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Are the Greens just silly sods?

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Anthony Barnett (@AnthonyBarnett) is the co-founder of openDemocracy and author of The Lure of Greatness.

The Green party campaign against David Davis has been launched by their candidate Shaun Oakes and strikes a dreadful note of holier than thou. They could hardly do more to turn people off politics if they tried.

This is what its male spokesperson Derek Wall announced: "This by-election was supposed to be about civil liberties." Note the word “supposed”. It’s a classic, negative, snide attack implying Davis is a hypocrite. Wall continues:

But it's been called by a man - David Davis - who thinks it's okay for the government to lock you up for four weeks without even telling you what you're supposed to have done.

David Davis also believes that you should have no right to criticise the government within a mile of Parliament.

He believes that if a child is being bullied for being gay, his school should not have a policy to protect him.

And he believes that a judge should be allowed to kill you if he thinks you've committed a serious crime.

So the Green Party had to stand. Someone had to stand up for civil liberties."

The Greens are clean, you see, not capable of calumny, distortion or cheap verbal tricks.

It poses a problem for the OurKingdom’s green blogger Rupert Read. I’m not a stickler for consistency, people should change their minds in the course of an argument. But poor Rupert seems to be blown about. Last week he was spot on after Davis walked out of the Commons:

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’.

... 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

Now he has turned around with the party line and put up a dreadful post where he slams DD in crass, narrow party political terms.

We Greens are freedom’s true friends. What Davis purveys is only a narrow shadow of real freedom. Shan Oakes, our candidate in Haltemprice and Howden, is the REAL civil liberties candidate. For real progress on freedom, the voters of Haltemprice and Howden ought in a fortnight’s time to vote Green, not blue…

It is more than sad, its pathetic, as Paul Kingsnorth sets out in a fine comment on Read’s announcement. Why has he prefered his party cap to his brain? Like all varieties of sectarianism, the Green claims that they are 'The REAL one' is profoundly reactionary.

The sad thing is that Read’s original post suggests how the Greens could have stood, as they have every right to do. They could have published an announcement which went as follows. It would have been original. As it is, while Davis has done something genuinly new and tried to "shift the debate" as Rupert saw before his eyes were clouded by party loyalty, now the Greens have done their bit to stop the shift and return things to the old routines

  • We welcome David Davis standing on a platform of civil liberties and insisting that these difficult matters in a age of terrorist attacks can be debated with voters, who are not just populist fodder.
  • We especially welcome his widening the argument of civil liberties to the whole issue of the database state.
  • We are running a candidate in order to support this move and encourage everyone to go to the polls on this great matter.
  • We feel there will be voters who want to go further than Davis or feel that his Tory policies prevent them from supporting him.
  • We therefore offer our record on freedom and civil liberties as an alternative and more thorough platform. Together our votes will add up to a great rebuke to the Labour government and its erosion of civil liberties.


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