The Early Days of a Better Nation

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

How to win friends and influence people

The surprise decision of Tory MP David Davis to resign his seat and force a by-election over his opposition to 42-day detention has been more popular in the blogosphere than in the commentariat, and continues to make waves.

Over at Liberal Conspiracy, the typical liberal hand-wringing gets almost out of hand:
If we get involved, we may also end up looking silly.
Sean Gabb, for whom the phrase 'made of sterner stuff' might have been coined, swings the massed ranks and vast funds of the Libertarian Alliance (Official) behind Davis. Tory qualms about damaging the Conservative Party are firmly stomped:
It may be that the Conservatives are less evil than Labour. But so are the BNP and al-Qa’eda.
The Yorkshire Ranter likewise lays to rest liberal mutterings about Davis's sometimes less than liberal views:
In terms of classical conservatism, it makes perfect sense to think that the State should have the power to cut your head off, and that its power must be constrained by law as much as humanly possible.
Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, Glenn Greenwald riffs off the Davis candidacy to take the Democrats to task, and is himself taken to task for failing to mention the most conspicuous current example of a Democrat with a backbone.


Well according to Ian Bone (he of Class War fame) the local NUM are seriously thinking of putting a candidate up. If true they will make mincemeat of Davis's claim to be a principled civil libertarian ...

Thanks very much for all the links. I've been aware of Davis's action, but from over here in California it's hard to find out what all the details are, or to know the context of the action. Now I think I have a much clearer picture. A fine example of what hypertext is good for!

If you're an American with a Congressman who is allegedly a member of the "progressive" caucus, they are none too amused when you call up to insist they support their fellow Progressive Caucus members, Kucinich and Wexler... and if you suggest you'll be voting for someone else, you can practically hear the snickering.

One day, someone will free the hell out of us... (and on that day, I'll be in Canada.)

As others have said, thanks for the links.

Aw, c'mon Ken - the argument over at Liberal Conspiracy is a bit more considered and thoughtful than `Oo er, we might end up looking like doofuses'. Innit?

Well, yes it is Michael, which is one reason why I linked to it. As with some other links in this piece, I had a little fun by highlighting the most eyebrow-raising sentence I could find in it.

Sociologist, just how will an NUM candidate make mincemeat of Davis's claim?

I find it depressing that we have to rely on a member of the Conservative party to make these points.

The choice you get on the other side of the pond, Simon, is whether to have democrats or republicans organize the death squads in foreign lands... which is often the choice between a bragging blowhard and a competent two-faced liar.

(wikileaks apparently has received a US counterinsurgency manual informed by our saintly deeds in South America.

With friends like these, eh?..

I think the commentariat should be wary of confusing the grandstanding of a nudge-and-wink Tory who has built his reputation on jibing Nu Labour for its totalitarian instincts (not without reason, to be fair) for the declarations of a man of principle. A piece of paper nailed to a door in Wittenburg this is not. Rather an attempt to revive a flagging career by a almost forgotten contender for the Tory leadership.

Most of the starry-eyed comparisons to 'Republican libertarians' are way off the mark, too, but only because the term is so misleading. There's really not much to learn from US politics apart from the art of bending over. These days, 'Liberal conservatives' on both sides of the Atlantic almost always espouse an every-man-for-himself philosophy. Usually this is an extension of the free market principles that all good MBAs and politicians learn at the teat these days. 'Nanny state'... 'heavy-handed government'... you know the thing. From the lips of a Republican grandee or Tory-boy wannabee, it is usually an espousal of selfish interest, not a high-minded, socially inclusive statement of principle.

And forget the stuff about 'classical conservatism.' Even the term gilds a turd. David Davis openly supports capital punishment, a system that, even in the best-monitored and well-policed societies, routinely kills people for crimes did they not commit. And yet here he is, blowing off about arbitrary detention. Does this really sound like the results of some Damascene conversion?

'Rather an attempt to revive a flagging career by a almost forgotten contender for the Tory leadership.'

Well, yes, but here's a clue: when you have a Prime Minister happily declaring that Britain should enjoy 'freedom from' -

- then if there's a very prominent guy making a very public stand and taking quite a big risk in favour of 'freedom to', then you don't stop to decide if he's left wing enough.

Constitutionally, Davis is standing on one issue. If you happen to live in Howden and Haltemprice, you're being asked one question, not to support the whole Tory platform.

And the power of Davis doing this is precisely *that* he's a hang em and flog em 'the only cause of crime is criminals' old school Tory fucker. He's 'tough on crime', but not to the extent that he's ready to drop the idea that we should, y'know, charge suspects with something at some point.

I'd vote for any of the figures on the left courageous enough to take a stand, but ...

See your point, anon. Actually I concur that the whole debate probably says more about the left than it does about the right. But... but... ach, don't you just want some enormous, lichen-encrusted skeleton to fall out of his closet?

If a huge skeleton falls out of his closet, let me know... I know a few hundred American politicians that could use one...

(Insofar as the Democrats are 'best available,' The best lack all conviction, while the worst Are full of passionate intensity...)

'the whole debate probably says more about the left than it does about the right'

What I've never understood is how anyone can be a leftie SF writer - between striving for a working definition of 'socialist' and arguing over what the S stands for in SF, how can they possibly find the time to write?

Reading about this issue made me think of going back and rereading Kipling's poem "The Old Issue," from which Poul Anderson took the story title "No Truce with Kings":

He shall mark our goings, question whence we came,
Set his guards about us, as in Freedom's name.

He shall take a tribute; toll of all our ware;
He shall change our gold for arms—arms we may not bear.

He shall break his Judges if they cross his word;
He shall rule above the Law callng on the Lord.

He shall peep and mutter; and the night shall bring
Watchers 'neath our window, lest we mock the King—

(Note that Kipling is using the word "king" figuratively here, for any form of absolute rule. I rather imagine him flinching in his grave at current British politics. But then, his science fiction story "As Easy as A.B.C." foresaw an age of democratic absolutism and abolition of privacy—and a bloody revolution inspired by revulsion against it. It would be nice to think that the revulsion, at least, was there now; I hope that it may be so.)

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