"Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety" Ben Franklin
That a citizen should not be held unjustly is a fundamental principle of democratic freedom. It is the root of our entire system of law and justice. It is why a suspect must face charges quickly after being taken into custody. From the Magna Carta of 1215, we derive the law of Habeas Corpus - the fundamental principle that the state may not imprison the individual unlawfully.
The United Kingdom is a country rooted on these democratic principles, and in its history it has faced many extreme challenges: external ones like war and internal challenges, like the IRA terror campaign. Sometimes under the pressure of these challenges the country has abandoned elements of due process- internment in Northern Ireland in the 1970s, for example- but when it has done so, it has always been counter-productive.
When Gordon Brown proposed arrest without charges for a period of six weeks he could never gain the support of Liberals- such a prolonged period contradicts the whole ethos of Habeas Corpus. The disgraceful way in which the Brown government bribed and cajoled MPs to vote against their principles was a wholly unedifying spectacle of politics as usual.
Yet even more dishonourable has been the hint that, once the legislation was enacted, any future Conservative-led government despite opposing the legislation today- would not repeal six week detention without trial should they gain office. Thus David Davis, by resigning his seat is not only making a point about the erosion of liberty under Labour, but also making a point to his own party leadership. His comment that "more people care about this than conventional politics realises" is undoubtedly true, but is also making a point to other Conservatives, like George Osbourne, that any compromise on this issue is a betrayal of principle.
I have often thought in the past that David Davis, despite his right-wing reputation and notably his views on capital punishment, was much closer to being a classical liberal than David Cameron is. His determination to speak out on the issues of civil liberties that lie at the core of the Liberal Democrat agenda reflects the fact that it is Davis who is the true "Liberal Conservative". I suspect that many Conservatives will regard this gesture as a quixotic and potentially dangerous gesture- and that he may never recover his place on the Conservative front bench. However, were the Conservative leadership to take that view it would mark them out as no better than Brown.
As for Kelvin Mackenzie- at least his support for six weeks detention shows us what Rupert Murdoch actually believes and why his pernicious influence on British media should be challenged. The fact that Mackenzie is prepared to trade liberty for a spurious sense of security marks him out as a deluded coward.
The majority of the country will take David Davis' decision as a gesture of determined defiance- and a wholly principled one.
Is there for honest Poverty
That hings his head, an' a' that;
The coward slave-we pass him by,
We dare be poor for a' that!
For a' that, an' a' that.
Our toils obscure an' a' that,
The rank is but the guinea's stamp,
The Man's the gowd for a' that.