Politics

My friend David Davis once defended liberty. Now he has become its enemy | Henry Porter

He used to champion parliament as a protector against authoritarianism. These days, he’s happy to subvert it

Politicians and journalists rarely make good friends, but David Davis and I got on pretty well in the period we campaigned on civil liberties together during the last Labour government. We lunched, he came to my home for dinner, I introduced him to friends in New York and we often shared the same platform, notably in the Guardian debate at the Hay festival, when he and I took on Charles Clarke and the legal expert Conor Gearty on the motion: “Does the left still care about liberty?”

I came to like him a lot and to admire his bounce and pugnacity. Among all the politicians I knew – with the possible exception of Dominic Grieve – David possessed the deepest instinct for liberty. He seemed to me to be the archetypal English democrat who possessed a great reverence for the rule of law as well as an equal suspicion of the accumulating powers of the state. He spoke brilliantly at events I was involved in staging, often preparing a long and complicated address with a few notes, just moments before he went on stage. He was bright, energetic and, for that period, liberty’s hero.

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