Friday, July 11, 2008

Why David Davis Won't Be a Liberty Tsar

Hold on a cotton pickin' minute. Methinks certain people are getting a tad carried away. Rosa Prince's heavily briefed story on the Telegraph website this afternoon, revealing that David Cameron is to offer David Davis some sort of Civil Liberties Tsar role, has now been taken up by the Spectator and ConservativeHome. Reading between the lines it seems that Prince's source for the story was someone high up in the Cameron Command.

They really don't seem to know David Davis very well. Briefing this sort of thing to the press is likely to have the very opposite effect to the one someone clearly desires. David Davis won't allow himself to become pigeon holed as a single issue politician and I know he has no intention of doing so. Rosa Prince's article continues...
Describing Mr Davis as a "brave and courageous man," the Tory leader held out the prospect of a return to the front bench at some point in the future, although party sources indicated that the move would not come this side of a general election, if ever.
This sort of unnamed spinning helps no one. It makes the 'party sources' look sour and bitter and at odds with what David Cameron has said publicly. Briefings like this, I had thought, belong to the Tory Party of the past.

David Davis made his own decision to leave the Shadow Cabinet. No one forced him out. I doubt very much whether he expects to be offered a return now, or possibly ever. Attempting to buy his loyalty with a meaningless role isn't likely to work. But the fact is, his loyalty doesn't need to be bought.

He, like the rest of us, wants to see the return of a Conservative government. If anyone seriously thinks he is going to be some sort of Michael Heseltine figure, prowling the backbenches, cultivating dissent, they have learned nothing from the last few weeks. There was no fall-out with David Cameron. There was no split. There was no disagreement about policy. The media would love there to have been, but there wasn't.

I believe the respect the two of them have for each other is intact. And for that reason I can't really believe David Cameron will offer David Davis a meaningless role and expect him to accept it. The party already has a liberty tsar. He's called Dominic Grieve. He's the Shadow Home Secretary.

UPDATE 10.20pm: Half an hour ago, Rosa Prince updated her original story on the Telegraph website, which is now headlined DAVID DAVIS TO TURN DOWN CIVIL LIBERTIES OFFER.

UPDATE 10.30pm: Labour Minister Tom Harris has a unique insight into David Cameron's plans for David Davis.


Anonymous said...

Well said Iain and I agree with everything. However I do hope Cameron finds some way of bringing DD back into the shadow cabinet in a high profile role and very soon. The shadow cabinet is far from strong and needs DD in there.

mandango said...

Seems to me, that the best outcome for all concerned is to "promote" David Davis to the House of Lords.

Anonymous said...

Best outcome would be for Cameron to resign for 'family reasons', and let DD take over.

Anonymous said...

Considering the amount of anon briefing you did during DD's doomed leadership campaign I'd say this is a tad hypocritical.

From leader in waiting, to Shadow Home Secretary, to figure of fun all in three years. Tragic.

Anonymous said...

how heavily were you briefed by DD for this piece mate?

Iain Dale said...

Anon 9.05. You obviously know more about my activities than me then.

Anon 9.06. Obviously everything I write on this blog is dictated by DD because clearly I have no mind of my own. Well, that's what you'd clearly like to believe.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you Iain....BTW I think DD would make a fine Speaker..At last a man of principle..Martin

Anonymous said...

"There was no fall-out with David Cameron. There was no split. "

That is fair enough, but one has to, in fairness, point out that some will say [clearly difficult to prove] that David Cameron asked DD to stay on.

The fact that he didn't feel able to and wanted to make this 'courageous' stand [to use Cameron's word] does, in my view, indicate that he is not seen as quite having the complete and total loyalty which they might require in the run-up to a General Election.

Don't get me wrong - I do think DD is very brave and genuinely courageous - a word which has dual meaning in politics. But I guess my point is that if several members of the front bench had tried something like this, David Cameron might be looking at tonight and seeing that 'spreads' on a Tory victory were fewer than a 23-seat majority, and might be just a 2 or 3 seat majority.

David Cameron is a nice bloke, but in politics he also has to be a bit ruthless - as he was to get to the top. He can accept this by-election from David Davis, knowing that he is a sound bloke, as you say, but also knowing that he cannot be seen to encourage this sort of thing from happening again by being too soft on DD.

That said I think he will allow DD to work his passage and get back to the front-bench, but considering that others who have remained loyal at junior levels need to be brought through the 'academy' so to speak, that is likely to be after, and not before, the General Election.

There is a risk otherwise that DD could become the 'Frank Lampard' of the 'Blues' at Westminster.

Donal Blaney said...

You're right to point out that some are more interested in shit-stirring and spreading discontent about DD than actually focussing on the evils of the government. Journalists I can understand doing this: but fellow Tories I cannot

Anonymous said...

"David Davis won't allow himself to become pigeon holed as a single issue politician"

Well, if so he should not have resigned his seat to fight a single issue by-election.

Your slip is showing Mr Dale.

In the circumstances this possible offer looks a good way to keep Davis in a semi front bench role until the next election.

