Why David Davis disappoints

The Conservative Party here in the UK is in the final stages of its leadership election: of five candidates available to the party’s relatively small group of MPs, the membership have until early December to choose between two: David Davis and David Cameron. Davis represents Haltemprice and Howden in Yorkshire, while Cameron is the MP for Witney in Oxfordshire. They come from starkly different backgrounds, which should really count in Davis’ favour. On looking at his “people” page on the Tory party’s website, however, I was more than a little disappointed.

One of the first stories I saw last night when I looked on that page was a moan about foreigners taking up so much room in British prisons that British criminals had to be let go. The story assumes that the near-doubling of “inmates born overseas” are immigrants and not naturalised citizens or foreigners who came to this country for specific criminal purposes such as people-smuggling or drug-smuggling. It plays to the tabloid gallery which would go up in arms about all these foreigners committing all these crimes. In other words, it’s the type of tactics the Tories used in the last, rightfully failed, election campaign.

His website, unlike Cameron’s, betrays a distinct lack of actual policies. The manifesto, which like much of the content of the site is in PDF format rather than straightforward readily readable HTML, contains attacks on Labour and broad statements but no actual policies. Davis should be the better of the two, coming from a working-class background with more worldly experience than Cameron. Frederick Forsyth spells this out in a letter to the Sunday Telegraph:

David Davis brings to the contest his knowledge of: inner cities, deprivation, struggle, grammar school, redbrick, business, commerce, industry, the North, the Midlands, the working class, the middle class, the suburbs, the Army and the views of a practising Christian. And inside politics, 18 years’ slog, five important offices and a Privy Councillorship.

Mr Cameron brings his experiences: nanny, prep school, Eton, Oxford, riding to hounds, St James’s clubs, the aristocracy, privilege, stately homes, private wealth, hunt balls, and the Home Counties; plus 11 years’ attendance at party headquarters. And as an MP, four whole years, the shortest period of any leader-candidate in party history.

Cameron’s site, however, is well-designed, albeit making use of a lot of Flash which might impede its accessibility to some users; this includes the entire menu down the left hand side of the page. It looks more modern, which may reflect the amount of money spent on it. Cameron’s site has a diary which tells you where you can find the candidate and when; Davis’s doesn’t. It does have a blog, unlike Cameron’s, but it’s a bog-standard Blogspot with what looks like a stock theme. Great for an amateur personal blogger on a zero budget who’s been blogging for a couple of weeks; not so good for someone who hopes to lead a major political party. Cameron’s diary also gives details of his past engagements, with everything since 20th October on one page, making for a very long page indeed.

Anyway, I’ve been browsing the Tory web recently because I’m seriously considering joining the party (if it had not been for a parking ticket that needed paying, I might have done so today). The reason being that they appear to be moving well away from the above-mentioned “lowest common denominator” tactics which have kept them in the wilderness the past eight years, and unlike Labour they do actually stand up for civil liberties at a time when Labour is going off in an increasingly securocratic direction with all the talk of ID cards and long detention for those terrorist suspects we keep hearing about. There is also the matter of the left becoming increasingly Islamophobic (and bitterly divided against itself on precisely that issue) and the ongoing weakening of both their media outlets (the Independent in particular).

But the other reason is tactical: Muslims should not be wedded to the Labour party as this would mean we would be taken for granted by them and ignored by the Tories. We do need a voice in both of this country’s major parties, and it’s easier to advocate a moderate conservative position (let’s face it, our stance on so many issues is at odds with much of the left’s) and criticise some of the community’s excesses (like the imbalance in the Spectator’s content) within the Tory party than from outside.

(By the way, I’m not saying that all Muslims should follow me like sheep into the Tory party, but our community should no more be a one-party affair than any other community should. We all remember what happened when the various Muslim organisations in the USA called for a Republican block vote in 2000. Our community’s block vote for Labour has yielded war and the serious threat of oppressive anti-terrorist laws. Think about it.)

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