Davis attacks coalition on civil liberties -- Labour should join him

The next Labour leader should oppose the 28-day detention limit and remake Labour as the party of li

David Davis is fast becoming the top Tory rebel. He led the opposition to the coalition's 55 per cent rule and was one of those who forced George Osborne to minimise the increase in capital gains tax.

Today he's back on his favourite civil libertarian beat, criticising the Home Secretary Theresa May's decision to renew the 28-day detention limit.

Here is his statement:

Whilst it is welcome that she is having this review of Labour's heavy-handed legislation, and whilst it is at least welcome that this is a six-month rather than one-year review, it is wholly unnecessary to extend further.

There have been no cases in the last four years where it has been necessary to go beyond 21 days. Even in the Heathrow plot, where innocent people were held for 28 days, it has now been proven that those that were charged after this lengthy period could have been charged in less than 14 days.

This extension is therefore unnecessary and regrettable. It is to be hoped that after the six-month review we will see an end not just to this unnecessarily authoritarian law, but also to control orders and their regime of house arrest, internal exile and secret courts, all of which are an anathema of British standards of justice.

Davis has a good case. The 28-day limit is by far the longest pre-charge detention of any comparable democracy, and it remains an affront to basic human rights.

One wonders what Labour's position will be going forward. After the authoritarianism of the Blair/Brown years, the next leader has a chance to remake Labour as the party of liberty and equality. And if they hope to undermine the coalition from the start, an alliance of convenience with Davis might look very attractive indeed.

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George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Why relations between Theresa May and Philip Hammond became tense so quickly

The political imperative of controlling immigration is clashing with the economic imperative of maintaining growth. 

There is no relationship in government more important than that between the prime minister and the chancellor. When Theresa May entered No.10, she chose Philip Hammond, a dependable technocrat and long-standing ally who she had known since Oxford University. 

But relations between the pair have proved far tenser than anticipated. On Wednesday, Hammond suggested that students could be excluded from the net migration target. "We are having conversations within government about the most appropriate way to record and address net migration," he told the Treasury select committee. The Chancellor, in common with many others, has long regarded the inclusion of students as an obstacle to growth. 

The following day Hammond was publicly rebuked by No.10. "Our position on who is included in the figures has not changed, and we are categorically not reviewing whether or not students are included," a spokesman said (as I reported in advance, May believes that the public would see this move as "a fix"). 

This is not the only clash in May's first 100 days. Hammond was aggrieved by the Prime Minister's criticisms of loose monetary policy (which forced No.10 to state that it "respects the independence of the Bank of England") and is resisting tougher controls on foreign takeovers. The Chancellor has also struck a more sceptical tone on the UK's economic prospects. "It is clear to me that the British people did not vote on June 23 to become poorer," he declared in his conference speech, a signal that national prosperity must come before control of immigration. 

May and Hammond's relationship was never going to match the remarkable bond between David Cameron and George Osborne. But should relations worsen it risks becoming closer to that beween Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling. Like Hammond, Darling entered the Treasury as a calm technocrat and an ally of the PM. But the extraordinary circumstances of the financial crisis transformed him into a far more assertive figure.

In times of turmoil, there is an inevitable clash between political and economic priorities. As prime minister, Brown resisted talk of cuts for fear of the electoral consequences. But as chancellor, Darling was more concerned with the bottom line (backing a rise in VAT). By analogy, May is focused on the political imperative of controlling immigration, while Hammond is focused on the economic imperative of maintaining growth. If their relationship is to endure far tougher times they will soon need to find a middle way. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.