Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Grieve for Davis

A combination of reading Nick Robinson's blog telling how 42-day detention is now dead and coming across a Guardian interview with Shadow Home Secretary Dominic Grieve made me think, how did David Davis get on in his by-election?

It was back in June that Grieve's predecessor resigned over the government's proposal to extend the period of detention without charge from 28 to 42 days (or, in his words, over the government's 'strangulation' of British freedoms). He triggered what was to all intents and purposes a single issue by-election in Haltemprice and Howden, causing masses of media coverage for a few days, but I have absolutely no idea what the outcome was.

It transpires that Davis won with over 17,000 votes, almost 6,000 fewer than he received in 2005 yet tripling his majority. The Green Party came second with over 1,700 votes. Turnout was 34%. In the event, there were 26 candidates including David Icke and those representing 'Church of Militant Elvis Party', 'Make Politicians History', and 'Miss Great Britain Party'. Labour did not field a candidate, calling Davis's resignation a 'farce' and a 'stunt'. The Lib Dems also decided not to contest the election.

So was it worth it? Are Davis's by-election and the Lords' reported inclination to hammer 42 days linked? Davis says that before his resignation polls showed that 69% of people supported the government on 42 days, but afterwards this figure had fallen to 39%. Davis certainly gained himself and the issue a great deal of publicity by resigning. However the story quickly disappeared and Davis lost the trust of David Cameron and a seat on the front bench in the process. Moreover, given the conservative nature of the Lords, they are somewhat unlikely to have been moved by the extraordinary actions of a member of the Shadow Cabinet. 42 days would have failed without David Davis's resignation.

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