Editor-At-Large: David Davis is the new voice of the people

The maverick Tory is more in tune with popular feeling than 'insiders' think
Click to follow

Is David Davis a champion of the people or a shameless self-publicist? Many in the Westminster village quickly dismissed his resignation over the Commons' vote on the detention of suspects for 42 days as a meaningless gesture, but outside the hothouse atmosphere of party politics, there's been a more considered response.

Tune in to the radio (for example, FiveLive's Friday morning phone-in, or yesterday's Any Answers), browse the internet and eavesdrop in pubs and canteens and you get the impression that he's really touched a nerve. People are admitting that, even though they've never thought of voting Tory, they agree with Mr Davis: in a slow but unstoppable process the Government has sacrificed too much of our individual liberty in the name of reducing petty crime and safeguarding national security. The Prime Minister, grateful for the diversion from his own troubles, has denounced Davis's action as a farce, and the pantomime theme is reinforced by the will-he, won't-he threat of Kelvin MacKenzie standing in the forthcoming by-election.

This is not a simple scenario that might split the Tories at a time when Labour is in the doldrums and needs all the help it can get. Mr Davis has made a stand that resonates with a lot of ordinary people. Opinion polls may show that the majority of voters support extending the period of time terror suspects can be detained without trial – but I'm not entirely convinced that this means we want to have laws of detention that are unparalleled elsewhere in Europe or America. Are we really going to prevent young men and women blowing themselves up with this new law? Hardly. As for infringing our liberty, who demanded ID cards and claimed they were essential for security reasons? Not voters. Who demanded 42 days' detention without charges? Not members of the public. Who insisted that the NHS puts all our personal details on one database, when every computer system installed by government has gone over budget and doesn't work properly? Not the people who actually pay for the NHS.

We go about our daily lives under more surveillance than any other civilised country, and what evidence is there that all the CCTV cameras make any difference to crime? Not a lot. Our personal details are stored on deficient computer systems, with the result that vast amounts of confidential information are routinely lost by civil servants, not members of the public. And it wasn't members of the public who left confidential documents about the war against terror, marked "secret", on a train recently, was it?

Mr Davis may not be the martyr that insiders have predicted, but rather the spokesman for a new populist movement.

Harmless rubber sandal or burning issue?

Another week, another cancer scare – don't you feel sometimes that women were put on the planet so they could attract life-threatening diseases? It used to be what we ate, whether we smoked, how much we drank. Now it's what we wear. The humble flip-flop is the latest danger we have to avoid at all cost. According to surgeons, wearing footwear that leaves the thin skin on the top of our feet exposed to the sun increases the risk of skin cancer.

I find flip-flops toxic for another reason altogether – I've travelled to deserted beaches from Papua New Guinea to Uruguay, and what litters their shores? Single, discarded, broken flip-flops. A major pollutant, right up there with mineral water bottles.

My little piece of YSL magic

Last Thursday, Yves Saint Laurent's ashes were scattered over the wonderful Majorelle Garden that he restored in Marrakech. It's easy to see what he found so inspirational about the place: the soft pink light at sunset, the scent of roses, the wonderful aroma of spices as you wander through the souk and the loudspeakers blaring out the call to prayers.

The garden is a riot of colour and even the thousands of tourists who plod through daily photographing everything can't detract from its delights. The bright "majorelle" blue purse on a silken cord that I bought in the gift shop is my own affordable bit of YSL magic. Back in England, our gardens seem so tasteful and restrained in comparison.

Mixed up over mammals

I'm sure dolphins are intelligent, but the fuss over the death of some of these mammals shows how keen we are to endow them with human characteristics. One theory is that the deaths were caused by some kind of suicide pact, another that the Navy's sonar devices were to blame.

I've helped to rear two calves that will be slaughtered next week. This has brought hate mail from animal lovers – the same emotional response engendered by the dead dolphins. If you drink milk, then calves are the by-product of cows that need to breed to lactate. If we don't eat free-range British veal, then male calves will be slaughtered or sent to the continent to be raised in far less amenable surroundings. We need to unpick our emotional baggage about mammals, whether they swim or moo.

Miliband has adopted two boys – and a new master plan

Why has David Miliband reversed his rule of not talking about his private life, telling an interviewer why he and his wife adopted two boys from America? Mr Miliband and his wife, who has American citizenship, said they wanted to adopt children from birth, whereas in this country prospective parents have to go through a long process, meaning most children are at least a year old before they are adopted.

Surely, as a politician, Mr Miliband is in a strong position to push through changes to the rigid – and, some would say, inflexible – British system, if he cares so much about giving children a good start. Or did he prefer to cough up a big cheque – which many adopters here couldn't afford – and buy his babies in the US, where less questions are asked?

Miliband has been accused of acting like "a pillock on a gap year" by a fellow Labour MP, and he's got all the gravitas of a talking Ken doll when mouthing platitudes about violence in Zimbabwe. The adoption revelations are clearly part of a master plan to rebrand himself as an all-round family man and mount a challenge to Gordon Brown.