As for DDs supporters even now finding time to rubbish Cameron at the expense of their favourite all I can say is that this by-election issue shows a frailty of purpose which indicates why he was not elected leader and why he should not have been.

I speak as someone who as regarded Davis' speeches as Shadow Home Sec as spot on and he has always seemed to best his opposite (OK not rocket science).

I sympathise with the issue at stake in this by-election by the way, but in fighting it DD has made life difficult for himself, for Cameron and for the Conservative Party.

Harry Cole said...

DD for Speaker!

anyone else want to get the petition going?

strapworld said...


well written. Although I am a little from convinced that Cameron and Davis are buddies!

Cameron has got to show that loyalty, like respect, is a double edged sword. He has not shown loyalty, in my opinion.

Now, I do not expect him to give David Davis his old job back, but I would have thought that someone to ensure that Tory policies are all linked to the rights of the individual is really necessary, and that someone is David Davis.

It would give him the golden opportunity to speak for the party on such issues across all departments and briefs....quite powerful I would have thought. Highly influencial and keeps the topic at the forefront of politics.

Never look the gift horse in the mouth...if the gift was to come along.

Anonymous said...

William Hill are offering 7/1 on DD starting his own party before the GE, put your money on it Iain its a cert!

Anonymous said...

'a frailty of purpose' by which I take it you mean his willingness to stand up for principle, and not just pursue power for power's sake...

If that's frailty then give me more MPs with weakness like it, as opposed to the usual trough-snuffling cretins who populate both sides of the House, both front & back benches.

Anonymous said...

the media is stuck in repeat mode. They only know how to retell the old stories; when a new one comes along, they only try to fit it into an existing mould.

Anonymous said...

"a frailty of purpose' by which I take it you mean his willingness to stand up for principle, and not just pursue power for power's sake..." ... come off it jd.

The Conservative party has been regularly criticising Labours constant encroaching of our freedoms. Davis could quite easily have carried on doing this from the govt front bench and what better place to put it in to action than as Home Secretary? I repeat the cause is worthwhile, I liked him as Shadow Home Secretary - but the method ...? Hmmm.

'frailty of purpose' is a polite way to put something which I could easily have put a lot stronger. Words like "bad judgement" come to mind and even that is polite.

Still he has been re-elected and I'm glad, but it has not really achieved anything, except overcomplicating the whole Conservative strategy. Now we find people stirring things up like he's going to start a new party !!

All that this shows is that there are a number of complete lunatics out there, like those believing such a thing to be true and like Davis himself if he is thinking about it.

Anonymous said...

Can't the boy scouts briefing Rosa Prince be given a little extra pocket money and told to calm down.
Kids stuff in the extreme!

Anonymous said...

He's popular, so would make a good party chairman when Spelman is sacked.

Anonymous said...

With Davis on the back bench he will be free to revert to his prior belief in an English Parliament.

Anonymous said...

least said, soonest mended on this subject.

Anonymous said...

I do hope we are not going to be treated to more DD stories. I can see it now...

"David Davis wears fresh shirt"

Update: David Davis wears recently ironed but not fresh shirt, but Cameron seen in HoC tearoom with similar tie.

Yesterday, Times pundit,Danny Finkelstein was frothing at the mouth over the Guardian "allowing" the BNP's London Assembly member to advertise for a clerk. A great story. Why isn't it here? Finklelstein was (I don't know what he is now) a Tory believer and a failed Tory candidate.

According to Finkelstein this should not be allowed. It is clear he finds the advert, (for a legal political party who wishes to hire a clerk)distasteful, and he is surprised the Guardian have accepted an ad for a "Neo-Nazi" party. Later in the day the story was pulled, probably because the overwhelming number of comments declared revulsion at Finkelstein's implied position; i.e. not allowing the BNP to recruit clerical in the Guardian appointments section.

Can we let David Davis take up his place on the back benches and broaden our horizons a bit. Please?

Anonymous said...


Rosa Prince scores only a little higher than Johann Hari and Patrick Wintour in the ranks of lazy journalists who have something far too important to say for research of the facts to delay them.

I wrote this about 9 months ago on

Not one normally to complain about the Dead Tree Press, but the Telegraph is running the sort of contradictory stories that Private Eye likes to mock:

“Chris Huhne prepares for suprise win” by Rosa Prince yesterday: “The 39-year-old home affairs spokesman just about remains the bookies’ favourite.” Just about? Did she even check the odds? 1/6 vs 7/2 in Clegg’s favour

Then just a day later, at the same paper “Confident of Victory, Nick Clegg plans team” (link here
Includes: “the Clegg camp is confident their man has beaten Mr Huhne by at least three votes to two.” That is simply not believable, and no respectable journalist should quote it without some dampening context. The best poll showed a 56% v 44% split, with movement in Huhne’s direction later in the contest.

Who are these people? Where do they find them? What qualifies them to write about politics for the biggest-selling broadsheet in the UK? Most of this is not even news - any more than the infamous “Breaking news: fire still burning in California”.

