What I wrote at Lib Dem Voice

June 23, 2008

One roast swan short of a Banquet

I know that citing the Google searches that resulted in people accidentally stumbling across one’s blog is a bit clich├ęd, but... hey, trite-and-tested is my motto. And I did like the idea of someone keying in the phrase:
Tony Blairs Lord Mayor Blanket speech
It sounds like rather a good idea: forget the white tie and tails, just bring a sleeping bag.

Because criticism should be fair and factual

That fearsome right-wing triumvirate – Robert Halfon for ConservativeHome, The Spectator’s Stephen Pollard and The Times’s Daniel Finkelstein – all repeat what they consider to be a terribly clever point about Gordon Brown’s tainting of David Cameron as a ‘shallow salesman’.

Here’s Mr Halfon:
Far from being used as a political insult in which Mr Brown can attack the Prime Minister [sic], salesmen should instead be celebrated for their hard work, entrepreneurial spirit and for providing services that many people could not do without. Mr Cameron should wear the salesmen badge with pride.
And here’s Mr Pollard:
I think it says a lot about the outlook of our wonderful PM that he should regard the word 'salesman' as an insult. … [he] appears to have an instinctive loathing of capitalism, and to regard it merely as something to be tolerated for the benefits it can bring.
(Mr Finkelstein confines himself to commending their "brilliant" insights).

But hang on a just a second. Gordon Brown didn’t condemn all salesmen. He condemned shallow salesmen, which is actually quite a big difference. Here’s a tip for Messrs Halfon, Pollard and Finkelstein: adjectives are usually quite handy clues to discerning what someone means.

I’m no apologist for the Prime Minister, as I suspect this article makes clear. But distortion for argument’s sake is just a little – how can I put it – shallow. And it’s as tedious from right-wing commentators as it is when left-wing agitators condemn money as the root of all evil (forgetting that it’s the love thereof which is responsible).

June 15, 2008

One thing I just don’t get about David Davis

I don’t doubt for one moment the sincerity of David Davis on civil liberties. He has proven himself to be an articulate, passionate, resolute opponent of Labour’s unceasing efforts to subjugate the ordinary man and woman to ever more draconian laws for the greater good.

And yet he is also an advocate of the death penalty, saying in his first interview as the Tories’ shadow home secretary back in 2003:

“There is really no doubt, if you have got DNA evidence in multiple murders there will be absolutely no doubt," he told BBC's World this Weekend. "That is one of the great concerns historically about capital punishment, that there will be doubt about it.

"Secondly, that it is obviously pre-meditated. If somebody plans to carry out a series of murders, often against children or young women, or elderly people. These people pick their victims very cynically I'm afraid. Then this is obviously an evil and pre-meditated attack and in that case, there could be there a deterrent effect. We are talking about lives here."

For many in the Tory party they will see no ideological conflict in holding such views: it is partly what separates the libertarian wing of the Tories (who are generally also on the ‘social right’ of their party) from Liberal Democrats.

Yet for true liberals there can be no more terrifying prospect than that the state should hold the power over the life or death of its citizens. It is why the declaration of war – and the knowledge that young women and men will die at the behest of the state – is something which should only ever be contemplated in the most serious circumstances, and as a last resort on the basis of unimpeachable evidence.

That the state should consider aggrandising to itself the right to extinguish the breath from one of its citizens is the height of arrogance and hubris. No-one who truly believes in the rights of the individual, and in the limits of state power, could ever condone the re-introduction of the death penalty.

David Davis has many admirable qualities: but he is not and never will be a liberal.