12 June 2008
Anthony Barnett (London, OK): For the first time in my life (well, the second) I am thinking of canvassing for a Tory. I'm writing a detailed and necessarily angry piece about why we lost the 42 Days vote when only 5 more Labour MPs would have swung it. There is a year long effort ahead if the Lords turn it down, to defeat the use of the Parliament Act to force through the benighted legislation. To make sure it is defeated over the next 12 months defenders of liberty have to confront the issue of 'popular opinion'. I put it in inverted commas because I'm convinced that the public think it is about holding actual terrorists for 42 days before charging them. Now David Davis is taking the issue to his constituents. The po-faced realists at the Spectator are rubbing their hands with glee at the prospect of Davis being demoted if he is re-elected as the cold-hearted Cameron refuses to pledge that he will whip the legislation off the statute books - should it ever get there. No doubt there is a real battle over this at the top of the Tory Party. Davis went out of his way to point out that Habeas Corpus is drawn from the Magna Carta while, as I noted earlier, Michael Gove the shadow for Education and Children, is now a self-designated Runnymead refusenik. The Spectator look forward to Labour refusing to put up a candidate and thus turning Davis's gesture into a dud. But not so fast. First of all, Davis's statement may become a YouTube classic - I have already been called by a 23 year old saying she had just seen it. The Speaker, by refusing to allow it to be made in the Commons has probably done him a huge service. Second, and much more important, Brown played the people card. The Sun and the voters are with him, was the Prime Minister's taunt. Oh yes? Then what happens if we take the issue to the people? Is Labour going to be too frit to take up the challenge?