Leading article: David Davis has struck a fine blow for the cause of civil liberties

Share
Related Topics

The Haltemprice and Howden by-election was not, in the end, the spectacular national debate on the state of civil liberties in Britain that David Davis wanted when he dramatically resigned his parliamentary seat last month. But the former shadow home secretary still deserves a generous portion of credit for taking a stand on this issue. The growth of casual surveillance by the state is indeed a cancer in our society. And the steady erosion of our civil liberties by the Government is every bit as dangerous as Mr Davis has been arguing. If this by-election has caused even a handful of people to reconsider the benefits of the proliferation of CCTV cameras, or the merits of ID cards, it will have been worthwhile.

And Mr Davis's campaign coincided with the devastating intervention on the issue of 42 days detention by the former head of MI5, Eliza Manningham-Buller, this week. In her maiden speech in the House of Lords, Lady Manningham-Buller argued that extending the detention period for terror suspects is a bad idea: dangerous in principle and flawed in practice.

It would be difficult to overstate the significance of this intervention. For someone who enjoyed privileged access to all the intelligence on suspected terrorists to come out in opposition of 42 days should surely kill this daft piece of legislation stone dead. The Counter-terrorism Bill will be rejected by the Lords when they come to vote on it in October. At that point, Gordon Brown's only remaining card will be to force it through the Commons again and threaten the Lords with the prospect of bringing the Parliament Act into play. This would be the nuclear option, but, after his painfully narrow victory in the Commons last time round, the Prime Minister would most likely find himself immolated in the resulting blast.

For all these reasons, Mr Davis's victory this week will not have cheered Mr Brown. But Mr Davis's personal campaign has been uncomfortable for his own party leader too. It is no secret that David Cameron was furious over Mr Davis's decision to resign his parliamentary seat and fight a by-election. And Mr Cameron's rapid appointment of Dominic Grieve to fill Mr Davis's place in the Shadow Cabinet was the political equivalent of slamming the door shut on Mr Davis's career.

But the Conservative leader should not rule out a return to front-line politics for Mr Davis. When he resigned last month, the move was written off by many in Westminster as a fit of madness by a politician in the grip of some sort of personal crisis, perhaps even a suicidal fit of pique against the man who beat him to the leadership. But many in the country responded differently. They rather respected this politician who was apparently prepared to jeopardise his political career for something he believed in strongly, even if they did not share his views. Mr Davis managed to pull off the rare trick of being popular, without espousing populist policies. Most politicians nowadays tend to achieve the exact opposite.

But this is not the only reason to recall Mr Davis to the front bench. It is not just that he is a street fighter. Above anything else, Mr Cameron needs more people of modest origins like Mr Davis around him to counterbalance the impression that the Conservative Party is run by a clique of old Etonians. The Conservative leader did not want this particular by-election, but he has an opportunity to profit from it nonetheless.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Parts Advisor

£16500 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the leading Mercedes-Ben...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer

£27500 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Telemarketers / Sales - Home Based - OTE £23,500

£19500 - £23500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Experienced B2B Telemarketer wa...

Recruitment Genius: Showroom Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This global company are looking for two Showro...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A teenage girl uses her smartphone in bed.  

Remove smartphones from the hands of under-18s and maybe they will grow up to be less dumb

Janet Street-Porter
Rohingya migrants in a boat adrift in the Andaman Sea last week  

Burma will regret shutting its eyes to the fate of the Rohingya boat people

Peter Popham
Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor