Nice comment piece on today's Telegraph by Philip Johnston that highlights the issues of civil liberties which caused David Davis to make his stand.
You would have been thought mad 20 years ago to have predicted that it would be a crime for people to smoke on an open-air railway station in the middle of the countryside, smack their children on the leg, hunt foxes, own a donkey without possessing ID for the animal, recite a poem without a licence, possess a.22 calibre air pistol for sporting purposes, engage in teenage canoodling, or set off a firework after 11pm.
Twenty years ago you would also have been regarded as barmy if you had said innocent people would have their DNA held on a database for criminals; or that there would be one CCTV camera for every 14 people; or that children would be fingerprinted and their records held, as though they were all potential victims of abuse; or that it would be unlawful to stage a silent, one-person protest within one kilometre of the Palace of Westminster without permission from the police; or that trials would be held without juries; or that microchips would be placed in our dustbins; or that there would be 266 separate provisions granting power to enter homes without permission, a symptom of the expanding role of the state in the lives of citizens.
That is exactly right - and the issue of the 42 day detention without charge is just the very prominent tip of the iceberg. As Johnston points out, it was originally meant to be 90 days, but that was watered down to 28 days. At the time I thought it was only a matter of time before they were wanting to increase it again - and so it will be again and again.
The fact that the police themselves are asking for these powers is not a reason to grant them. On the contrary - it is a reason to resist them, because a state that grants the police whatever power they request is a police state by definition.
Johnston also hints at the reason why Britain is going along this route - although he doesn't seem to make the obvious connection.
The rule of law, under which everything is allowed unless specifically prohibited, is the basis of English liberty. This principle distinguished England from its continental counterparts, where people were subject to the exercise of arbitrary power, and actions that were not specifically authorised were proscribed.
It limited the scope of the state to intervene in people's lives. Law set the boundaries of personal action but did not dictate the course of such action. It is a relatively modern phenomenon to limit personal activity simply for our own good, such as to enforce the wearing of seatbelts or crash helmets. Since 1997, the pace of proscription has accelerated.
There is a simple reason for this - Britain's membership of the EU. The European Union is utterly alien to Britain not least for the simple fact that it is not founded on the democratic principles of British law, but on the principles of foreign, European law and governmental practices. And anyone with even a rudimentary grasp of European history will know that the vast majority of European countries know very little about the rule of law, the principles of parliamentary democracy and protecting the rights and freedoms of the people from the arbitrary exercise of power by the state.
Everything we see today - the erosion of our civil liberties and increasing state interference into our every day lives stems from our membership of the EU. The only way to reverse it is to get control back over how we govern ourselves and that means one thing - leaving the EU.
It seems incredible to me that we - a nation with a long and unbroken history of democracy and civil liberties - allow ourselves to take direction on government from people who, within living memory, were themselves led by fascist dictators and communist masters. If there was any possibility that the EU would listen to the people of Britain and learn from our history then I would support the idea that we could reform the EU into something which might be worthwhile.
But there isn't any possibility. The simple fact is that the French, Germans, Spanish and the rest have never understood real democracy and never will. This is why there is no possibility of the EU becoming a "United States Of Europe" because they do not understand what Abraham Lincoln meant when he referred to a "government of the people, by the people and for the people". That is an Anglosphere concept - and Europe was, is and always will be opposed to the idea of accepting anything that is English in origin.
The European way is a government of the people, by the bureaucrats and for the state.
There is the real possibility - probability, in my opinion - that the EU will become the new USSR though, as that is the model of democracy they subscribe to. The word soviet just means "council" and this is exactly the model which the EU are building. Some of their "soviets" are elected, many are not. All are socialist. If there is a difference between the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and a Union of European Socialist Councils then it is purely presentational. The principles behind them are the same.
And so is the belief that the people are too stupid to be left to make their own decisions. The European belief is that government should be left to "experts".