Tuesday, June 17, 2008

re-re-re-re-re-re-wind.....the Sun's gone back in again

Can you hear it? The sound of the Sun, and the rest of the media, back-peddling. A reverse ferret', as Obsolete describes it in an excellent post.

Last Friday saw furious Davis-bashing in the Sun, and lofty sneering as the media and political establishment decided anyone giving a stuff about piffling old freedoms instead of personal advancement was clearly 'bonkers', if not traitorous. Matthew Parris described how it happened...

Within the space of an afternoon a relatively small number of people - MPs, broadcasters, journalists, party hacks - gathered within a relatively confined space and, communicating mostly with each other, worked each other up into a clear, sharp and settled judgement on the question of the hour. By now it was almost unanimous. The judgement was conveyed electronically to the offices of the national press, bouncing back at Westminster in the form of vituperative editorials and opinion columns by dawn the next morning.Thus, by echo, a single opinion reinforced and magnified itself.
The public, however, thought otherwise. And said so. Loudly and clearly, in their thousands. Cue dissenting blogstorm, cue public opinion tidal wave, thousands of emails, phonecalls, comments - and lo, cue rather hasty re-evaluation by the Fourth Estate. Rarrrr!

But no-one has done a more startling volte-face than the Sun, who were originally cooking up a plan to stand their very own man, ex-editor Kelvin McKenzie, against Davies, on an authoritarian pro 42 days ticket. After refreshing themselves at a surprise 40th birthday party for Rebekah Wade, on Thursday night, the plan was hatched.

Friday's Sun leader was 'Crazy Davis' and duly put the boot in

HAS David Davis gone stark raving mad? How else can we explain his silly act of self-styled martyrdom? The Shadow Home Secretary rambled on about making some sort of “noble” protest.
But what was he protesting about?

By Monday, though, the paper had worked out which way public opinion was running. The Sun's political editor, Trevor Kavenagh began to turn a corner. 'Dave's all ego, but he's right on state snoopers', he wrote, talking of 'contempt by public servants towards the public they are supposed to serve'. Owch.

Annoyingly, though, it is hard to disagree with the cause Davis has decided to embrace.
Britain IS now a nation of unaccountable snoopers with sweeping powers to pry into every nook and cranny of our daily lives... The knee-jerk response from the shadowy world of officialdom is that if you’ve nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear. I used to think that was true.But there are too many recent examples of innocent, or at least harmless, citizens being bundled off to police cells for no good reason. Even more alarming is the unyielding response from blank-faced authorities when caught in the act: We were just following guidelines, guv.

"Acting on orders" is the first and last refuge of the totalitarian jobsworth...

Most Sun readers will instinctively support 42 days’ detention without trial for terror suspects if it helps prevent an atrocity on the streets of Britain.

They would accept ID cards as a sensible way of co-ordinating swathes of information already in the public domain if it made life easier as well as more secure.

CCTV cameras can undoubtedly be a force for good and DNA data banks have put killers and rapists in jail who would otherwise have escaped justice.

But along with many Sun readers, I don’t trust this Government, the police or the State bureaucracy to discriminate between keeping an eye out for our well-being and spying on us...

Today, Fergus Shanahan, the Sun's columnist, goes even further, in a piece titled 'I respect Davis for defending freedom'. Yes, really.

Davis has hit the nail on the head. We HAVE allowed ourselves to be browbeaten by fears of Islamic terror attacks into abandoning too many of our freedoms — something I have said for months. Many Sun readers agree with me.

They aren’t soft on terror any more than I am.

But like me they worry that this is ceasing to be a country we feel at ease in, or the country we once knew.

A country of ID cards and databases, secret cameras, tax snoopers who can barge into your house and council spies who can fine you £200 just for dropping a crisp.

And here's the kicker...is this the start of a climb-down on 42 days?

Three myths are peddled by Davis’s opponents.
The first is that if you are against 42 days, you are soft on terror.
Rubbish. I have backed capital punishment for terrorist murderers while many of those kicking Davis are against it. How am I soft on terror?

