One thing I just don’t get about David Davis

by Stephen Tall on June 15, 2008

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.