Thinking The Unthinkable

The recent debate over 42 day detention has got me particularly aggrieved but also put me in a quandary.

I am implacably opposed to 42 day detention, and even 28 days galls a little but I’ll accept it in the circumstances. It is, truly, the limit of state power and to go beyond that makes me extremely uneasy about the kind of powers we’re giving to the state.

So when the government won the vote with the help of DUP MPs, bought off with a big bribe, I was not particularly impressed to say the least. Though I did think the government would win, the circumstances of it were not those of one that had won the argument. Instead victory was secured through grubby backroom deals. And I know full well this goes on from the time I spent in Westminster last year.

The next day, David Davis MP chooses to resign his seat on a point of principle. This came as a major shock to me. Even more so that such a bastion of libertarian thinking could be found in the Conservative party. But I was pleasantly surprised. His resignation speech struck a chord with me. I am increasingly angry about the destruction of our civil liberties in the name of the “war on terror” and the completely spurious notion that in order to get security we must sell out our liberty.

But the speech had a far deeper resonance. I don’t think I could ever vote for a Conservative. And being from a family of hardcore Labour supporters, to even contemplate it would be akin to pissing in the communion wine, and would be enough to be banished from the family forever.

I hate blind loyalty, which is what they suffer from, and after all their moaning about Labour. But they just won’t think for one minute and see that the party they support no longer exists. It only shares the name of the previous party, but it does not share its values.

This has led to numerous political confrontations in the past. I have voted Lib Dem in every election I possibly could in the past, but I don’t think of myself as particularly one party or another. I see them as the closest alignment to my curious and often hard to express political beliefs. This causes great consternation in my family – despite the fact that all of them are angry with Labour, they will still vote for them because any vote to the contrary is clearly that of a Thatcherite, free-market loving, union-hating bastard.

But they always “let me off” – how kind of them – because the Lib Dems are somewhat harmless.

But this time, David Davis wants to fight the issue purely on civil liberties grounds. Good for him. And maybe good for the country. It’s time someone stood up and made a passionate defence of our liberties without being seen as a terrorist sympathiser. British people seem to be increasingly suspicious of people who would choose to defend liberty because it’s somehow seen as “What have you got to hide?” Such miserable argument misses the point entirely and looks at the issue from the wrong perspective. It shouldn’t be “What have you got to hide?” but “What right does the state have to enquire in my private affairs?”

My family are struggling to understand the Davis perspective, especially since he’s a Tory. I’m sure if it was a Labour person articulating such values they would agree with it, tribal party loyalists that they are.

But it all comes at a price to me. Davis is right. And so I defend Davis. But I can’t admit to them that, given the chance, on this issue and this issue alone, I would vote for Davis if I had the opportunity.

I would vote for a Conservative.

I feel dirty saying that, but it’s true. Maybe us civil libertarians are all being drawn into a clever stunt to finally decontaminate the brand image of the Tory party as being authoritarian right-wingers. But for once, just this once, I’m prepared to drop my cynicism and go with the flow.

Even if it means becoming the family pariah.

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