The second myth is that weary old chestnut: “If you’ve nothing to hide, why worry?” That’s what German civilians told each other as they looked the other way while the concentration camps were being built.

The third myth is that there is massive public support for 42 days.
Yet I can find only one recent poll giving a clear majority for Brown. The internet is full of opposition to 42 days.

The truth is that just as Davis says, there is real unease because many see 42-day detention without charge as another sinister step towards making the state all-powerful. Forty-two days is also a smokescreen for Labour's failure to use existing terror laws.

Now that is pretty damn amazing. I blinked, several times. And then cheered.

The voices of the people are actually being heard, thanks to new communications technology, and people, in their thousands have made Westminster and the media listen. And I don't just mean the political blogs, though I know they are being monitored (hello to my three new readers from News International!).

It took one of their own to shock the political elite by breaking all the rules and making a stand, on, splutter, principle. He has used the system against the system. And it needed an insider to do it. No worthy lobbyist, no unknown back-bencher, no diligent campaigner could have caused such a stir. You might not agree with his brand of conservatism, nor how he has voted in the past but here it is - a break. A big break, a shocking break. A break for people who want to say something about freedom. We can carry on blogging and lobbying and moaning and protesting and raising awareness and hand-wringing in the usual way - or we can grab this chance now the issue has suddenly gone bigger. The issue of liberty, and its defence was being talked about in the pub at the weekend and it was still being talked about in the cafe where I went for a bacon sandwich today. And I didn't start the conversation.

Now Davis has taken this issue away from the closed Westminster hot-house, with its arcane unspoken rules, and horse-trading, and whipping, and bullying, and nods, winks and tricks and put it right out there. The debate has been ignited in a big way. Now it is up to us to get involved, and to fan the flames, not pour cold water on them. It is time to get out of the closed mindset of party political loyalties and tribalism. It is time to storm into the debating space which has been opened up, before it closes again. As Sunny Hundal says, at Liberal Conspiracy

'Forget the politics for a minute. Forget that he may be positioning himself. Forget the fact that he is effectively out-maneuvering both the Liberal Democrats and even the Libertarians on civil liberties. Think about the outcomes.

If Davis fails, both Labour and Conservatives keep the status quo or push it further into authoritarian territory'

Yes, and that's the point for me. If this turns into a circus, or is allowed to fizzle out, then we have made things worse not better. Authoritarians would love this to be a nine days wonder and then an embarrassment. This is not going to the Tory side, this is getting a big Tory on our side.

Davis, a Tory, a career politician, a big bruising beast, is inserting himself forcibly into the Westminster machine until it grinds and smokes and sparks fly - but it is not a man nor a party that people are rallying to, it is a cause, and it cannot be about one man, but about one thing - our freedoms.

And that cause is cross-party - it must be - how can any one party 'own' standing up to protect basic freedoms? David Davis does not own this debate. He has just done a big thing to throw himself into the debate. It is above politics, or it flipping well should be. It goes to the very core of what it means to live as a free member of British society. The fact that the party politicians and the establishment can't understand it and think it is mad to go out on a limb for it proves it.

It is up to us to step into this space and open this thing out, to make this space fill with those who support liberty, and get as many people in the space, standing shoulder to shoulder, on this single issue: to demand a limit to the abuse of State power. To question how that power is used and what is being done to us, and for us, and by us, against us, in our name, by those we elect to serve us.

Stop being cynical. Stop looking for the catch. Do you want this debate or not? Get involved.
Or sit back, and watch it die again. I can't do that.

I'm in. I'm not in the Tory party. I'm in the crowd, saying, don't give me fear. Give me freedom.

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Anonymous Ian H said...

Superbly written.

I know David Davis has a website:


I will be making a small donation but I would like to see Liberty and other groups and individuals also on the site.

I for one think a single point-of-contact would be great so if you do have contacts Rachel, can you let us know if you are told how everyone is going to coordinate their elements of the campaign?

June 17, 2008 2:47 pm  
Blogger The Cartoonist said...

