42 days: what do Conservatives really think?

by Stephen Tall on June 11, 2008

As I write, I haven’t yet seen the Commons roll-call of votes to find out how many (or indeed if any) Tory MPs joined Ann Widdecombe in voting with Labour on 42 days detention without charge. We do know, though, that the proposal enjoys the support of ConservativeHome.com, the provisional wing of the authentic Tory party:

Today’s terrorists attack without warning. They are willing to use mentally ill children as suicide bombers. They want to kill as many people as possible. They don’t want some of our territory. They won’t be satisfied until we are destroyed or enslaved. … Our defences must match the scale of the threat. … A clear majority of the British people favour a longer detention period. We believe that the British people are right. They won’t readily forgive any politicians who allow a major atrocity to occur because our detention procedures prove to be inadequate.

So, what is the true view of the Tory party? And what would they do if they found themselves as the next government?

To be clear: I don’t doubt for one second the integrity of David Davis, the Tories’ shadow home secretary, in opposing Labour’s draconian 42 days proposal. He is one of many Tories who have shown themselves to understand the importance of defending hard-won freedoms. But what if Mr Davis weren’t to be the Tories’ home secretary? What then? Would his successor stick to his guns?

That the question can legitimately be asked shows how fragile is the current Tory leadership’s commitment to opposing the Government’s careless junking of individuals’ liberties. As Lib Dem blogger James Graham is fond of pointing out:

I don’t know if Cameron is the liberal he claims to be or not and to an extent that is irrelevant. What I’m concerned about is how a Cameron government would behave in the face of a reactionary Conservative backbench of the kind we are likely to continue to see for decades to come. His approach since becoming leader has been to avoid confrontation where possible, and capitulate where not. In this respect he is very different from Tony Blair circa 1995. Blair loved to face down his detractors in the party; that’s why the “demon eyes” approach was so unconvincing. With Cameron, we really do seem to be getting a Tory wolf in woolly liberal’s clothing.

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Where do the Lib Dems stand on plans to introduce road pricing in return for the abolition of vehicle excise duty and cutting fuel duty?

Your own poll, right, shows a 50:50 split.

by Justin Hinchcliffe on June 11, 2008 at 8:57 pm. Reply #

It shows how twisted British politics has gone. The conservatives are standing up for people’s libertires. More like they just want to see a defeat for the government. The reality is their conservatives, conservatives are hardliners who would quite happily let 42days happen.

by Alasdair on June 11, 2008 at 9:18 pm. Reply #

This one isn’t; and most of the grassroots guys I work alongside are not in favour of 42 days either. Of course there are some who take a different view; when you have 40+% ratings you are going to have some differences of opinion. It is maybe worth pointing out that Tim got a bit of a pasting for the position he expressed on ConservativeHome (something you “conveniently” omitted to note) which makes me think that I, and my circle, are very much in the majority on this one.

by passing tory on June 11, 2008 at 9:44 pm. Reply #

This is exactly the line we should be taking when attacking the Tories…i never tire of saying it because it’s true…we shouldn’t be letting them stand up as the ‘true defenders of liberty’…

by Darrell on June 11, 2008 at 9:46 pm. Reply #

Bleh . . .

Bit much attacking the Conservatives when their vote looks to have been solid. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, (and I know nobody’s listening) – if you want to skewer the Conservatives, do it over the secular agenda – blasphemy, embryos, faith schools etc. – on these issues they show themselves to belong in the 19th century, not the 21st.

By the way, an extension from 28 to 42 days (and hedged about with so many caveats so as to be unworkable) in no way represents an attack on our liberties in practical terms, so ignore all the fatuous guff about going back on a thousand years of history. This is just another great Brown misjudgement – expend a vast amount of energy and political capital for no very good reason.

by Laurence Boyce on June 11, 2008 at 10:58 pm. Reply #

Depends on what you mean by solid….i saw talk on here earlier about as many as 14 potential Tory rebels which if it is true will have made the difference

by Darrell on June 11, 2008 at 11:27 pm. Reply #

Well of course we don’t know for sure. Be interested to see the Lib Dem abstentions too . . .

by Laurence Boyce on June 11, 2008 at 11:32 pm. Reply #

“Be interested to see the Lib Dem abstentions too . . .”

Were there any or are you just stirring gratuitiously?

by Hywel Morgan on June 12, 2008 at 12:01 am. Reply #

When Mrs Thatcher lead the Tory party, the words “civil liberties” were seen as the preserve of the loony left, and witht he support of the Sun and the Mail, the Tories gave the impression they did not care less. As recently as Michael Howard, when he was leader they supported ID cards. He was the last gasp attempt to continue Thatcherism, and now the Tories have given up.
It is no surprise that their grass roots, most of whom joined when Thatcher was leader, still think that civil liberties are something to do with socialism.
It is the post Thatcher Tories who want to steer a different direction. The Thaterites are in slow decline and have no future in the party.
As for Lawrence’s point. Whether he is right about secularism is something worth debating, but I do not see it as a pivotal issue that decides elections.

by Geoffrey Payne on June 12, 2008 at 12:27 am. Reply #

It’s not about deciding elections (yet). It’s about opening up on the Conservatives on a point of contention which actually exists, as opposed to this one where their vote appears to have been solid.

By the way, there were no Lib Dem abstentions, so it would appear that I was indeed just stirring gratuitously . . .

by Laurence Boyce on June 12, 2008 at 12:45 am. Reply #

According to the Beeb, Widdy was the only Tory MP to back the government on 42 days. Sir Peter Tapsell, who supported 90-day detention, is not listed as having voted for the government this time.

by Bernard Salmon on June 12, 2008 at 12:47 am. Reply #

More of interest should be the role of Lib Dem peer Lord Carlile in this awful law.

ConHome’s Editor has come under severe criticism over this.

But the Lib Dem blogs are curiously silent on the actions of Lord Alex Carlile. He pops up in the media defending 42 days yet the Lib Dem blogs just choose to ignore him?

Carlile has had far more influence over getting 42 days passed than Widdecombe, Carlile’s support probably tipped Labour into a majority on this.

by jim on June 12, 2008 at 8:49 am. Reply #

I would have thought that we all think the same about Alex Carlisle. We disagree with him, but he is entitled to his point of view.
What ought we say about him other than that?

by Geoffrey Payne on June 12, 2008 at 8:54 am. Reply #

That is fair enough, Geoffry, but then it makes protestations that some Tories support the bill and that makes the party intrinsically illiberal somewhat hypocritical.

by passing tory on June 12, 2008 at 9:24 am. Reply #

oops, GeoffrEy

by passing tory on June 12, 2008 at 9:25 am. Reply #

“ConservativeHome.com, the provisional wing of the authentic Tory party”

Oh please. ConservativeHome is just one popular website run by two guys who have their own opinions. Who said it was the “authentic Tory party”? What a stupid remark.


by Letters From A Tory on June 12, 2008 at 10:05 am. Reply #

From today’s Telegraph:

Last night [David Davis] failed to beat the Government on an issue that he had staked much on. It is clear that Cameron and George Osborne were less keen on opposing the extension of detention limits to 42 days than Davis. But the former SAS man has boasted to friends that he won them round. … This morning one wonders where it leaves Cameron and his policy on 42 days. And more importantly where does it leave David Davis?

by Stephen Tall on June 12, 2008 at 12:04 pm. Reply #

And now we have this. I feel almost prescient.

by Stephen Tall on June 12, 2008 at 12:58 pm. Reply #

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