A companion piece to Nick Laitner’s on ‘Why David Davis is wrong’
So, the by-election clock is ticking, and the voters of Haltemprice & Howden will soon have an opportunity that much of the country would like to share to be able to have a direct say on the Government’s proposals for 42 day detention.
David Davis’ talking-head critics are already mocking his decision to resign as a gimmick. They say he is just a political Don Quixote; launching a fight after a vote is lost is the political equivalent of chasing windmills.
Well I believe, far from it. David Davis’ action may go down in the history books as one of the most principled political actions of recent times. OK, the election in Haltenprice & Howden is not going to be a national referendum on 42 day detention. After all, David Davis did not have the power to call a national referendum, although he may well wish he did.
But David Davis has used one of the few powers that an MP does have, to turn his constituency into a cauldron of debate on a fundamental issue of political principle. The opinion polls show the public supports 42 day detention. Good on David Davis for ignoring that, and showing the willing to fight against one of the biggest threats to civil liberties ever proposed by a peace time government.
Already floundering, Gordon Brown and the Labour Government will probably struggle to fight this by-election on the principles. After all, that is not how they fought yesterday’s vote. What we saw yesterday was a Government reduced to handing out favours like confetti, and a Whips’ office twisting arms and throwing money at pet projects in a way we haven’t seen since the dying days of Jim Callaghan’s Government.
If they believe in what they have been proposing, Gordon Brown and Jacqui Smith will be out in Haltemprice & Howden town centre, on soap boxes debating David Davis. Does anyone believe that will happen?
But even without an honest and forthright debate, this election is valuable and unique. Instead of the usual rushed by-election manifestos and slick quick-win ads, the Tory manifesto for this by election is the Magna Carta written in the 13th century and its presentation will be in the form of the weather-beaten face of David Davis.
Who knows how the voters of Haltemprice & Howden will cast their ballots in a few weeks time. But one thing is for certain, there is many a Labour supporter around the country thinking the unthinkable. Get out the clipboard, put on the sturdy shoes, and head out to canvas for the election of David Davis to Parliament.