Sunday, June 15, 2008


OK, I'll Come Clean: Davis Byelection is Best Show in Town by a Mile

I'm aware that my initial reaction to David Davis was, coinciding with the consensus 'commentariat' view, that it was self-indulgent and futile and mostly reflected tensions within the Conservative leadership. I'm still not sure whether that analysis is right or wrong but my more measured view, a few days on, is that I'm rather glad he has done decided to make his gesture, however futile it may turn out to be. Glad because it will liven up a 'silly season' period when news tends towards the mundane and trivial. Glad because the issue of erosion of civil rights is important and I'm aware I have not personally recognised how inmportant it should be. And glad because the byelection is going to be fascinating for anyone interested in British politics, let alone the anoraks, of which I daresay I am one.

Davis is a really interesting politician: difficult home background of single mother overcome through study, hard work and talent which led to a successful business career. His loss to Cameron in 2005 he handled with grace and apparent magnanimity but those who discern a potential 'Blair-Brown' type simmering hostility might be on to something. Putting himself at the mercy of voters is a highly unusual step and might backfire, so it is courageous, especially as he has flouted the wishes of his party leader. The commentariat are divided with rightward leaners like Simon Heffer welcoming it and others, like today's Oberver leader, giving it only a strictly qualified approval. Peter Riddell, for my money the best of them all, was undecided in his last comment and I can only agree.

On partisan grounds I'd like to see him crash and burn but on grounds of principle, I'm rather hoping he can make his point on the wider national canvass. Martin Bell, this morning on Radio 4 expressed his warm support for Davis; so many of us, I suspect, are just surprised and delighted by the uncertainties of the situation. Who, if anyone, will stand against him? Will a wider rift appear in the Conservative party, given that Dave has opted to let his former Shadow Home Secretary twist in the wind? And, most fascinating of all,
i)will the public ignore the sideshow or will it, as Bell hopes, ignite widespread interest in eroding civic liberties?
ii)The polls say ther public favour the 42 days detention measure but will the belection overtuen that and maybe swswing opinion another way?
We all have ringside seats in this unhoped for summer bonus of political entertainment; so it's well done that man, David Davis!

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