‘Anti-Big-Brother’ election in UK

I had always viewed membership of this House as a noble endeavour, not least because we and our forebears have for centuries fiercely defended the fundamental freedoms of our citizens. Or we did, up until yesterday.

This is the statement by former Tory MP David Davis as he dramatically resigned his seat to force a by-election over the issue of preserving the traditional rights of British citizens to be free from arbitrary and capricious imprisonment. He noted that Sunday June 15 will be the the anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta by King John as he confronted rebellious barons in the field at Runnymede in 1215.

At issue is the passage of a law that would authorize the imprisonment of British citizens for up to 6 weeks (42 days) without charges being brought. The Tories narrowly backed the legislation in support of the Labor government led by PM Gordon Brown. Davis stepped down from his Tory party position as Shadow Home Secretary and launched his campaign to be re-elected on this issue. This move effectively ended his chances of a Cabinet post in the next Tory administration and is particularly painful for a man of Davis’s ambitions because the Tories are poised to take power at the next electoral opportunity. As Shadow Home Secretary Davis was virtually assured a key role in a new Tory government. But Davis chose to put principle before power.

Additional details and commentary on this act of political courage can be found on Glenn Greenwald’s blog at http://www.salon.com/opinion/greenwald/2008/06/14/various_items/” and also at http://sideshow.me.uk/sjun08.htm#06140249/ — UK blogger Avedon Carol’s Sideshow site.

He is hoping to use this election as a referendum on this issue from his constituents. Only in a parliamentary system like Britain’s would such a maneuver be possible — it would not work in the U.S. Congress due to the different constitutional structure that elects members for a fixed term. But it makes this American wish for a similar mechanism for men and women of principle could make a similar dramatic stand against their party establishment.

Davis’s eloquent statement explaining his concerns speaks for itself and is reproduced in full below from the Independent (UK) at http://tinyurl.com/43w6y6/

The Haltemprice and Howden declaration

“The name of my constituency is Haltemprice and Howden – [which] is derived from a medieval proverb meaning noble endeavour. Until yesterday I took a view that what we did in the House of Commons – representing our constituents was a noble endeavour because for centuries … we defended the freedom of people. Well, we did, up until yesterday.

“This Sunday is the anniversary of Magna Carta, a document that guarantees the fundamental element of British freedom, habeas corpus. The right not to be imprisoned by the state without charge or reason.

But yesterday this house allowed the state to lock up potentially innocent citizens for up to six weeks without charge. The Counter-Terrorism Bill will, in all probability, be rejected by the House of Lords very firmly. After all, what should they be there for, if not to protect Magna Carta?

“But because this is defined as political, not security, the Government will be tempted to use the Parliament Act to overrule the Lords.

“It has no democratic mandate to do this since 42 days was not in its manifesto. Its legal basis is uncertain … but, purely for political reasons, this Government is going to do that. Because the generic security argument relied on will never go away – technology, development complexity, and so on – we’ll next see 56 days, 70 days, then 90 days.

But in truth perhaps 42 days is the one most salient example of the insidious, surreptitious and relentless erosion of fundamental British freedom.

“And we will have shortly the most intrusive identity card system in the world. A CCTV camera for every 14 citizens, a DNA database bigger than any dictatorship has, with thousands of innocent children and millions of innocent citizens on it.

“We have witnessed an assault on jury trials, a bolt against bad law and its arbitrary use by the state. And short cuts with our justice system, which will make our system neither firm nor fair and a creation of a database state opening up our private lives to the prying eyes of official snoopers and exposing our personal data to careless civil servants and criminal hackers. The state has security powers to clamp down on peaceful protest and so-called hate laws to stifle legitimate debate, whilst those who incite violence get off scot-free. This cannot go on… and for that reason today I feel it is incumbent on me to take a stand.

“I will be resigning my membership of this House and I intend to force a by-election… I will fight it, I will argue this by-election against the slow strangulation of fundamental British freedoms by this Government.

“Now, that may mean I have made my last speech to the House … But at least my electorate and the nation … would have had the opportunity to debate and consider one of the most fundamental issues of our day… And if they do send me back here, it will be with a single message – that the monstrosity of a law that we passed yesterday will not stand.”

Wow. This is truly a fitting action on the 793rd anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta. Too bad that more are not joining Davis’s crusade against the “Big Brother society”. It pairs neatly with this week’s U.S. Supreme court ruling in the Boumediene case which upheld the right of habeas corpus for Guantanamo detainees.

Explore posts in the same categories: Anti-big-brother campaign, British Tories, David Davis resignation, Guantanamo, habeas corpus, Haltemprice and Howden declaration, Magna Carta, politics, Surveillance society, U.S. Constitution, UK Parliament

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