of liberties, then that is what I’ll be arguing for and supporting over the next few weeks, and not David Davis.
'Unity' is a regular contributor to Liberal Conspiracy. He also blogs at Ministry of Truth.
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