Why Is It The Tories Saying The Things I’m Thinking?

What a topsy-turvy world we live in. I grew up in a home that was always proudly Labour. I remember being at school and being delighted when Maggie Thatcher was ousted. The night John Major was defeated in 1997 was one of the happiest in my life and Jeremy Paxman’s interview with Michael Portillo just before Portillo lost his seat is one of my all-time favourite TV moments. In every election since I was old enough to vote, I have ticked the box marked Labour. But can I do that any more?

Yesterday saw the passing of the proposal to allow detention without trial for 42 days: an outrageous attack on civil liberties, and one proposed by a Labour government for purely political reasons. Whilst Labour MP Diane Abbott made an impassioned argument against the change to the law (according to Tory MP David Davies “one of the finest speeches [he had]heard since being elected to the House of Commons”).

But where are the Labour front-benchers standing up for this assault on the freedoms that go back to Magna Carter, the anniversary of the signing of which is this weekend and which is one of the most important polictial documents ever create anywhere in the world?

Well they’re coming from the Tories. In an act of political hari-kari which has to be applauded, David Davies, the shadow home secretary, has announced that he is standing down from Parliament in order to force a by-election, which he will then fight on teh issue of civil liberties and nothing else. The Lib Dems leader Nick Clegg has already said that they will not be fielding a candidate in the election, another act to be applauded.

So where does this leave us? Well, it all leaves me very confused. For the first time in my adult life it will leave my hoping that a Tory wins an election, and it will leave me wondering where the hell I will put my mark the next time I’m standing by a ballot box.

UPDATE: Mandate, one of the agencies in the group I work for, have a very interesting post on why Dave Davis’ resignation is a bad move.


  1. Hi Ciaran,

    The flip answer is that they are doing it because they aren’t in power and want to disagree with Labour (avoiding the question for a second of Mr. Davis’ move). I hope it is more than that – because I hope *someone* is standing up for essential liberties for the right reasons.

    I am intrigued by your question though – while the Conservatives may have strayed from these, a traditional right-wing attitude would be strong on liberalism in the ‘freedom’ sense and certainly wouldn’t take kindly to a state that locks people up without charge. Small government, not too much central power. These are all right of centre beliefs (coupled with the less nice-sounding “look after yourselves ‘cos we won’t” and “it’s your money” response to taxation which obviously benefits rich people more).

    A traditional left-of-centre view-point might more plausibly include the “we know best” argument that the powers-that-be should have the right to take extreme actions and can be trusted not to abuse them. The nicer side of the left in my view is the bigger central organisation designed to look after those who are less capable of looking after themselves.

    I think it’s interesting that the two axes of social liberalism and small government / ‘freedom’ liberalism are not independent in politics – I would expect to see all four combinations rather than just two.

    I hope that’s even-handed. I don’t think my politics are particularly relevant to this, so I’ll keep ’em out of it…

    On the question of Mr. Davis’ actions, like you, I like the fact someone is making a stand but I tend to agree with your colleague’s viewpoint that it is a somewhat empty gesture as no outcome really changes anything. He was the shadow home secretary – he should be able to wield more power than that, one way or another….

  2. I think we may have to take this up over a Guinness or two next Thursday at LondonSEO 🙂

    I tend to disagree but I guess that comes down to view-point. If you look at things historically, the right (for all that it talks about individual freedoms) has tended to believe in liberalism in markets, but not socially, and the left the opposite. So, it was generally the right that was keen to bang people up with internment, whilst it was the left that legalised homosexuality, abortion, etc..

    Ditto in the US; have a look at what Mr Bush has done to the Constitution, or what Nixon thought he could get away with, whilst JFK or LBJ (for all their faults) forced through civil rights. That’s what does make all of this so confusing; in many ways the old ideas of left & right are starting to disintegrate (or have already).

    I guess what’s really tragic is that, as you say, Nick is probably right & whilst I believe Davis has done this for what he believes, it is likely to end up as a farce with the only person standing against him being an ex-editor of The Sun.

    Anyway, Guinness?

  3. You make some good points and it’s why I find politics (in the sense of party politics) so hard. I think the left sometimes forgets its social liberalism in favour of the big “we know best” government and the right forgets that it is supposed to like small government (I guess if you are pro-small-government, why would you ever be a politician – that viewpoint is significantly under-represented).

    I want a combination of the ideals that may not be achievable – free, liberal markets *and* social liberalism combined with just enough of a safety net to look after those who can’t look after themselves while leaving the rest to better their lot.

    Shame about the Davis thing – let’s see how that pans out. I hope it at least causes the issue to be discussed more.

    So, in summary, “yes” to that Guinness…

  4. That’s how long it takes for a proper pint to settle isn’t it? It would just be ready for them when they got out and they could then be forced to drink it…

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