David Davis, the real star of the Tory conference?

Civil liberties, found only at the fringe

David Davis MP David Davis MP
David Davis - if you mention his name in some quarters the reaction is extreme. There's a person I'd describe as 'traditional Tory', who goes into a tizzy and talks of a "toys out of pram moment"; this refers to Davis resigning from his parliamentary seat on a point of principle. It's like a man thing that is, real men don't do this. However, Davis and his principles are also misunderstood in more leftward leaning circles, look no further than the Guardian and dog-in-the-manger Michael White, here it would seem it's simply traditional leftie tribalism. It's tempting to assume that, as Davis upsets such a broad spectrum of people, he must be doing something right!

So to remind you, Davis entered parliament in 1987 and unlike quite a few MPs on the Labour benches Davis has also had a real job. Following a science based degree he went on to study business and then work in industry.
Davis is originally from the North of England but his seat, Haltemprice and Howden, is in the North East which is generally seen as a Labour stronghold. Equally the defence of civil liberties might be thought of as a traditional Labour remit but from his northern outpost Davis has taken on the full political width of the establishment and won. It is this that upsets so many people, there is no 'big name' in the other parties with the same reputation. His own party seems to take him for granted as he has no formal role. It's hard to imagine he is wholly satisfied with this as he did put his name forward to be leader. So while the bulk of the Tory conference fretted over the child benefit story Davis spoke at the Big Brother Watch fringe meeting.

His message was simple "Beware of the state". The reason was also simple, for no matter what powers you give the state and its civil servants they will abuse them. The result will be the citizen comes off worse. On the subject of civil liberties this begins when bad law is made in parliament, Davis gave plenty of examples of these. He then moved on to criticise the police, whom he described as "lazy". By this he meant, for example, the misuse of the prevention of terrorism acts. Most newspapers have carried stories of foreign tourists falling foul of this and being given the 'once over' by the thin blue line. Seeing this, real terrorists must have realised that our society is in such a hopeless muddle that their task is easier.

The open question here, "is ACPO part of the problem"? Davis did mention the official Tory policy of elected police chiefs and, as ACPO is putting up such a fight and a political one at that, it is reasonable to assume that the Tory policy is worth a try. The scare story put up by the detractors, the one the has the BNP take over policing our cities, was easily dealt with by Davis. After all the people who say this seem happy for the politically correct brigade and the health and safety militia to take over!

Much of the problem is with vested interests, and a good deal of them are working within the civil service! Here they wait like sleepers until a better job appears in the private sector. Their interests, personal interests, come first, and why not? They take their lead from David Blunkett who promoted ID cards when Home Secretary and worked for a contractor to such programmes when not. The coalition may have formally abandoned the ID card scheme but many of the civil servants who worked to promote it all these years are still in their jobs and are not sitting still. They have years of their working lives invested in this and will not give up easily.

Another problem looming for the coalition is any erosion of civil liberties down to the EU. Few MPs seem to understand the threat here, but then few MPs understand the EU! The Lib Dems and Ken Clarke are besotted with the EU. To form the coalition David Cameron was generous to the Lib Dems, perhaps too generous. Hence the joke from Davis about the 'Brokeback coalition'. Davis was poking fun at the warm and genuine relationship between Cameron and Clegg. It was a cheeky but well observed remark that the MSM tried to build on and failed. But Cameron has spoken in his conference speech of a -

"transfer of power, from the state to citizens, politicians to people, government to society."

-but then at the same time allowed more power to go the other way from the UK to the EU; so what's left in the middle? If it's a vacuum with fewer civil liberties then the Tory party should have made Davis its leader. And if Cameron wants to give Davis a job then he should make him responsible for preventing this happening.

In defence of the main conference it is true that the last time a PM was part of a coalition is so far back in time that it was bound to be difficult. But the noises on and off stage over the child benefit were bizarre. How amazing that civil liberties is by contrast deemed not so important.