Oh, this is so brilliant (and at the same time so unbelievable - the Sun!! I still don't get it.). Many thanks for the summary - and for one of the best posts I've ever read here. Excellent! And now I'll go and have a look at DD's website.

June 17, 2008 3:02 pm  
Anonymous Ian H said...

In 1999 would any of us have believed that within a few years we could be arrested for reading out loud the names of fallen soldiers on a street in central London ?

Good luck Rachel

June 17, 2008 3:24 pm  
Anonymous a very public sociologist said...

Hilarious to see The Sun forced to climb down - a real poke in the eye to the political-media establishment.

June 17, 2008 6:51 pm  
Blogger Andy Ramblings said...

I smelt the rubber as I pass the newspaper stands on the way to work today.

June 17, 2008 7:37 pm  
Blogger Brennig said...

Rachel, have you seen DD's resignation speech to the House?

It is a brilliant piece of writing and oration; passionate to the last.

Such a shame the media did not give it the coverage it deserved.

There's a copy of it on mine if you haven't seen it.

June 17, 2008 7:40 pm  
Blogger Geoff said...

Brilliant post Rachel - well done. Lets hope the tide is turning at last!

June 17, 2008 8:25 pm  
Anonymous angryvoter said...

"Beep, Beep. Warning, this Aussie-owned rag is reversin mate!"

s'all I can say really.

June 17, 2008 9:26 pm  
Anonymous Sunny said...

Superb post Rachel. And thanks for the link.

June 18, 2008 4:49 am  
Anonymous Richard said...

That's one of the funniest things I've seen in a long time. Just goes to show that when it comes down to it those poor underpaid genuiuses at the Sun will write absolutely anything in order to ingratiate themselves with their readers. Still, at least it shows they're more in tune with public opinion than their soul-mates in Westminster. I wonder how many enraged emails it took to bring about such an extreme U-turn?

June 18, 2008 9:17 am  
Anonymous Sweet Briar said...

I reckon that (amongst/because of all this 42-day detention 'high jinks') the secret inquests & government specially appointed coroners measures in the Counter-Terrorism Bill will slip into statute.

What do you think, Rachel?

June 18, 2008 11:00 am  
Blogger Rachel said...

Hello Sweetbriar are you also Amber Leaf?

I'm doing what i can: you might also like to contact INQUEST who are lobbying against it. I have hopes for the Lords though.

June 18, 2008 11:06 am  
Anonymous Ian H said...

What do you think are the chances that **in an amazing coincidence** just before the by-election day, the govt will announce they have foiled a huge terrorist plot ? They will probably also suggest it nearly took more than 28 days to get the evidence.

June 18, 2008 11:34 am  
Blogger Rachel said...

tanks at Heathrow?


June 18, 2008 11:40 am  
Blogger I.:.S.:. said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

June 18, 2008 9:00 pm  
Blogger DAVE BONES said...

This is a great article. Top stuff. Yasmin Alabiah Who? ;-)

June 18, 2008 9:03 pm  
Anonymous sweet amber briar leaf said...

I would hope that Oury Clark (Solicitors representing the 7/7 Inquiry Group) have contacted INQUEST, and are making the appropriate noises...

They’d probably have more affect than lil' ol’ me (although I am doing my best to highlight the issues...).

I am still surprised by the lack of noise that is being made over the 'secret inquests'/'special coroners' proposals. I hope that they don't get overshadowed.

June 19, 2008 11:21 am  
Anonymous Helen Shaw, co-director of INQUEST said...

in the INQUEST Press statement of 31 March 2008, here:

“The proposals amount to a fundamental attack on the independence and transparency of the inquest system and could result in the inquests into highly contentious deaths involving state agents taking place without juries, in private, with government-appointed coroners and counsel overseeing the evidence.

This would exclude bereaved families, their legal representatives and the public at large from the investigation process in breach of article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

We have seen no arguments or evidence from the government to justify the imposition of such wide-ranging and draconian proposals and believe they should be withdrawn immediately”

June 19, 2008 11:52 am  
Blogger Cookiemouse said...

"don't give me fear. Give me freedom."
Well said, Rachel.

June 19, 2008 6:55 pm  

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