Thursday, June 12, 2008

David Davis resigns

It was amazing to read the news today that Conservative Shadow Home secretary David Davis has resigned as an MP. (Ignoring for a minute the fact that he can't just resign)

What does it mean for David Davis? In many ways his decision is heroic and courageous. I have recently blogged my concerns about civil liberties, and cannot help but admire his resignation speech - these things need saying and explaining again and again. His stock will clearly have risen amongst those concerned with civil liberties, and the general public will be pleased to be reminded that MPs do have strongly held principles and are prepared to make sacrifices to support them. But you can't help feeling that this highly unusual course of action is slightly self-indulgent, and not the best way to go about things.

For the Conservatives, its difficult to believe David Cameron woke up this morning and thought, 'excellent, my shadow home secretary is about to resign'. It is also clear that today's events wouldn't have happened if everyone in the shadow cabinet felt as strongly as David Davis. But it would be wrong to overplay the idea of a split - all political parties are coalitions of like minded people, who agree on a common line across a broad range of policies, but all hold slightly different positions. And the Conservative party, to its credit, is taking a line that may be politically unpopular in the short term but which is vital for the long term protection of our civil liberties, and fully consistent with David Davis' concerns. As a bonus for the Conservatives, there is a chance to remind the electorate of the sheer strength in depth of the shadow cabinet team, with promotion of the very capable Dominic Grieve.

Gordon Brown may be breathing a sigh of relief that the heat is off. Last night he nearly lost a vote in parliament, despite a huge parliamentary majority, after some nasty bullying and alleged bribery of the DUP. But like his honeymoon period last year, the relief may be short lived, as there will now undoubtedly be more attention focused on this dreadful policy (already the most extreme in the free world) and the other assaults on civil liberty we have seen over the last 10 years. And for the Conservatives, it is hard to believe finishing off Gordon Brown now (as may well have been the case if he had lost yesterday) is in the best interests of those who desperately want a change of Government at the next election - lets let the great clucking liability hobble on causing more damage to Labour.

All in all, it is going to take a while for the political fallout from today to settle and we will know who the winners and losers are. But if the end result is closer scrutiny of Labour's record on civil liberties, their unnecessary and dangerous legislation and the disgusting xenophobic campaigns they have fought recently along the lines of 'ID cards for Johnny foreigner', then today may indeed go down in political history.

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