There has been much speculation over the motivations for David Davis's resignation—"it's a political stunt", "it's another bid for the Tory leadership", "it doesn't matter because it's a safe seat", and suchlike. Many have pointed out the fact that he would probably have been Home Secretary within a couple of years and could thus have fought this law more effectively from the front benches.
But I think that we "intellectuals" in these rarified media and blogosphere worlds have missed something really quite crucial: we have missed out the public.
We were told that some 69% of the general public supported the 42 days' detention. Many of these, I suspect, were people, like my brother, who simply hadn't thought about it. After all, amongst other things, some 85% of the population of Britain are white and blithely imagine that this law wouldn't affect them; it's the "I'm alright, Jack" attitude.
An appallingly large number of people in this county—as poll after poll shows—are astonishingly ignorant of our own history, let alone that of totalitarian states such as Nazi Germany, fascist Italy or Soviet Russia. They will not have heard of "salami-slicing" as applied to the erosion of freedoms.
Further, many of these people will never follow the news and thus not be aware of the way in which other authoritarian legislation has been abused by the government, the police and the other agents of the state.
For those of us writing blogs, all of this seems so simple. Over the three and a half years of writing The Kitchen, my mind has been stimulated and I have thought and considered such things far more than I ever did before. Writing about liberty, and its slow death in this country, concentrates the mind wonderfully: we political bloggers are big on social freedom (yes, even those on the left) partly, I think, because the blogging medium is, by its very nature, an exercise in personal freedom.
But the vast majority of the country don't think about such things; they don't care and they aren't aware. Many of them will respond only to the dog whistle politics—immigrants, petrol prices, eeeevil paedos, etc.—raised by The Sun and other, even lower, rags. The concept of freedom can seem a somewhat nebulous one and difficult to grasp, especially when one is talking of so-called "negative liberties".
Obviously, I cannot see into the mind of David Davis but, if I were him, this is one of the main reasons why I would have taken this step. I would have looked at those polls; I would have been aghast at the fact that 69% of the population of Britain were seemingly unconcerned about the loss of their Ancient Liberties and Freedoms, unworried about the loss of their protection from unlawful imprisonment. And I would have despaired.
It is not enough to persuade the political classes that it is wrong to lock people away for six weeks without even telling them what they are accused of; and especially, from a party political point of view, when NuLabour would eagerly have accused the Tories of being "soft on terrorists" and when the people of this country would have agreed with them.
What Davis's resignation might do—what he might at least have hoped—is to serve as a high-profile media slap to the people of this country. It might just serve as a catalyst to thought, to get people to consider precisely what it is that they are happy to sign away.
The idea must be to make people realise that this law is not "tough on terrorism, tough on the causes of terrorism": no, it is "tough on liberty, tough on the causes of liberty".
Stuff the political classes and the professional media and the Westminster Village; if Davis's resignation prompts the ordinary people of this country—those who wave flags at the Last Night of the Proms whilst gleefully singing about how they "never, never will be slaves"—actually to consider the nature of liberty and to pause, take stock, and realise what freedoms they have already lost, then it will have been more than a "stunt", more than a vain and empty gesture.
It might just wake people up, to drag them away from their facile, tedious lives, and force them to realise that they are already slaves to a great extent. Maybe, just maybe, they will look up from their reality TV shows and their TV dinners, and their binge drinking, their drugs and their petty theft, and understand that there are some things, some concepts, rather more important than who is going to win Big Brother.
Alas, although my hope springs eternal, in reality, I'm not holding my breath.
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