This could be the moment the freedom debate turns

About the author

Rupert Read was a Green Party councillor in Norwich and a candidate in the 2009 European Parliamentary elections. He is Chair of the Green House thinktank.

Rupert Read (Norwich, The Green Party): The amazing move that David Davis has made might just be the catalyst that we can use to turn the debate on political and civil freedoms in the correct direction. The kind of direction that, to most of us who write here on Our Kingdom, is second nature, but which has had precious little success in our polity in recent years. When I heard the announcement, it came to me in seconds that we might now -- finally -- be able to have a large-scale debate about ‘civil liberties’ in this country, and -- finally -- be able to get large numbers of people to reassess their continual sleepwalking into a police state. That we might at last have an opportunity to frame our fundamental post-Magna-Carta freedoms as something which it just isn’t OK to put in the balance and weigh against ‘the terrorist threat’. For, the moment we engage in such a weighing process, the argument is lost: liberty will always seem to weigh less, against an imponderable terrifying threat. The most important things of all must not be allowed to be traded for an always-receding ‘security’.

Whether Davis will potentially be able to catalyse the kind of effect for which one hopes will probably depend to a fairly large extent upon whether Labour stands against him in the by-election (though MacKenzie is clearly also a factor). The signs here don’t look good – my reading of what major Labour figures are saying, so far, is that they are inclined to join the Lib Dems in not standing against Davis.

Incidentally, it was very striking on Channel 4 News yesterday that Nick Clegg was more or less forced to admit by Jon Snow that he had promised Davis that the LibDems would not stand against him before he (Clegg) did any consultation with the local Party, let alone with the local Lib Dem Parliamentary candidate, who learned of the news that the Lib Dems would not be standing against Davis only from the TV!

As for my own party: The Green Party will take longer to decide whether or not to stand, because we actually have democratic procedures to decide these things. But, whether we eventually stand or not, I think tonight it is not unreasonable to offer a moment of thanks to David Davis, for having at least given us a chance of shifting the debate on civil liberties, something which isn’t easily done (and I’ll also plug Paul Kingsnorth’s intriguing fulsome praise).