Whatever doubts I may have about Labour’s new proposals on education, I will agree with Jonathan Calder on one thing: it is entirely consistent for the Tories to agree with them. Cameron is quite right to point out that after eight years we appear to be right back to Grant Maintained Status.
Cameron’s tactic is quite sound. Embrace Blair like the Tory he is, further alienating the Prime Minister from his backbenchers, and further putting pressure on Brown to jump one way or the other (calculating that he will jump into the backbencher’s arms or find his eventual premiership fatally lacking in authority from the start).
But what is Davis’ game? He has been crowing, in his typical unsubtle way (you remember, the type of guttersniping that left him blamed for trying to make capital out of the Camerondrugs debacle), at Cameron’s bid to be Blair’s heir, yet at the same time he has decided to drop his opposition to Labour’s terrorism bill.
Superficially, this resembles adopting a similar tactic: side with the Prime Minister against his own backbench. Yet Davis hasn’t dropped his stated opposition to any specific measure in the bill, just that he isn’t prepared/can’t be bothered to take a principled stand against them. In fact, it looks rather like a time-honoured Blair tactic paying off: adopt a Tory agenda and watch them run around like headless chickens while trying to decide what to do about it.
As it stands, it means that Davis’ credibility on civil liberty issues has been fatally undermined. His opposition to ID cards always was tactical rather than principled, as his speech at the inaugural NO2ID meeting demonstrated last year (admittedly, he was stronger than Mark Oaten, but that goes without saying really), and he wants to abolish the Human Rights Act, but you did at least get the sense that he had calculated that part of the solution to fighting Blair was to portray him as a despot and the Tories as liberators.
Clearly we were giving him too much credit. He’s blanched at the first hurdle. Yet again he has demonstrated why Cameron is the better man. Yet again, he has given us reason to recall Bruce Anderson’s analysis of him: “It would be wrong to describe him as useless. He is far worse than that.”
From the point of view of the Lib Dems, I suppose I should be praying every night that the Tories elect him. But from the point of view of British democracy, he needs to be utterly humiliated.