Alex Massie

Tory Authoritarians

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Here's a surprise: a rather good speech on civil liberties and the government's (English) DNA database from Chris Grayling. Later in the debate, however, David Davies, Tory MP for Monmouth and a man who really should not be confused with David Davis MP, made this contribution:

"Most of the Bill's provisions ultimately come down to a simple argument about the price of civil liberties as against the price of security. While travelling into London on the tube this morning, I was reading the dreadful stories of what is going on in Haiti. I suppose that at present the people in that country have the ultimate in civil liberties, in that they can go out and do and say what they want and steal what they want, but is anyone more secure for it? No, they are not. Would anyone want to live in Haiti at present, or in any of the other failed states of the world? No, they would not.

"Mention was made earlier of one of the Gulf states, where apparently there is a universal database. I forget the name of the country, but I remember thinking that it is a country where many British people and other westerners have gone to work. They are perfectly happy in that environment. It may not be the paradise of a Liberal Democrat-run council in the desert, but people feel very safe regardless of the level of civil liberties they apparently enjoy.

"What I am trying to say is that, in many ways, security is more important to us than civil liberties. Security has to come first. We all remember that in the '70s we used to say, "Better dead than red", but the reality is that I would prefer just about anything to being dead or to living in a failed state, even if it meant giving up some of my civil liberties."

There's so much dumb packed into just three paragraphs that one hardly knows where* to start or whether it's even worth doing so. In fact, these opening remarks are so confused and dim that one could be forgiven for thinking they'd been made by a member of the United States Congress. If I lived in Monmouth I suspect I'd be sorely tempted to vote Labour on the assumption that losing Mr Davies would be unlikely to cost the Conservatives the election while also improving parliament.

The other notable thing about this is that Tim Montgomerie, head honcho at ConservativeHome and the man most closely identified with the attempt to build a US-style Conservative "movement" tweeted** that he takes Mr Davies's side in these matters, not Mr Davis's. A reminder that movements - whether on the left or the right - almost always flirt with authoritarianism...

*But, inter alia, note how Mr Davies would rather be a Communist than one of those ghastly libertarianish people...

**My Twitter feed is here, should you be into this sort of thing.

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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