David Davis: British freedoms are far more precious than the career of any single politician
David Davis explains why he resigned to fight a by-election on civil liberty issues, and calls for your support in his campaign.
The Austrian Chancellor Metternich was once told of the death of a rival. "I wonder what did he mean by that?" was his response.
If Metternich were alive today he might have enjoyed a second career as a Westminster commentator. He would certainly have been able to give full rein to his thirst for the conspiracy theory, rumour, gossip and wild speculation. No story need be constrained by the dreary recitation of the facts. Instead, it can be spiced up spectacularly by all manner of guesses, intrigues and sinister motives. Welcome to the Westminster Village circa 2008.
Now I haven't died. I have simply resigned from the Shadow Cabinet and as an MP to fight a by-election on what I regard as the most important issue facing the country: as I put it in my resignation statement, the "slow strangulation" by this Labour Government of British fundamental freedoms and liberties, stretching back 800 years.
My conduct may seem eccentric in the eyes of some - but my motive is plain and simple. I have deliberately embarked upon an unorthodox course of action to dramatise the damage being done to the country I love, the mother of democracies, by the Government's cavalier disregard for the liberties we have fought for down the centuries.
Plans to lock up terrorist suspects for up to 42 days without charge are but the latest in a long line of repressive and intrusive measures visited on this country by Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. To take one example, there are now 266 state powers allowing officials to force their way into your home. Six hundred public bodies have the authority to bug phones and emails and intercept the post. And God help you if you put out the wrong kind of rubbish or attempt to get you child into one of the few schools not ruined by a decade of Labour government. Gordon’s neighbourhood spies are watching.
My hostility to the Government's bloated and unworkable £19 billion ID card scheme and my dismay at its creation of the largest DNA database on earth stuffed with the details of a million innocent people are well known.
But this is not how some of Metternich's latter-day disciples in the parliamentary lobby have generally chosen to report my words and deeds. Some have even called it a "moment of madness". Well I think it is madness that, when someone takes a principled stance on a matter of vital national interest, it sparks such a bewildered response from certain quarters of the Westminster village. In truth, I thought carefully about my decision to force a by-election on a national issue.
Fortunately, the Westminster Village does not have a monopoly on political comment and reporting. In marked contrast to some rumour-mongering in the media, the blogosphere rapidly is becoming the real forum of popular debate and it offered a very different take. Frankly, I was surprised and humbled to find that this this site's survey of Conservatives found that 65 per cent were inspired by my decision.
Meanwhile, I was conducting my own admittedly unscientific survey - my postbag, email traffic and telephone calls. I was astonished and overwhelmed by the public's response. I have had literally thousands of messages of support.
These individual messages of support appear to be reflected in wider opinion. An ICM poll for the Mail on Sunday in my constituency found that 69 per cent of people believed I was acting out of principle and 57 per cent thought that I was right to resign over 42 days and put my anxieties about Brown's database state and surveillance society to the test of the ballot box. Far from damaging the Tory cause, our massive poll lead over Labour has jumped again – by two points.
So what happens next and how can readers of ConservativeHome support my campaign? By the end of this week, I will have resigned from Parliament and by early next week I will have launched my by-election campaign in Haltemprice and Howden on the single and vital issue of this government’s assault on British freedom.
Tomorrow, I launch my website www.daviddavisforfreedom.com to act as a sounding board for the debate I am determined to generate about the threat to our liberties. You can follow the debate there and put your views forward by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org).
Gordon Brown's cowardly refusal to field a candidate against me is all too predictable. This after all, is a man who schemed for a decade to become the unelected leader of the Labour Party and Prime Minister, who ducked a general election last autumn, who still refuses a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, and who long ago nicknamed McCavity for his tendency to slip away into the shadows at the first hint of trouble.
But we don't need Gordon Brown for a campaign or for a debate across the country about our slide towards an authoritarianism that is both petty and alarming at the same time. Outside speakers, both for and against my views, will be given a platform to lead that debate. Colonel Tim Collins, the hero of the Iraq war, has promised to campaign with me and talk about the right way to combat terror. From the world of music, Nigel Kennedy has kindly offered to come up to show his support. And this is just the start.
I want a serious debate on these issues. But I also want the campaign to be fun - to engage and reach people who have grown weary of conventional politics. I want you to come to Haltemprice and Howden and join my campaign - if only for a day or two - irrespective of party allegiances. David Cameron, members of the Shadow Cabinet and numerous other Tory MPs will be up in East Yorkshire on the campaign trail. But, as Bob Marshall-Andrews, Ian Gibson and Nick Clegg have also reminded us, MPs across the political spectrum are appalled by the slow erosion of those freedoms our forebears fought to defend over centuries.
Our British freedoms are precious - far more precious than the career of any single politician.