David Davis gets off the fence

It has to be said, David Davis’ article today opposing detention without trial is good, liberal stuff. Just a few things:

  • Is this the same David Davis who was on the radio last week claiming that the government should build a limitless number of new prisons (obviously, it isn’t the same David Davies who said much the same thing on the radio yesterday)?
  • Why has he taken so long to make up his mind?
  • If you were to write an article defending civil liberties, would you write admiringly a swivel eyed loon like the Archbishop of York, who has dedicated himself to fighting the very secular liberal democracy on which they are founded?

The problem with this article is not what it says, but the fact that it does match up with the person apparently saying it. As with the Tories’ newfound posturing on ID cards, David Davis has never opposed this before in principle, merely on detail. It doesn’t convince, and having read some of the liberal-sounding pronouncements of Messrs Blair & co before 1997, people would do well to subject Cameron’s little gang with a bit more scepticism.


  1. During the latter stages of Michael Howard’s tenure as Conservative leader, Davis was said to be on the point of resigning over MH’s support for ID cards. My suspicion is that DD is something of a libertarian but has a problem with his leaders being Conservatives.

    There is no contradiction between building prisons and opposing ID cards. If someone is found guilty of a crime then they can and should be locked up if that is what society feels is the correct punishment. There’s nothing illiberal about that. You’re kind of implying that we should only punish a limited number of people, rather than everyone found guilty. And as people are starting to point out, our incarceration rate per crime committed is much lower than most other countries.

  2. “There is no contradiction between building prisons and opposing ID cards”

    No there isn’t, but there is a contradiction between it and being a libertarian, which is what you claim he is.

    It isn’t about being against prison either. It is about being concerned about the fact that we lock up more of our population than at any other point in history, despite having a falling crime rate, and despite the fact that recidivism amongst former prisoners is extremely high, compared to other forms of punishment.

  3. “No there isn’t, but there is a contradiction between it and being a libertarian, which is what you claim he is.”


    Your other points are wrong IMHO. Locking up a high proportion of the population is the correct thing to do if a high proportion of the population are committing crimes.

    There is an excellent article here about your other error which is a case of population bias. To quote:

    “Testing the deterrence value of prison by observing the portion of ex-prisoners who commit crimes is ludicrous. It is a bad case of the statistical error of “sample bias”. Prisoners are, by hypothesis, people for whom the threat of prison is an insufficient deterrent to crime. That prison does not deter those who end up as prisoners tells us nothing about how much it deters the rest of the population, nor therefore by how much it reduces crime.”

  4. It is not just that we are locking up more of our population, we are locking up more people than others in Europe but have more crime. Something, somewhere in the system, or culture, must be going wrong for this to be the case.

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