Saturday 14 June 2008

The meaning of Life (the Universe and Everything)

I'm a great admirer of the Sun. It keeps me up to date on what's happening in the real world, without having to read Hello or OK. That's important for the pub quiz. Its headlines can be inspired. Often, its political intelligence is excellent. I can understand the pictures. But I don't understand its negative views on David Davis's resignation over the 42 days issue, and other matters of liberty.

I'm baised for three reasons:

  • I was born in Haltemprice and Howden, Davis's constituency;

  • The main principle underlying my political thinking is that the State can't be relied on to get things right, and we should therefore try to prevent it from doing too much or from interfering in our lives except when it has to. (When does it have to? Well, where to draw the line is a topic for another day, but I think its the key to the next election and whether the Tories can outline a clear difference from the others);

  • Most legislation brings unintended consequences.

Davis resigned on a matter of principle. He cares, as he should and as we all should, about the freedom of the individual. The issue isn't about the Government "being tough on terrorism": if it were stuff like the workings of the Human Rights Act and using intercept evidence in courts would be on the table. Its about political positioning regardless of effectiveness. The Government has introduced a series of constraints and burdens on individuals which are largely ineffective against criminals and terrorists, and are often unenforceable in law, simply to pretend they are doing something - and to give the public sector more power.

When I first heard he had resigned I was exhilarated. Here was a senior politician actually standing up for what he believed in. When was the last time that happened? (Actually, in 2003, Robin Cook over Iraq. But it doesn't happen that often..) Yet much of the media and many politicians assume he is crazy.

As someone with high hopes of Cameron's relaunch of the Tories, I have found the negative quoted reactions of "sources close to Cameron" (and , today, some individuals willing to be quoted) profoundly depressing. The party should have leapt on the resignation as a chance to:

  • Show the Tories have principles, and
  • Keep the pressure on Brown over his illiberalism. Events - not least the EU treaty, inflation and petrol shortages - would otherwise have overtaken this issue.

Hopefully its not too late and the party heirarchy will rally round, and have Davis back in the Shadow Cabinet when he wins the by-election.

Why the heading on this post? Well, all fans of the 5 volume trilogy, The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy, know that 42 is the answer to the ultimate question, the meaning of life, the universe and everything. Douglas Adams was apparently asked why he chose 42. He said it had to be a number, smallish and ordinary. But he also said that 42 was "The funniest of the two digit numbers". Perhaps that's why Gordon Brown picked it. Perhaps its the Sun's idea of a joke.


occasional northerner said...

Glad you're back. I agree on the David Davis front. It appears (i) the principled thing to do and (ii) that there is far too little principle about. What about mass resignations (triggering by-elections) in support of a referendum on the EU treaty?

Anonymous said...

Yes, nice to see you back in the land of blogging. Hope we get to see much more of you.

Isn't it Gordon Brown that is the joke?

CJ xx