Maddening, but still not as bad as Rachel Johnson, who if she isn't the worst writer in the English language has to be in the bottom five.

The week before last, she was writing in the Sunday Times about the Entwhistle murder, and started a paragraph with this full sentence: "This sorry saga has played very big everywhere"

In the words of Capote (on Kerouac?): "That's not writing, it's typing"

Anonymous said...

Sorry to digress Iain, but every time I click onto this site now it seems you have the Total Politics banner up and running, which is all fine and well what with you being one of the founders n' all. But CAN YOU PLEASE LOSE THE PICTURE OF GORD BROWN THAT IT EXPANDS TO BECAUSE I DON'T KNOW HOW MUCH LONGER MY MONITOR IS GOING TO LAST!?!?


PS Is that the same Rosa Prince who used to work for the Mirror?

Old BE said...

Hmm, if DD didn't want to be "pigeon holed" on liberty, then why did he turn on liberty? He could have quite over any other subject where the government and opposition disagree - such as criminal punishment, ID cards, etc..

DD has just run an effective campaign on civil liberties, yet doesn't want to be crowned king of civil liberties? Perhaps he is now an authoritarian Brownite.

Anonymous said...

If the Conservatives need a co-ordinator to keep them together on "civil liberties" then I for one will not be voting for them.

I want to vote for a party who are all naturally pulling in the same direction.

That a need for a moral cheerleader for the party is being floated is worrying in the extreme.

David Davis has (imo) been stunningly honest and principled. People simply do not expect politicians to crap on their career prospects merely because they have "principles".

He's obviously had enough, just like a growing percentage of the electorate.

Cameron should take the fleeting opportunity NOW to move toward genuinely principled conservative policies. A general election cannot be far away.

Tapestry said...

The assumption that DD wants to be front bench might be wrong. He will be able to say a lot more things such as voicing euroscepticism from the back benches.

Cameron will find himself the one keenest to bring him back in the tent, but he's alreday walked out of it.

They will maintain good relations as long as Davis pulls the tent in the direction Cameron (tacitly) wants the tent to be pulled - but cannot pull it there himself by virtue of the need to keep on the right side of Ken Clarke, Rifkind and so on.

Cameron will have to maintain a slightly offended air about DD, but will secretly be happy for him to play as long as he plays the right games.

Davis might be harbouring longer term leadership ambitions, but with Cameron at plus 20%, he has little to fear as of now.

Anonymous said...

tapestry-suspect it will become more interesting when Dave is able to deploy his vast knowledge of Conservatve basic beliefs coupled with four years of Socialst monetary policy.The Bulingdon boys should make a fist of it.But watch this space as they say.Game on!

Anonymous said...

This comes as no surprise. Dozy Rosa Prince is widely seen as one of the most stupid "journalists" to set foot in the Press Gallery.
Bout time she stopped blogging and left it to the experts!

Anonymous said...

Do you EVER think through your arguments, Iain?

So, the anonymous briefing was inept because that sort of thing is likely to deter DD from accepting the Tsarship.

That rather presumes that Cameron is hoping that DD accepts the offer.

Seems just as likely to me that Cameron is happy for DD to have no job but for everyone to know that he turned down a Civil Liberties "job" despite supposedly being interested in the subject.

By the way, if the job had been offered to Anne Widdecombe, would that make her a Tsarina? And, if it had been offered to tiny Alan Duncan, would that make him a Tsarevich?

Helen said...

Why do I find the phrase "civil liberties tsar" a little odd?

Anonymous said...

Helen- understand it came from Dave's boys briefing the future journalist of the year.You have to smile don't you.Nothing worse than kids playing politics.

Oscar Miller said...

Rosa Prince is useless - ex Mirror hackette forever running dubiously spun stories. The Telegraph should ditch her if they want their blog to have any credibility.

Anonymous said...

***The Telegraph should ditch her if they want their blog to have any credibility.***

They could also try ditching the sub-BNP pondlife who post commnets on their blog and whose brand of right wing paranoia makes Hitler seem a consensus politician.

Anonymous said...

"Briefings like this, I had thought, belong to the Tory Party of the past."

Why do you think that. Wasn't Dave's previous profession 'spin doctor'?

Obviously he was not that good at it otherwise he would have grabbed the opportunities offered by Labour not arguing their case at the by-election.

David Lindsay said...

Congratulations to David Davis on beating David Cameron’s Tories, against whom he was really standing. Although he faced many frivolous candidates, he also faced at least one serious supporter of 42-day detention and other attacks on liberty. So much for the popularity of these things: the people have now spoken on that one.

The Tories still show every sign of not really believing that they are going to win the next General Election. Their musings on English devolution, for example, seem to presuppose that they will win the majority of English seats but that Labour will win overall, or at least be the largest party in a hung Parliament.

But if they really do think that they are going to win, then might they not consider giving the position of Prime Minister, not to David Cameron, but instead to a Tory?

If so (and if not why not?), then step forward, David Davis.