Cameron Does A Bang-Up Debating Job

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Yesterday during the Prime Minister’s Questions, British Parliament debated the proposal by Gordon Brown’s Labor party to extend detention times for terrorist suspects from 28 days to 42 days. It was a type of debate we have had here in the United States, particularly around Guantanamo, military tribunals and habeas corpus but which we probably need far more of.

The most powerful and eloquent words came from the fresh-faced Conservative Party leader David Cameron, who made a compelling case that this measure was merely a brand of “ineffective authoritarianism” and stated:

Is there not a danger that as well as being unnecessary, it will be counter-productive? When former Attorneys-General and soldiers who served against the IRA in Northern Ireland are all saying that this sort of measure could help the terrorists rather than hurt them, are we not taking a bad step? Is it not clear that the terrorists want to destroy our freedom, and that when we trash our liberties we do their work for them?

As an aside, during this debate — around 4:26 — the camera briefly turns to British Foreign Secretary David Miliband, (of whom this blog has expressed high praise here and here) who seems to cringe.
Some commentaries and news reports suggest that Gordon Brown might be seeking to outflank the Conservative party on the right by appearing tough on national security — a maneuver that has also been attempted on occasion by the Democratic party. The fact that Brown tried to justify this policy on the basis of its public popularity didn’t seem to help his case.
It is unclear to me (as I am hardly even a novice of British politics) if Cameron is genuinely the ardent defender of individual liberties he purports to be or if his stand is more a political gamble to cast himself as such — what Brown has labeled “opposition for opposition’s sake”. I imagine he falls somewhere in between.
But the story seems to be spinning in his favor, even after losing the vote, and the more important lesson to glean for American politics is that he has advanced rhetorical template to push back against what Steve Clemons and others have described as the “high-fear politics” that has done a very poor job serving both US and British national security interests.
–Sameer Lalwani

Comments

9 comments on “Cameron Does A Bang-Up Debating Job

  1. Bartolo says:

    “Is it not clear that the terrorists want to destroy our freedom, and that when we trash our liberties we do their work for them?”
    A good bumper sticker, if a little too long.

    Reply

  2. Mr.Murder says:

    It seems like Parliament adopted a new sense of urgency right after the SCOTUS made a ruling in America…

    Reply

  3. john somer says:

    Have I stumbled by mistaken on “The Westminster Note” ?

    Reply

  4. Dirk says:

    This all is a vast misreading of what took place.
    In essence, PM Gordon Brown (Labour Party) having been told by MI5 or MI6 that 28 days is sometimes insufficient to get past passwords and go through a suspect’s computer files, had recommended that the holding period be extended to 40 days.
    The Tories, in opposition through three Blair terms and part of a Brown term and needing to attack Labour in any way possible, finally found an issue that they could wax indignant about. Tories are in the uncomfortable position of having had to support Blair’s and Bush’s war while taking jabs every so and then on positions that they would never think to advance if they were in power.
    Recent polls indicate that if elections were held today, that the Tories would likely win. This released this clown “Davis”, who won comfortably in the last election to pull this stunt. The papers (Tory, Labour, independent) have not been kind:
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/7452108.stm

    Reply

  5. downtown says:

    It’s always pathetic witnessing a “progressive” party attempting to outflank their opposition from the right. We have ample evidence of the futility of that approach right here with our wimpy Democrats.

    Reply

  6. bert says:

    BIG development on this today, the day after the debate you posted above: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/7450627.stm
    Huge implications for the future direction of the Tory party. Unsettling for the current leadership. Potential for EU issues to get drawn in following tonight’s Irish referendum. Damage or otherwise to Gordon Brown almost an afterthought in this combustible context. Worth a blog entry from an appropriate source.

    Reply

  7. WigWag says:

    Gordon Brown is the Prime Ministerr and Head of the Labor Party
    David Cameron is the Head of the Conservative Party (sometimes called Tory Party)
    Nick Clegg is head of the Liberal Democrat Party

    Reply

  8. JohnH says:

    Time was when the conservatives in the US supported the Constitution, too. But when they took power, the first things to go were the 1st and 4th Amendments, along with habeus corpus. It’s certainly legitimate to wonder if Cameron is saying what he believes or whether he’s just posturing for political gain.
    I expect Republicans to start howling about the Constitution they helped destroy once they’re fully out of power here, too.

    Reply

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